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Tuesday, Oct 01 2013 06:00 AM

The Roadrunner Connection: October basketball is in the air

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The math is simple and Lord knows I'm not much with arithmetic, but October equals basketball.

I know most people probably won't see my logic in the above equation, opting to instead equate the month of October to autumn, pumpkins and Halloween. But in my world, October means the start of the college basketball season.

You have to understand for those of us here at CSUB, this is arguably the most-anticipated season of the year. Since football isn't one of our sports, much of the program's success from revenue to media buzz and fan support centers around the men's basketball program.

Practiced opened Friday in what is the most important season in the history of this program.

The team will be competing in the Western Athletic Conference for the first time as a member of the NCAA Division I ranks, meaning no matter what happens throughout the season, a spot in the NCAA Tournament will come down to winning three games in March at the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas.

It's that simple, for the first time ever, we're that close. So yes, there's more on the line this season than ever before.

How's the team look?

Despite losing a couple top scorers including all-time leading scorer Stephon Carter to graduation, a solid recruiting class joined by several players who sat out last season, leaves head coach Rod Barnes with probably his deepest and most-talented team to date. He has real size in the post with every player coming it at over 6-foot-8. He has at least two true point guards this season with the return of Issiah Grayson from injury last season and newcomer Tyrell Corbin.

The biggest selling point for this team is experience.

Like I pointed out, there are five players on this year's team that had to redshirt last season due to injury or transfer. Couple those players with a few returners who played last season but sat out the year before as redshirts and you have a basketball team that in some form or another has played or practiced together for at least two seasons. That's a lifetime in today's college game.

There are winners on this team too. Players that have been a part of championship teams at either the high school or junior college levels ,and their experience in big-game situations will be invaluable. Student-athletes who understand what is at stake this season and why it is different than seasons past.

The buzz is there as well. Sporting News picked us to finish second in the WAC, Athlon Sports selected us fifth, and Blue Ribbon Basketball Preview put us fourth. Some of those predictions make sense, some seem a tad under-researched, but I understand many writers haven't even heard of us. We're the new kids on the block and they assume we're going to struggle. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So the season is underway, the team will practice for a few weeks, hold an open Blue-Gold Scrimmage on Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Icardo Center and then open their exhibition schedule on Nov. 2, hosting Occidental College before opening the regular season Nov. 8, at Washington State.

It's going to be a big year and we hope the entire county will get behind this team and this program, as we head into unchartered waters.

It should be a great ride.

COREY COSTELLOE, a Tehachapi High graduate, is Director of New Media and Broadcasting for California State University Bakersfield.

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