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Both teams looked much improved compared to last season.

CHARLOTTE has been retooled. The team is bigger, more athletic and deeper than it’s been in years. I bet the Niners will pull several upsets this year, especially at home.

The frontline is not explosive athletically – aside from the sophomore Nickerson – but the Niners have four bruisers who hit the boards hard and can score inside. Two are freshmen.

Chris Braswell is going to have a great senior year. He really has perfected the craft of using his body to score inside even though he’s not a bigtime leaper. Great touch, too.

I expect the Niners to play physical defense, be tough on the glass and lean on people offensively. The defense will need some time to come together, though. There are still too many breakdowns among the younger guys trying to figure out when to switch or whether to double team. Small, quick guards will give them some trouble.

The big weakness I see right now, aside from lack of experience, is outside shooting. The Niners have hit just four treys in two games (4-20). I don’t see a pure shooter on the team who’s likely to get major minutes.

This team will have trouble scoring at times against teams that can shut down their inside game and limit penetration. Pierria Henry is most effective when he drives and dishes.

RICHMOND, on the other hand, has a feast of good shooters and can pile up the points. The team has hit 24 three-pointers in two games (24-56), admittedly against soft competition. Yet prior editions of the Spiders would not have won so big.

The Spiders have four legit A-10 guards in Lindsay, Anthony, Brothers and now soph Wayne Sparrow.

It’s early, but I suspect Richmond will be the biggest surprise of the season. Derrick Williams will anchor the frontcourt while the young guys get up to speed.

The team’s success and postseason odds will depend more on the defense. The Spiders were not that good last year stopping the other team and grabbing enough boards.

If the defense comes around, the Spiders will be a darkhorse for an NCAA bid. This team has lots of offensive firepower, excellent guard play and a quality bigman. All the ingredients to be a topflight A-10 team.
 

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The Niners do look improved, albeit also against somewhat weak competition, and we haven't even seen the whole team yet. Junior sg/sf Mayfield still hasn't played, expected to be the Niners 2nd option on offense. Also, he may be the Niners only hope to have an outside shooting threat. sg Williams now has confidence in his mid-range jumper, but for some reason still looks awkward shooting just a few feet further back. Mayfield had a terrible first half of the year shooting last year, but even in the second half he was only in the 30%'s from 3. After that, Braswell might be our best 3 point shooter (low 30%). Opponents will be using tight zones and box-and-ones with good success against the Niners all year.

I would suggest that Clark is athletically explosive on the frontline, as he's mostly played pf so far. But he's undersized, so he needs to be explosive just to compete with the taller guys.

One thing about Henry that's different so far this year is he's clearly a team leader now. Something last year's team seemed to lack.

The defense has had its inconsistencies, but there have been some stretches in which they've played outstanding defense, holding opponents without a field goal for up to 10 minutes at a time. If they can improve the consistency and avoid too many breakdowns, the Niners will be in most games this year.
 

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I'm cautiously optimistic on Richmond. I saw problems boxing out on the defensive boards against UNCW. But the defense and offense look great against suspect competition.

I think the Minnesota game will be a great litmus test. If Richmond wins that game, I suspect they will have a legitimate shot at making the big dance in March.

PhillySpider on the Richmond board had a good observation. Richmond has been using a soft full-court press in the first two games. Richmond has experimented with this in the past early in the season but usually discarded the press by January.

Philly's hypothesis is that the goal of the new press isn't so much to create turnovers (though if it does so much the better) but to eat 8-9 seconds of the shot clock. This in turn reduces the time teams have to isolate a mismatch in the Spiders' switching defense. Seems like a reasonable adjustment to help cover a weakness of the defense last year. Mooney has a stable of smart, quick, athletic guards, so fatigue is not too much of a concern. Question is: how will it work against teams with top notch backcourts?
 

