Cam's Column: Charlotte Men's Basketball Season Preview 2021

Like a kid on Christmas morning, I have been waiting to bring this one to you all. Tomorrow starts the 2021-22 Charlotte Men’s Basketball season. Storylines surround the team right now like, what is the impact of the transfers going to be like, who will step up and help Jahmir Young carry the scoring load, etc… are rampant and people want answers.

Well, I don’t have all the answers but I will break some of these things down and provide insight into the upcoming season. Let’s break down the transfers, the non-conference and conference slate, as well as a season prediction.

Transfers and their impact

To start off, let’s dive in and discuss how the transfers will each make their own impact on the team’s success this season. Starting off with Holy Cross transfer, Austin Butler. Butler could be the second sharpshooter on the team alongside Jackson Threadgill. He might not look big but he definitely doesn’t play small either. His vocal leadership on the court can be heard from the press section in Halton Arena up in section 116, so he provides the energy and leadership this team needs.

We have not seen Musa Jallow in preseason action yet, but when he does hit the floor he will likely solidify the four-position alongside Jared Garcia or Perry Francois. He might not have dazzled at Ohio State, but what he brings to the floor in Charlotte will be power five experience as well as good size at 6’5, 210 lbs.

Robert Braswell, Syracuse - Brett Carlsen, Getty Images

Photo creditBrett Carlsen, Getty Images

One cannot forget to mention the Orange transfer, Robert Braswell. The 6’7 stretch four, or even three, can glide down the court with his long stride and quick, agile movements. He played well against Georgia in the team’s open exhibition and will be a key piece to the puzzle this season. He seems to be adjusting well to the defensive scheme that Ron Sanchez plays as well. Coming from Syracuse where Jim Boeheim ran a 2-3 zone, Braswell had to make the quick change into the pack line style, and he seems to be doing that well.

The last, but certainly not least, transfer to mention is Clyde Trapp Jr. from Clemson. He is quick, athletic, and passes the eye test on so many levels. He communicates well, plays the rugged style of defense Sanchez demands, so it will be great having him help Jahmir out in the backcourt this season.

Non-Conference Slate

The 49ers definitely scheduled a tough test of opponents in their non-conference schedule this year. Their toughest opponent will likely be Arkansas. The Razorbacks are coming off a great 2020-21 season for their program as they made it to the SEC tournament semi-finals as well as the elite eight in the NCAA tournament, falling to the eventual national champion, Baylor. 

Another marquee matchup the 49ers have this season comes against the Demon Deacons of Wake Forrest. The Demon Deacons had a disappointing 2020-21 campaign finishing 6-16 on the year. Look for this to be a game that the 49ers look to force the Deacons into making errant decisions, as well as keep the tempo slow. This game will be held at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, home of the Charlotte Hornets.

Charlotte will take on in-state foes, Appalachian State and Davidson again this year. The 49ers will be looking for revenge against App. State as they lost a heartbreaker at home last season to the Mountaineers. Coming off a win last year against Davidson, Sanchez knows the formula to defeat the Wildcats and will hope to do that again this year.

Other matchups include; Monmouth, USC Upstate, Toledo, George Washington, Valparaiso, Maryland Eastern Shore and Western Carolina.

Conference Slate

Based on the C-USA preseason projections, the 49ers do not face a team projected to finish higher than them in the conference until Jan. 8 against Old Dominion. ODU won both matchups against the 49ers a season ago, one in a close overtime game, and the other in blowout fashion on ODU’s homecourt. This will be a tough test for the 49ers as ODU returns several key players, one being A.J. Oliver II. He played key minutes in all the games he played last year averaging just under 10 ppg and shooting 88% from the free-throw line. This will be a good early conference schedule challenge for the 49ers.

On Jan. 20, the 49ers head to North Texas to take on the defending C-USA champs. The Mean Green was also able to knock off Purdue in their first-round NCAA tournament game last season before falling short against Villanova in the second round. This will be a good measure as to where the 49ers are at with just under two months remaining in their regular season.

To start off February, the 49ers play the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Marshall Herd, and the LA Tech Bulldogs back-to-back-to-back. Each of these teams is projected to finish higher than the 49ers in the conference. These three games will tell us a lot about the 49ers and how good they are going to be heading into the final stretch of the year.

The 49ers will also take on WKU and Marshall away this season just a few weeks after they play them inside Halton Arena. Come March, the 49ers will be battle-tested and ready for the C-USA tournament.

Season Prediction

I have said this all preseason long; this team can go as far as their mental game will let them. They have talent at every position and they seem to be playing well together. I will predict that if they can play together well all season and not let personal goals get in the way, then they can finish second or third in the conference. C-USA is very talented this year and it will be a tough conference to win.

Looking to opening day

Charlotte takes on Monmouth on Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. from Halton Arena, and the Niners are currently favorites in the eyes of Vegas (-4.5). The game will be broadcast on CUSA.TV (subscription required), along with this option, I plan on live-tweeting the game as well. Follow @cwilliamssports on Twitter if you chose to follow along that way.

There is a lot to be excited about this season. Let’s see what the chemistry looks like, and from there everyone can get a better grasp of how far this team can go this season.

Basketball is back!!! Come join us all season long on Discord 🤙🏻