With four returning starters from a squad that finished with a solid 10-6 conference record last year, Long Beach State enters the 2014-2015 campaign as legitimate contenders for the Big West Conference title. The 49ers backcourt is solidified by all-conference senior guards Mike Caffey and Tyler Lamb. Caffey averaged 16.2 points per game last season, while Lamb averaged 15.4 points per game.
The good news for Long Beach State investors is the fact that both Caffey and Lamb are off to excellent starts in 2014 as Caffey is averaging 19.7 points per game (57.9% FG) while Lamb is averaging 17.0 points per game (50.0% FG). Head coach Dan Monson indicated before the season started that Caffey had a strong summer, and that assertion is supported by the senior’s results through the first three games. “He’s shooting the ball better and he’s stronger.”
Coach Monson has once again done a terrific job in recruiting by bringing in several dynamic freshman who are prepared to make an immediate impact on the program, including Jack Williams, Justin Bibbins, Deontae North and Temidayo Yussef. “This new group is trying to make us relevant again in the league,” Monson said. All four freshmen played for California state championships last season and know what is needed to achieve success at the highest level. “These freshmen are players,” Monson said.
Both North and Williams have not disappointed through the first three games of the season as North is averaging 7.7 points in 24:40 minutes per game, while Williams is averaging 7.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 23:00 minutes per game. Perhaps the biggest news out of Long Beach was the arrival of senior transfer Eric McKnight, who set a team record by shooting 66.3 percent from the field for Florida Gulf Coast last season. If you recall, Florida Gulf Coast reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2013, and McKnight played a large part in that success.
“He played at an elite level and should come in and not only fill a hole but add to it,” Monson said. “The thing this team was missing more than size was athleticism inside. He gives us a very good athlete in the middle and can help protect the rim on the defensive end.” Long Beach State’s offense has looked very good in its first three games as the 49ers are averaging 79.3 points per game on 54.2% shooting from the field and 51.8% from beyond the arc against teams that would combine to allow just 67.7 points per game to a mediocre offensive squad.
While Long Beach State has been 11.6 points per game better than average, the Wildcats’ defense has only been 0.9 points per game better than average (70.5 points per game to teams that would combine to average 71.4 points per game). I also believe this game presents an inherent coaching mismatch as my ratings strongly favor coach Monson over Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber. Entering his eight year on the sidelines in Long Beach, coach Monson has guided the 49ers to three Big West titles, two NIT appearances and a trip to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
And, despite having one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the nation, the 49ers have averaged over 20 wins per season over the last four years. From a technical standpoint, Kansas State is a money-burning 1-6 ATS in its last seven road games and 4-15 ATS as a road favorite of three points or less, whereas the 49ers are a profitable 5-2 ATS in their last seven games off a blowout loss. Grab the points and invest with confidence.