For the first time in about eight months the Long Beach State men’s basketball program has good news to report. The Beach is back practicing inside at Walter Pyramid this week and today they announced a unique non-conference schedule to prepare for.
LBSU will play six non-conference games before the Big West Conference schedule starts in late December. The season begins at No. 22 UCLA on November 30, and continues on the road at Loyola Marymount on Dec. 4.
The home opener for the Beach will be Dec. 6 against Seattle. No fans will be allowed to attend, but Beach Vision will stream all games free online.
LBSU will also travel to play the University of San Fransisco (Dec. 10), Cal Baptist (Dec. 19) and the University of San Diego (Dec. 22). Big West begins in a back-to-back format at UC Riverside on Dec. 27 and 28.
Both LBSU men’s and women’s teams started practicing at Walter Pyramid again on Monday after weeks of practicing outside.
“I am grateful to the city of Long Beach Health Department for partnering with our campus to create a safe environment and enable our basketball programs to move inside the Walter Pyramid,” LBSU Athletic Director Andy Fee said. “Our student-athletes and coaches are excited for this next step, and we look forward to representing our campus and community on the court.”
The COVID-19 restrictions have limited LBSU despite consistently testing and not reporting any positive cases since resuming activity in October. However, the city’s Health Department was waiting for more negative tests on campus before letting the teams to practice inside.
Last week, Fee met with city officials and they said they needed more information before making a decision. Instead of waiting, Fee sent both teams to AIM Sports Group in Seal Beach, where there were fewer restrictions in Orange County at the time.
The health department said they would turn the decision around within 24-36 hours, but it took almost a week. Fee and men’s basketball coach Dan Monson said there was incredible energy at the practices.
LBSU junior guard Chance Hunter will be a key returning starter for Monson this year, and was named to the Big West Conference Preseason All-Conference team as voted on by the coaches and media.
Hunter, who was honorable mention last season, led the Beach with 13.9 points per game. Hunter ranked in the Big West’s Top 10 in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and 3-pointers made last season.
In the preseason media poll, LBSU was picked to finish in sixth place overall. Defending champions UC Irvine remained in the top spot.
Instead of traveling for two games a week, or hosting two different teams in a week, the Big West schools will travel to and host the same school for consecutive games. The LBSU men will open conference action at UC Riverside on Dec. 27 and 28 while the women’s team will host the Highlanders at Walter Pyramid.
Big West officials said they hope this strategy will cut down on travel and the possibility of transmitting COVID-19. Most of the games will be on Friday and Saturday, and the conference says that no games will be rescheduled if any team needs to quarantine during the season. No spectators will be allowed when the season starts, but the conference said it will revisit that as the season progresses.
The LBSU men’s squad won’t play conference favorite UC Irvine until the last weekend of the season on the road in early March. The LBSU women will host favorite UC Davis on Feb. 12-13.