Team preview: Long Beach State

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Size, Larry Reynolds contends, is overrated.

At least, the Long Beach State coach hopes it is. Because his 49ers come up noticeably short in that category.

On the other hand, the 49ers are long on speed, athleticism, experience and skill, which is why they could come up big in the Big West race.

It worked for them last season, when a similarly undersized Long Beach team caught fire late, winning seven consecutive games down the stretch and in the conference tournament before falling to Pacific in the final. And with much of the backcourt weaponry back, the 49ers have drawn attention as the league's team to beat this season.

"It's good to have a buzz around the program,'' Reynolds said. "But I think it brings with it a lot of responsibility and a lot of effort, knowing that the target's on our back now.''

The 49ers, however, are a moving target, and a very swift one at that. Their mixture of get-it-and-go offense and full-court man-to-man pressure defense make for a frenetic pace than many opponents simply can't keep up with.

Last season, Long Beach led the nation in scoring at 83.3 points per game -- almost 23 points more than its previous season average -- and scored 90 or more 10 times. The 49ers took 721 three-pointers, by far the most in the Big West, and made a conference-high 256. They were second in the conference in steals per game (7.4) and turnovers forced (16.8 per game).

"We're pretty helter-skelter, trapping,'' Reynolds said. "We don't let the other team do what they want to do. We make the run, and when teams wear out, point guards make poor decisions. It might not even be a turnover, just a rushed shot or bad shot and we get the rebound, and now we're going the other way. It doesn't count as a turnover, but it's something we look for.''

To make that style work, the 49ers need ability and depth in the backcourt, and this year they are loaded with both. So much so that Reynolds is likely to start four guards -- none taller than 6-3 -- and one post player.

The idea is to play to his strength and to put his best players on the court, and there is no question what the 49ers' strength is. Reynolds likens his group to the Villanova team that went 28-5 last season with four mostly-undersized guards in the lineup.