#61 Charlotte Men's Basketball 2013-2014 Preview

Charlotte 49ers

2013-2014 Overall Rank: #61
Conference Rank: #2 C-USA

Charlotte Team Page#61 Charlotte Men's Basketball 2013-2014 PreviewBuy Charlotte Basketball Tickets

Success did not follow Charlotte to the Atlantic 10. The 49ers failed to reach the NCAA Tournament during their eight year stint in the conference. Prior to that, in Conference USA, the 49ers were regularly seen cutting down nets and playing on college basketball’s biggest stage. Now Coach Alan Major is leading his Charlotte squad back to Conference USA. This is not the same conference that Charlotte left and it is a down move…for now at least. Charlotte has the talent to make a big splash in their first year back in the conference, but it will likely be a one bid league with the NCAA Tournament bid coming down to a few games in March.

2012-13 Record: 21-12, 8-8
2012-13 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Alan Major
Coach Record: 44-49 at Charlotte, 44-49 overall

Who’s Out:
The talent is there, but the depth is not. Chris Braswell led the team in scoring once again during his senior season and added 5.5 rebounds. Coach Major used his strong 6-9 forward primarily off of the bench, yet he would be in the game when it mattered the most. The only other senior on the roster during the 2012-2013 campaign was fellow forward J.T. Thompson who averaged about 15 minutes per game. Losing Braswell is huge and a few transfers have hindered the development of the young team and left the 49ers with very little experienced depth. DeMario Mayfield was the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 11.7 points per game during the 18 contests in which he played. The 6-5 wing also added a strong rebounder in the backcourt. Darion Clark, who started 18 games, and Victor Nickerson, who started 15, were both promising underclassmen who have left the program.

Who’s In:
Tough wing Shawn Lester will finally suit up for the 49ers after being academically ineligible. He is a big time scorer who can be dangerous from everywhere on the floor. If Lester does not begin the year in the starting five, he will at least make a big impact off of the bench. Ben Cherry has much more experience after spending the last three seasons at Tulane. Cherry is a decent outside shooter and should immediately fill that role. On a team that made a mere 3.5 three-pointers game and shot a horrendous 26.8 percent from beyond the arc, Cherry is a very welcomed addition. Cameron Blakely and Marcus Bryan will provide depth in the frontcourt. Blakely is deceptively nimble for a 6-8 forward and his versatility gives Coach Major some rotational options depending on the size of the competition. Bryan is a late addition to the program, but he was a great pickup for the program. Bryan was an amazing scorer and rebounder in the prep ranks. At this level he may not be able to score too much, but he can rebound and play solid defense.

Who to Watch:
The losses sound bad, and some of them are, but the four returning players with starting experience form a great group to build around. Pierria Henry can pretty much do it all. He is a superb defender and the 6-4 guard averaged 10.3 points, 3.7 assists, 2.5 steals and 5.5 rebounds. If Henry can keep the turnovers down and knock down a few more long balls, there may not be a better guard in Conference USA during the 2013-2014 campaign. Terrence Williams will join Henry in the backcourt. For a shooting guard Williams is not much of a shooter. He connected on just 21.4 percent of his three-point attempts, but is more than capable of scoring in other ways even if his shot does not start falling. Denzel Ingram actually led the team in three-point shooting with 24 makes on the year. Ingram, a 5-11 point guard, had a very promising freshman season despite averaging just 5.8 points per game. If he can take care of the ball, Ingram will spend more time on the ball with Henry sliding over to the two guard spot. The frontcourt will be led by Willie Clayton. As a freshman the 6-8 forward averaged 8.5 points and a team high 6.2 rebounds. Clayton is an efficient scorer in the paint and he should have many more opportunities now that the offense will run through him when Charlotte plays through the post instead of Braswell.  

Final Projection:
Depth is going to be a problem all over the floor and Coach Major will have to rely on the newcomers quite heavily. In the backcourt Ivan Benkovic will join Cherry as one of the team’s shooting threats off of the bench. As a freshman last year Benkovic hit 40.4 percent of his shots from long range. He only made one shot inside the arc. On a team that struggled so much shooting the ball, Benkovic will again play an important role even if he averages only about ten minutes per game. The backcourt should be in good shape, but the depth in the frontcourt could be more problematic. Mike Thorne is developing into a solid center, yet he barely saw the floor as a freshman. Now he will likely have to begin the 2013-2014 season in the starting lineup. At 6-11 and 257 pounds Thorne has the big body Charlotte wants in the paint. He does not have to score, but he does have to play solid defense and help out on the glass. If Thorne is not ready to go, Clayton will have to spend even more time at the five spot and then the pressure is on Bryan and Blakely to fill in the rest of the minutes at power forward. Eventually that will work, but it will take a little time for the freshmen to get into the swing of things. But they will be by the time conference play rolls around.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:
Pierria Henry, Junior, Guard, 10.3 points per game
Terrence Williams, Junior, Guard, 7.6 points per game
Shawn Lester, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Willie Clayton, Sophomore, Forward, 8.5 points per game
Mike Thorne, Sophomore, Center, 1.8 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 67.5 (166th in nation, 11th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.6 (196, 11)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.0 (130, 10)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.9 (84, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 3.5 (342, 15)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 26.8 (NA, NA)
Free-Throw Percentage: 65.4 (289, 15)
Rebound Margin: 4.2 (50, 4)
Assists Per Game: 11.7 (248, 14)
Turnovers Per Game: 15.3 (311, 14)


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