Big West Top 10 Countdown: No. 10

We're still a few months away before the games actually begin but Big West fan J. Kline gives us his early predictions of what's in store for the 2003-04 basketball season.

#10 Long Beach State
Predicted Record: 3-15

The biggest problem is that they lost 2 of the 3 best players from an already bad team. Lawhorn and Darden are gone, leaving Kevin Roberts to lead them. On a good team, Roberts would be a complimentary player; he's not a star in this conference. Beach fans have an infusion of new blood to get them excited for the season. Darby is an athletic wing that will please the fans with dunks. Returning legacy Hodges is a promising sophomore with perimeter game. LB should be ok at the 2 and 3, but will there be significant improvement over the production at those positions from last year (with Darden) to this year? probably not.

The other major problem is the lack of dependable contributing role players. Cody Pearson and Antoine Jackson are the only returnees that figure to be much help. Xavier transfer Anthony Coleman will probably ease some of the loss of Vance Lawhorn. Coleman is a mystery, coming from a high-major program, where he never left the bench. Hopefully this will be a good fit for both LB and Coleman. Beyond these three, the waters get murky. I don't expect much from Chris Jenkins or Alex Graham. Neither player is in favor with Larry Reynolds. Jenkins regressed last season and Graham is getting older (22) but not much better. This year could be make-or-break for both.

The good news is that PG should be much improved. Marc Bowens will probably get the nod to start. He would have started last season (and LB would have been better off) if not for season-ending injury. I expect he'll be fully recovered and give them a decent PG. Last season, it was mostly Darnell Thompson (D-2 talent) and Hodges (playing out of position). It can't possibly get worse. And even though Bowens lacks game experience, this will be his third season in the program. I think he'll be ok.

Lastly, LB has two freshmen of note: PG Kevin Houston and PF/C Travon Free. Both come with strong resumes out of H.S. Personally, I think this is going to be a rough year for LB, whether they play freshmen or not. If they do play, it would add depth and there's an outside chance that one of them is FOY-type material. But, why not let Houston have a year to practice in the offense, and Free have a year to get stronger? Then, LB can have a brighter future in 2004-05.