Long Beach State takes on all comers

At Pittsburgh. At San Diego State. At Montana.

At Louisville. At Kansas. At North Carolina.

Then a business trip to the Diamond Head Classic, where Clemson, Kansas State and Xavier are among the teams in the field.

That's what the Long Beach State schedule looks like on the road before its Big West Conference season begins, and it's really no surprise. Coach Dan Monson, in his time with the 49ers, has consistently sought to challenge his team to better prepare it for the league.

The strategy hasn't always completely worked, as UC Santa Barbara has captured the NCAA tournament bid the past two seasons. But with four senior Long Beach State starters returning and expectations high, there is the sense that this team has what it takes to handle life on the road in some of the toughest places to play in the country.

"We are extremely excited to be playing one of the most challenging preseason schedules in the nation, if not once again the toughest in the country," Monson said in a statement. "We are hopeful that this ambitious scheduling will not only prepare us for the Big West season, but will enable us to understand the improvements that we need to challenge the elite teams in the country and help us elevate our game to a new level. Our goal this year is to not just play a rigorous schedule, but to have success against these teams."

The 49ers return Big West player of the year Casper Ware on a roster accustomed to facing challenges on the road. Last season, they lost at Washington, at Utah State and at North Carolina. The previous season, they beat UCLA on a neutral site while falling at Notre Dame, at Texas, at Kentucky and at Duke.

The seniors -- Ware, T.J. Robinson, Larry Anderson and Eugene Phelps -- have been put to the test before, and like Monson said, now is the time to experience success. Can the 49ers pull a couple upsets? They'll have plenty of opportunities to do so.