Kevin Bromley has his work cut out for him with this year’s Cal Poly squad. The ninth-year head coach has a team picked to finish near the bottom of the Big West, with a 3-9 record and a tough road ahead.

The Mustangs are currently riding a four-game losing streak, including a pair of nail-biting losses to Cal State Bakersfield and Fresno State. In the former, Cal Poly was ousted by a last-second shot, while the latter took overtime to decide.

“We’ve had some close games,” Bromley said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of close games.”

The other two, more recent losses – to Big West foes UC Riverside and Long Beach State – were decidedly less exciting. Both resulted in double-digit margins of defeat for Bromley’s boys.

Still, there is some hope to be had for the Mustangs.

“We’ve played well at times,” Bromley said. “We’re not very deep – down to nine scholarship kids.”

The lack of depth hurts, but there are certainly talented players rearing to make an impact in the Big West. The Mustangs are led by junior guard Lorenzo Keeler and senior post Titus Shelton. Shelton, the starting center, leads the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game He is also second in rebounds with nearly five per game, and has 20 of Cal Poly’s 33 blocked shots on the season.

Keeler, meanwhile, features as more of a pure shooter. He averages 10.5 points per game, and leads the team in three pointers – both made and attempted.

Sophomores Wes Dipprey and Shawn Lewis figure heavily into the Mustangs’ game as well, and each have started all 12 matches. Dipprey, a forward, leads the team with 5.6 rebounds per game to go with his four-point average. Lewis, a guard, is one of the Mustang sharpshooters. He gets over nine points per game, and shoots free throws at an astonishing .895 clip. The two also play some of the best defense on the Mustangs, and are tied for second on the team with 12 steals apiece.

Rounding out the starting lineup is normally senior Trae Clark, though the guard has been absent for disciplinary reasons the last three games. Clark, a two-time Big West Conference honorable mention, has averaged seven points, three assists and two rebounds in his nine appearances this season. He also is remarkably accurate when he chooses to shoot from long range, hitting 10 of his 23 three pointers on the year.

One thing that has plagued Cal Poly all season long has been rebounding. The Mustangs are averaging eight less rebounds than their opponents, and that has certainly affected the outcome of their numerous close losses.

“I think collectively we’ve got to play a bigger line-up sometimes,” Bromley said. “We don’t have much of a front line right now, we’ve got to build up some depth.

“If we don’t do that, we won’t be very competitive.”

While depth is far from Cal Poly’s strength, the Mustangs do have a very solid sixth-man option in senior guard Chaz Thomas. Thomas averages 11 points per game, almost exclusively coming off the bench, as well as a team-high 16 steals.

Despite the Mustangs having many woes – including the shocking lack of anybody on the team with over three assists per game – defense is hardly one if them. Cal Poly has actually earned more steals than its opponents by a decent margin, and is only allowing 70 points per game.

“On defense, we do pretty well in spurts,” Bromley said. “And then we have some breakdowns.”

The unpredictability Bromley mentions has been what has plagued the Mustangs the most all season long. To make a run in the Big West, Cal Poly will have to add a great deal of consistency to their game.

“At this level we have to put together a 40 minute game,” The coach said. “We haven’t done that long enough to come out on the winning end.”