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CSUB men set to step into national spotlight, will host Fullerton on ESPNU Friday

CSUB vs Seattle MensBB14

CSUB's Justin Edler-Davis (10) drives to the basket as Seattle's Riley Grigsby last season. The Roadrunners will play their first ever nationally televised game at home against CSU Fullerton on Friday.

Justin Edler-Davis understands why there's excitement around the Cal State Bakersfield men's basketball team this weekend.

Off to a 6-2 start in their first Big West season, the Roadrunners' early success will land them on national television each of the next two weekends, with the first such game set for Friday.

For the first time ever, the Icardo Center will play host to a nationally televised game, as CSUB's matchup with Cal State Fullerton will air on ESPNU.

Edler-Davis, a senior guard who's currently second on the team in scoring at 9.7 points per game, is feeling some of that excitement himself, eager to play in front of a wider audience.

An aspiring broadcaster, he says he's also open to exploring potential networking opportunities he hopes will help set him up for his life after basketball.

But for Edler-Davis, a vocal leader on a veteran-heavy Roadrunner team, such outside factors are a very limited part of his thinking. And after the team "let one slip last weekend" at UC Riverside, a 70-63 loss that snapped a six-game win streak, he expects a similar focus from his teammates.

"We know it's history, we know it's the first time our school has had a nationally televised game on campus," Edler-Davis said. "With something like that, you can definitely have people that kind of get big-headed or try to do different things. But with our team, it hasn't been like that at all. We're excited but we're also trying to make sure we keep the main thing the main thing."

Keeping the focus on Fullerton, which enters the weekend 3-5 in league play, is critical, as a pair of wins would add further weight to a potentially big series next weekend.

UC Irvine, which has won five of the last seven Big West titles, recently returned from a COVID sabbatical and at 4-0, is currently two games clear of the Roadrunners in the loss column. CSUB plays at Irvine on Feb. 5 and 6, the latter contest also set to be broadcast on ESPNU.

"We know next week can potentially be a big weekend for us, so we know that taking care of business puts us in a great position for next week," Edler-Davis said. "So that's definitely been our focus."

A weekend after facing a Riverside team that played a very slow and deliberate pace, CSUB coach Rod Barnes is expecting a much more up-tempo affair against the Titans this weekend.

The Roadrunners, who currently rank second in the Big West in rebounding differential (+9.9) will be tested on the glass as well, as 6-foot-7 Josh Hall and 6-foot-8 Vincent Lee will pose a serious challenge inside.

Hall currently ranks second in the Big West with 7.5 rebounds per game, with Lee one spot behind at 7.2.

Barnes says the excitement of playing on national TV is noteworthy, but only because it usually means a team is playing well enough to merit such attention. 

Still hoping to prove itself as a legit contender in the Big West, Barnes says his team has to focus on playing well under this new spotlight if players hope to keep it shining on them in the future. Thus far, he says he's pleased with how they've responded.

“I think there’s a lot of excitement in our program and the athletic department and just the university in general I think our team is really in a good place of focus," Barnes said. "I’m not sure they know the magnitude or (if) they’re thinking of that particular part of it. I think they’re excited to be on TV and all, but I think they’re more excited to be at home and hopefully trying to redeem themselves after a loss.”

Friday's game on ESPNU will tip at 8 p.m. CSUB will host Fullerton again at 7 p.m. on Saturday.