The Patriots are in Charleston preparing for tomorrow night’s game against UNC Charlotte in the opening round of ESPN
‘s Charleston Classic
tournament. If the check the bracket
, the Patriots will play either East Carolina or NC State on Friday night and still have the possibility of facing Georgetown on Sunday if they are victorious in their first two games or barring an upset. The field for this tournament is pretty good, you got the ACC and Big East represented and also a very solid NCAA tournament team from last season in Wofford. This will be a true early test for the Patriots on Thursday night and they will have to play much better than they did against Harvard. Charlotte has not been playing at full strength in their first two games this season as forwards Shamari Spears, An’Juan Wildnerness, and Phil Jones have taken turns in suspensions already
which left them with only six scholarship players on the court. This will be their first game where they are all playing together and that could mean they will be either out of sync or determined to make a strong comeback. They have also had some players sidelined with injuries so their depth has taken a hit, something the Patriots can take advantage of with their scrambling defense attacking and pushing a the tempo of the game. But what exactly are the Patriots up against here?
Coaches Corner with Assistant Coach Mike Huger:
Both team are basically opposites when it comes to depth, Charlotte has it in the frontcourt and Patriots in the back court. The athletic Shamari Spears (6-6, 245), Chris Braswell (6-8, 235) and solid rebounder Phil Jones (6-10, 255) could give forwards Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson some trouble as the team has gotten to the free-throw line a lot already in their first two games. Both Morrison and Pearson looked sloppy on defense last Saturday against Harvard, who basically had only one “big man” doing anything the entire game. Both the 49ers and Patriots have been out-rebounded this season so the edge in this category should mean a lot in the outcome. The Patriots need to have Pearson and Morrison grabbing 10 rebounds, not Cam Long again.
For the two teams backcourt I’d give the edge to the Patriots if they can force turnovers again like they did last week. Andre Cornelius was on another level at times and he could the 49er guards a lot of problems. Meanwhile Cam Long and Luke Hancock will hopefully continue to keep things paced and set up opportunities for others. They will have to key in on shooter Jamar Briscoe who is a scoring threat and very accurate from behind the three-point line. Both he and point guard Derrio Green will take a lot of shots and Mason’s guards can’t let them get too many open looks. This is where I think the scrambling defense we saw a bit of last Saturday could really pay off against a team like Charlotte. Getting turnovers and keeping the ball out of the 49ers forward’s hands will be key.
Sharing the ball: Against Harvard Mason dished out 18 assists and sported another balanced attack on offense. Last season the team only averaged around 12 assists a game so the improvement in this area speaks to the growth of this team. Cam Long and Luke Hancock need to keep this going.
Arledge and Williams: Freshman Jonathan Arledge and sophomore Johnny Williams might be called upon again in this game if starters Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson get into early foul trouble again. I’m not saying they could be x-factors off the bench but they could play an important role on defense on these tough 49er forwards.
Turnovers: The Patriots forced a lot of turnovers last week but they also had their fair share of them. Ryan Pearson and Cam Long had 8 of them together and you can’t have that happen from your leaders. They aren’t going to force 24 in this game but let’s hope we see the same type of energy on defense for the whole season.
A Charlotte Blogger’s Perspective: TheMasonBench had an exchange with a Charlotte 49er hoops blogger who seems wildly optimistic about his teams chances tomorrow night.