What better way to get things started than looking at the mascot of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (also known as N.C.-Charlotte, N.C.-Char, North Carolina-Charlotte, UNC, UNC-C, UNCC) 49ers?
Charlotte played its regular season basketball in the Atlantic 10, although they will be moving to Conference USA as of July 2013, and finished with the same winning percentage, .500, as our beloved Providence Friars did. Wins over La Salle, Xavier and UMass headlined their resume early on in the season.
A one point loss at Temple and a seven point loss at home to VCU gave reason for some excitement because of the way they hung with and nearly upset two of the top two teams in the league and both NCAA Tournament selections.
Their best win of the year came against the forever known Cinderella of college basketball in the Butler Bulldogs. The 49ers were led by Pierria Henry, dropping 17 points including two late free throws, to end a twelve game win streak Butler had at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Just when you thought Ed Cooley had the best one or two liners after big wins or losses, look no further than Charlotte head coach Alan Major to change your mind.
“Does anybody have a stretcher?” Charlotte coach Alan Major said. “I may need to be carried out of here after that one.”
Sadly for Coach Major, most of you reading this wouldn’t mind him to utter these words after his team gets done at the Dunk Wednesday night.
They enter their NIT game against the Friars coming off a decisive loss at the hands of St. Louis in Atlantic 10 quarterfinals. At 21-11, 8-8, don’t expect Charlotte to succumb to the pressure of facing a school from a power six conference as the 49ers faced Miami and Florida State in their non-conference season.
Led by Chris Braswell, Pierria Henry and Willie Clayton, the 49ers are a deep rebounding time that isn’t afraid to hit the glass. Braswell averaged nearly 12 points per game to go along with 5.5 boards. The senior forward will do his best to keep his career alive and will try and go to work on the low block early on in the game. Henry is probably their most prolific scorer as the sophomore guard has shown he can score in bunches. He scored 17 against a very good guard defending team in Butler and a season high 28 points and 12 rebounds against Richmond in the A-10 tournament to put the team on his shooting hand, and free throw line as he scored his final 8 at the free throw line after the much talked about controversial ending and technical fouls.
There isn’t much that Charlotte can throw at the Friars that they haven’t seen this year, except maybe Norm The Niner.
In their quarterfinal game against St. Louis, Braswell noted the one thing that Charlotte could not contend with.
“They were just speeding us up,” Braswell said. “We were just rushing, trying to make home run passes.”
If there is one thing that Council, Cotton and Dunn can do to you is speed you up. It isn’t a style the Friars have seen much of this season as Ed Cooley prefers to milk some clock and run the different half court sets he has in place, but he has always said he is the type of coach that wants his teams to get up and down. Kadeem Batts should be able to hold his own and more against a heavily dependent front-court team in the 49ers.
One thing to keep an eye out for is the how the Friars start. It has said time and time again over the last few weeks that Cooley has been unable to get the start he, nor the fans, have been hoping for. After an emotional win against Richmond, Charlotte showed very little resistance against St. Louis.