January marks the beginning of the New Year, where people make resolutions to change their life for the better. While some people vow to lose weight, be a better parent or get out of debt, for others, a New Year’s resolution might include winning the Big West basketball crown. The women’s teams have so much parity that any team can defeat any other team on any given day. While the odds-on favorites are Riverside and defending champion Santa Barbara, other teams cannot be ruled out, including Long Beach State.
The Long Beach record stands at 3-8. While the record looks rough, looks can be deceiving. Their three victories have come against New Mexico State, San Jose State and Idaho, their lone road victory. Despite having 8 losses, the Beach was competitive in several matches, almost mounting a successful comeback against Fresno State, but when the Bulldogs hit consecutive 3 pointers, the 49ers were undone.
The Long Beach squad showcases the plight of a team marred by bad luck. Devastated by injuries all year long, they have used seven different starting lineups in their first 11 games. This makes it nearly impossible to develop a rhythm as a team, as they have to keep becoming accustomed to how other teammates play. Off to their dismal 3-8 start, the 49ers do not look too impressive. However, if they can develop a consistent lineup and rhythm, they can play spoiler in the Big West conference.
“[We] deal with a lot of different injuries,” Coach Mary Hegarty said. “In spite of all that, I think we still can be successful.”
The 49ers open their Big West play with a two-game road trip to Santa Barbara and Cal Poly, which Coach Hegarty regarded as “the toughest road trip of the year.”
“We have an exciting opportunity,” the 2005-06 Big West Coach of the Year said. “Everyone is back to 0-0.”
Santa Barbara may not look formidable with their 4-6 record. However, the defending champions are tough and eager to prove themselves. Last year, the Gauchos went 17-1 in Big West play and ran away with the conference title. However, this year Riverside was named the preseason favorite, and Santa Barbara will have to prove themselves against the 49ers, which looks to be competitive given Long Beach’s great ability to shoot.
“We have a lot of kids who can shoot really well,” Coach Hegarty said.
This makes up for Long Beach’s lack of athleticism in the paint and may propel the team to victory when its shooting is on.
From Santa Barbara, the 49ers will continue their journey north to San Luis Obispo, where they face a tough Cal Poly Mustang team, who are off to the best preseason out of all Big West games. The safe money is on the Gauchos and Mustangs, but the 49ers can easily have some upsets.
Like Coach Hegarty said, everyone’s record is back to 0-0. It doesn’t matter if one team went undefeated in the preseason or another did not win a game. Those games don’t mean anything in conference play. It’s months away before the Big West title will be won and right now, there is not a team that should be counted out.