UNC-Charlotte was a middle of the pack team in Conference USA last season, and they’ll be looking to change that this year. Last year was a regression form the previous season, which saw Alan Major’s team finish with 21 wins and an 8-8 conference record, earning them a berth in the NIT. This season will prove to be crucial, as many in Charlotte are growing impatient with Major’s progress, or lack thereof, in recent seasons. Since taking over in 2010, the 49ers have yet to produce an offense in the top 190 in the country efficiency-wise, and they haven’t truly competed for a conference title in that time either, whether it be in the A-10 or conference USA.
Major does have a lot of firepower this season, and it seems that this might finally be the 49ers time to break through. Leading scorer and assister Pierria Henry returns along with leading rebounder Willie Clayton. In addition, Charlotte also adds two 4-star transfers, Bernard Sullivan from Clemson and Braxton Ogbueze from Florida. These players have the talent to have an impact right away. As far as in-state matchups go, the Niners will take on Elon on opening night, November 16th, as well as facing Davidson, UNC-Asheville, Appalachian State, and North Carolina A&T over the course of the season. There doesn’t appear to be a clear front-runner in the C-USA this season, so getting hot against Georgetown and/or Georgia Tech will be important so Charlotte can have some momentum heading into conference play.
Pierria Henry (Sr.) G- The 6-5 guard has continued to impress from his freshman season until now. He led Charlotte in scoring, assists, and steals last season, and has proven to be a shutdown defender and facilitator of the offense. If the weapons around him can step up, Charlotte might finally pose a threat on offense.
Willie Clayton (Jr.) F- Clayton came close to averaging a double-double last season, with 11 points and 9 rebounds per game. He also shot an impressive 60% from the field. He needs to improve his free throw shooting and defense to take his game to the next level.
Charlotte will win double digit conference games this season and Alan Major will save his job, but I don’t think they’ll quite be good enough to make the tournament. They’ll be in the conversation near the end of the C-USA season, but it’s hard for a team that has struggled to win in the past to make that jump to a championship level no matter how much talent is there.