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One danger of the pressing defense with Richmond's roster is that there isn't a true shotblocker on the back line if teams break the press, and it could potentially leave UR thin in the frontcourt if Nelson-Ododa or Williams pick up early fouls trying to defend those breakthroughs. However, I'm sure Mooney is aware of this, which is why it's a soft press, designed to eat up clock and give the guards steal opportunities while limiting the exposure of the frontline.

Love what I see from the UR guards so far this year. Brothers in particular is doing exactly what a senior leader must - sets the scoring tone early and often and lets the game come to the other guys. If the freshmen can all progress by midseason, could be a dangerous squad. When the shots are falling, very tough.
 

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It'll be interesting to see how Charlotte's offense changes with Mayfield coming back. He has the midrange and hopefully outside game to help spread things out.

Our team is pretty athletic outside of Braswell and JT Thompson. Defense will be our calling card, 180 degree change for Charlotte fans from the Lutz era.
 

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Zach is a recruited walk-on but could play significant minutes on a number of teams.
 

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6-0!

Not the best competition, but I'll take it.

Up next are two in state rivals, ECU and Davidson.
Competition definitely hasn't been very good. But at least in the past the Niners would usually drop one or even two against weaker teams early in the season. So they're taking care of business which is a nice change. They also seem to be playing better basketball despite still working in some starting players.

We'll see what happens soon. I don't expect ECU to be all that challenging unless they get really hot from outside (which is tough against the Niners defense so far). But the road game at Davidson will probably reveal a lot about this team, they're pretty good and will be tough at home.


The rest of the A10 will certainly benefit from Charlotte having a good non-conference record, even if it isn't against the best teams.
 

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I think if Charlotte beats Davidson it will be pretty clear that Charlotte is going to be better than a lot of folks expected.

It's got to be nice for 49er fans to see Charlotte on the upswing going into C-USA.
 

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I think if Charlotte beats Davidson it will be pretty clear that Charlotte is going to be better than a lot of folks expected.

It's got to be nice for 49er fans to see Charlotte on the upswing going into C-USA.
We destroyed basically the same Davidson team last year, although that was in our arena, a place they haven't won in since it opened (1996). I will be nice to get a win in their gym, something we haven't done in a while.
 

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Can we get a little love, A10 fans?

What an incredible start for the Niners.

Even more exciting is that we start 3 freshmen and 2 sophs...and they all contribute. Clark and Clayton are just beasting. Last night they combined to be 13-17 from the field for 26 points and 15 rebounds! Henry's stat line may have been even more impressive. 11 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 5 assists.

The future looks bright for Niner fans!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Well, I've given the Niners love several times! It was evident early on that this team has something going on. Henry is becoming a star and a leader - even without a consistent J - and the frontcourt bucks (Clayton and Clark) are unusually productive for young A-10 bigs.

Unfortunately, shooting will be a sore spot this year. Zone zone and more zone. My guess is it will preclude a top three finish, but I definitely think postseason play is a good possibility.
 

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Yeah shooting has definitely been a sore spot for us.

Williams is money on his 17 foot jumper, but move him back just behind the arc and he can't buy a bucket. I think he is 1-18 on the year from behind the arc now. Just terrible.

Ingram and Benkovich can shoot, but they don't see nearly as much floor time as the other guys and I don't expect that to change as we move into tougher competition from Miami, FSU, and A10 teams.
 

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After the Lutz years, and his obvious dislike of moving to the A10, I now wonder if Charlotte's return to the New, but hardly improved, CUSA will affect recruiting in the years to come. Right now, and in the last few years, the A10 has had a reputation of being a pretty darned good league. And, obviously, it has attracted some excellent players. And coaches.

Now that Charlotte is about to be dropped into a basketball cesspool that CUSA is, I have a hard time believing that Major will have as much success bringing in new talent. And, it is clear that Charlotte will not have the revenue that it does in the A10. I can only imagine what a CUSA television contract will look like when they are trying to sell Southern Miss, FIU, La. Tech, North Texas, UT-San Antonio, FAU, et. al to any kind of sports network. And, how would you like to try to sell basketball tickets when those teams play in Charlotte?
 
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