Washington State has earned a two seed in the NIT and will face Long Beach State this Wednesday at 7pm PDT on ESPNU. As the higher seed, WSU will host the first round game at Friel Court. (Click for the full NIT Bracket).
Long Beach State earned an automatic bid to the NIT by winning the Big West regular season championship. They are led by former Gonzaga and Minnesota head coach Dan Monson. Long Beach is 60-66 under Monson, but has improved from 6-25 in his first year to 22-10 in 2010-2011.
Ken Pomeroy ranks the 49ers 96th overall. On offense, their most impressive attribute is getting to the free throw line. Long Beach has posted a 52.3 free throw rate, good for 69th in the country. On defense, they do a very good job rebounding and keeping opponents off the free throw line. LBSU ranks 44th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage and 22nd in free throw rate allowed.
Long Beach State's best player is 5-10 guard Casper Ware. He is effective from outside the arc and inside, shooting 38.4% from three and 46.6% from two. Ware also gets to the line at a 52.0 free throw rate. Put all that together and he has posted a 110.4 efficiency rating while using 25.1% of his team's possessions. Ware usually has the ball in his hands for the 49ers, as he has a 27.1 assist rate.
Another player to watch for the 49ers may be senior guard Greg Plater. He shoots a lot of three pointers, as 78% of his shots come from behind the arc. He makes them at a 35.7% clip. Plater seems like the type of guy that can get hot and score in bunches.
Long Beach doesn't go very deep into their bench, and for good reason. The starter that plays the least still logs 66.6% of available minutes. Outside of the starting five, only three players have registered more than 10% of minutes and none of them have been very effective.
Overall, Long Beach is your typically undersized mid-major who is led by a talented guard. WSU should be able to push around the 49ers a bit inside. When the Cougs play man, expect to see Marcus Capers and his length to be on Casper Ware.
LBSU has played two Pac-10 opponents this season, losing 102-75 at Washington 72-55 at Arizona State. This is a game Washington State should win, but Long Beach has the ability to give majors trouble. They played at North Carolina (rated 14th by kenpom), losing just 96-91.