Long Beach State is a trendy upset pick in the 2012 NCAA tournament, but the 49ers wouldn't even be dancing without their point guard, Casper Ware.
Ware, a senior, has had an illustrious career at Long Beach State. He has won several awards, and he holds a few school records.
Now, he looks for an elusive win in the Big Dance.
Read on for some noteworthy facts about the point guard who could bust your bracket—that is, of course, unless you picked Long Beach.
For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here.
In non-conference play, Long Beach State faced eight 2012 NCAA tournament teams and one perennial tourney team (Pittsburgh).
Ware didn't dominate in every outing, but who would? Still, he averaged 19.7 points and 4.5 assists against those nine teams.
Ware's most impressive performances came against Pitt and UNC. Leading his team past the Panthers, Ware scored 28 points and dealt six assists. He kept his team close against the Tar Heels, tallying 29 points and five dimes.
In case you needed the reminder, UNC is a No. 1 seed in this year's tournament.
Because he is listed at 5'10"—a generous estimate—Casper Ware is considered too small for the NBA. He actually played his way into nbadraft.net's 2012 mock draft, but he is projected to go No. 59 overall.
Throughout his career, though, Ware has displayed an ability to compete with NBA-level talent.
On top of performing well against NBA prospects in college, Ware also held more than his own against current NBA players in the 2011 Drew Summer League, winning MVP.
He also was named Player of the Week once. For some perspective, James Harden and Nick Young won the honor in the weeks surrounding Ware's. LeBron James also took the award in Week 10.
Of course, the NBA players didn't play the full season, explaining why James didn't take the MVP. Regardless, though, Ware proved he can play with NBA talent.
Here's a telling quote from Mike Guardabascio's article on Ware's summer performance:
There's no denying that he deserved it. Ware averaged over 30 points per game, despite being a diminutive point guard from a conference that some of the elite NBA talent may not have even heard of. He dropped 43 points on a team that featured NBA ballers DeMar DeRozan, Ron Artest and Steve Blake. He scored 33 points while playing on a team with LeBron James, impressing James so much that the NBA MVP asked Ware to teach at his camp the next weekend. He played against or alongside Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Austin Daye, and more, consistently flummoxing top-tier talents and drawing praise from Twitter feeds to asphalt arguments.
How cool would you feel if you were in college and could call John Wall your friend?
It turns out Casper Ware and Wall have some form of a friendship. First, Ware brought Wall, DeMar Derozan and James Harden to Long Beach State's Pyramid for an open gym session.
Then, Wall tweeted this at Ware on his birthday.
No Long Beach State 49er has tallied more career assists or steals than Casper Ware.
The senior guard has recorded 539 assists and 205 steals.
As a sophomore, Ware averaged career-highs in both categories, getting 4.8 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
Single game-highs: 10 assists and six steals.
After earning some form of all-conference honors as a freshman and sophomore, Casper Ware unprecedentedly won the Big West Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year as a junior.
Not a single player had accomplished the feat since the league's inception in 1969.
Let that settle.
Ware averaged 17.2 points and 4.4 assists to go with 1.6 steals that season.
The steal total might seem low for a DPOY, but we all know stats don't tell the full story. If you've ever watched Long Beach State, you'd know Ware can lock down his opponent.
Big West Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year weren't the first accolades Casper Ware received.
Here's a list of his career honors:
Big West Conference All-Freshman Team (2008-09)
Second Team All-Big West Conference (2009-10)
College Insider's Big West POY (2009-10)
Big West Conference All-Tournament Team (2010-12)
AP Honorable Mention All-American (2010-11)
Big West Conference Player of the Year (2011 and 2012)
Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year (2010-11)
First Team All-Big West Conference (2011 and 2012)
U.S. Basketball Writers All-District IX Team (2011 and 2012)
U.S. Basketball Writers District IX Player of the Year (2011-12)
National Association of Basketball Coaches District 9 Team (2010-11)
Lou Henson Mid-Major All-America Team (2010-11)