Charlotte Scouting Report

This season has been a tough one for Charlotte and first time head coach Alan Major. Major has quite the pedigree working under the wing of fine coaches such as Gene Keady (Purdue), Bruce Weber (Southern Illinois) and Thad Matta (Xavier & Ohio State) which has served him well in his career. Nonetheless, no amount of training could have prepared him for the train-wreck he was about to witness, and he gets to be the conductor. Major has said he likes his teams to play tough and, if he has learned well from his former bosses, also smart. Smart is not one word to describe the play of the 49ers this season.

Returning All A-10 third team member Shamari Spears has been dismissed from the team for his conduct leaving the 49ers without their biggest scoring presence. For a while, partially filling the vacuum with his stellar play was 6’10” senior Phil Jones who provided some inside scoring and quality rebounding only to be declared academically ineligible last week. These circumstances are coupled with the loss of Major’s first serious recruit Slovenian 6’4” guard Luka Voncina who averaged 14.4 PPG and 5.4 APG on a club that won a national title, who has had eligibility issues with the NCAA.

Major and the remaining 49ers will have to try to pick up the pieces for a season that they would like to soon forget. The best player on the team is 6’9” Sophomore Chris Braswell who has averaged just 10.1 PPG and 6.9 RPG. He is a good rebounder and his best quality is drawing fouls ranking 32nd nationally in free throw rate (FTA/FGA). He shoots a respectable, if not awe inspiring 69.7 percent from the line. Despite the 49ers’ best player being a big man, it is perimeter play that has been more prevalent as of late. Charlotte has taken 22 three point attempts in its last two games.

Leading this charge are guards Derrio Green and Jamar Briscoe. Both require the ball to be in their hands often and neither is a true point guard. Briscoe is officially the point guard, but while has a decent assist rate his attentions are much more on scoring. Facing the Dukes’ tough perimeter defense there will likely not be much room for these players to shine.

With no other real post threats other than Braswell to speak of and the likely poor performance of its guards, it is hard to see how this team will compete with team quickness and tenacity of Duquesne. The Dukes have caught a number of breaks this season from Saint Louis having to suspend its best players, to the Charlotte situation, to Xavier’s injury problems, to facing Temple with Juan Fernandez coming off an injury, to Chris Wright still being a terrible basketball player and Dayton’s lack of identity. These events have helped the Dukes climb to the top of the A-10 standings, with a little more fortune perhaps a conference championship could happen. As for long suffering Duquesne fans, they will take it.

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Dukes Release Schedule

On Tuesday, the Dukes released their schedule for the 2010-11 season. It possesses many familiar opponents but stands out in regard to the overall strength of opponent. Duquesne has faced a relatively poor schedule the last few seasons in a effort to bolster the team’s confidence going into conference play. This would seem to be a sign of confidence by head coach Ron Everhart and his staff that the Dukes are ready to take the next step towards becoming a perennial Atlantic 10 contender.

Familiar conference opponents include Pitt and West Virginia, two Big East powers that should compete for their league’s title again.  Similarly, the Dukes will face cross town rival Robert Morris, coming off a tough loss in NCAA Tournament to the 2 seed Villanova. Also, the second legs of home-and-home series will be concluded in Pitsburgh with quality mid major programs IUPUI and George Mason. Added to that list are Green Bay and Bowling Green, members of higher level mid major conferences. Softer competition includes UMBC, Northwestern State and Norfolk State and Houston Baptist.

As far as the Atlantic 10 schedule goes, it is more favorable than it otherwise could have been. The Dukes will face off twice against Dayton, Saint Louis and Saint Bonaventure. Duquesne traditionally plays well against Dayton, but many prognosticators are touting them to win the league after their NIT championship run (note: I’m not among them). Saint Louis is a tough opponent for the Dukes with their slow pace and fantastic coach. Saint Bonaventure is similarly a difficult matchup due to Sophmore big man Andrew Nicholson, who gave the Dukes fits due to the lack of quality size in the front court.

Duquesne does catch a few breaks in getting to play top league opponents, Temple, Xavier, Rhode Island and Charlotte at home. The remaining A-10 games will be on the road with a date at Richmond appearing  as the most difficult contest. Overall, the quality of opponent for the 2010-11 season should be stronger and this season will demonstrate much about the program going forward. If the team is successful (20 wins or so) it should mark the shift to a full time A-10 contender. If not, it might mean more bottom feeders on the schedule and limited potential in regards to post season appearances.