It’s game day, folks. So we figured in order to pump everyone up for today’s showdown, we’d sit down with Sydney Hunte of PickAxeDigest.com to answer a few questions for us about Rhody’s opponent this afternoon. Let’s check out what he had to say:
Rhody Rampage: Charlotte was picked 10th in the preseason A-10 polls. They currently sit at 13-2 and tied for first in the conference. Did even the most optimistic fan see this coming?
Pick Axe Digest: I don’t think so. Granted, many of those victories have come against much weaker opponents. However, they did pick up a key win against Davidson, who was nearly a Sweet 16 team last year, and won the Great Alaska Shootout against Texas State, Oral Roberts and Northeastern. A couple of their wins have been a struggle (they needed overtime to beat UNC Asheville, for example) so that is something to keep in mind. There’s a long way to go, though.
RR: The 49ers are receiving almost no love nationally, and are still not getting any Top-25 votes. Why do you think that is?
PAD: Again, I think it’s due to a weaker schedule. There were a handful of sub-150 RPI teams among their wins (Lamar, ECU, Texas State among them) so the fact that they have yet to receive votes isn’t surprising. They’ve certainly gotten flack from some fans because of their schedule.
RR: Charlotte has a very balanced scoring attack. Who are some of the key players Rhody should keep an eye out for?
PAD: Pierria Henry has come on well in his sophomore season despite being known more as a defensive player (All-Defensive Team selection in preseason). He’s just shy of 10 points per game (9.1) but against La Salle he put up 20. Leading the charge is Chris Braswell who’s a force inside (12.1) but the last few games he hasn’t been at his best. The freshmen – Willie Clayton (8.7), Denzel Ingram (6.8) and Darion Clark (6.6) – have done well initially in their first season, while Clayton has a knack for doing the dirty work around the rack.
RR: The 49ers have three players averaging more boards than URI’s top rebounder. How has their inside play helped them to get where they are right now?
PAD: Again, they’re a good team inside, with many of their points in the paint – along with that comes many second and third chance opportunities. Clayton, as I mentioned, isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty inside, and Braswell certainly gives them that size they need (6’9″). They did struggle a tad on the offensive glass against La Salle so they’ll need to work on that going in.
RR: The Rams play tight defense and the 49ers turn the ball over 15 times per game. Do you see that as Charlotte’s biggest weakness?
PAD: That is a weakness; Charlotte turned it over 21 times against La Salle but benefited from poor Explorers shooting. However, a couple of other weaknesses are evident; they aren’t a great three-point shooting (28%) or free-throw shooting team (64.9%). If the Rams can clamp down on interior defense and force the Niners to take outside shots, they have a chance to win.
RR: Finally, give us a prediction for today.
PAD: It will be close, but if Charlotte can take care of the ball, they should be able to come away with this one. 72-65 Charlotte.
Thanks to Sydney for chatting with us. Only a few hours until game time!