The reward of having the most grueling non-conference schedule, and coming within 30 seconds of defeating Hawaii to win the Big West Tournament, Dan Monson's 6th seeded Long Beach State 49ers will be heading up north to face the 3rd seeded Washington Huskies during the first round of the National Invitational Tournament, with the winner facing the winner of #2 San Diego State and #7 IPFW. South Carolina is the top seed in the bracket.
For Lorezno Romar's Huskies side, they end a two year post-season drought, and extend the career of Andrew Andrews, Washington's lone senior, who exploded for 47 point when the Huskies ousted the Washington State Cougars during the regular season finale. Washington fell to the eventual Pac-12 Champion, Oregon, in the Pac-12 tournament by a 83-77 tally.
Joining Andrews, who averaged 21/6/5 on the season, are two freshman on the key watch list for the 49ers. Freshmen Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss averaged 16 and 13 points respectedly and will be vital blocks for Romar going forward. UDub had a solid non-conference slate, splitting games with the Texas Longhorns, but losses to Oakland and UC Santa Barbara are standing out. Splitting against Big West teams, Washington blew out Cal State Fullerton.
Nick Faust scored 15 for the 49ers to sneak past the UC Irvine Anteaters before dropping to Hawaii in the Big West finals, despite Faust chipping in for 17. The senior guard is averaging 17/6 on the season and will have the task of keeping up with Andrews. Sophomore Justin Bibbins and junior Travis Hammonds will be counted on to give the 49ers the push needed to stay within striking range of the Pac-12 side.
Battle tested is exactly what Monson's side are, having faced nine 20+ win teams. Solid victories over Brigham Young, Seton Hall and New Mexico State show the Niners mean business. Three losses by five points or less during the difficult stretch also shows the capabilites of the side, while losing to the Oklahoma State Cowboys twice is the only blimp on the radar. The Beach went 0-3 against Pac-12 sides during the season, a seven point loss at Pauley Pavillion against a UCLA Bruin side that started out well, a 21-point rout in Oregon against a #1 seeded Ducks team, and a 15-point loss in Tucson, against a, then ranked, #8 Arizona Wildcat side.
First post season appearance since 2013, the Niners will be looking to erase the memories of the 112-66 defeat they endured at the hands of the Baylor Bears. All time record int he NIT for the 49ers is 2-7, hoping to add the third victory this time around.