The Charlotte men's basketball team squares off against the Rice Owls in the second round of the Conference USA (C-USA) Tournament in Frisco, Texas, on Wednesday, March 9 at 6:30 p.m. The 49ers will begin their journey to a potential bid in the NCAA tournament.
With a respectable 17-13 overall record and a 10-8 conference record, Charlotte holds the No. 4 seed in the East division, while Rice, who finished with a 7-11 conference record, is the No. 5 seed in the West. The winner of this game will move on to face the No. 1 overall seed North Texas, who patiently waits in the quarterfinals.
Back on Jan. 22, the 49ers defeated the Owls 67-64 in a game that went down to the wire. Rice came out of the gates firing and led the 49ers by six at halftime. Charlotte was dominant in the second half as Austin Butler and Jackson Threadgill led Charlotte back with a late surge.
Charlotte guard, Jahmir Young, had one of his most challenging games of the entire season, only scoring ten points on 3-8 shooting; he will look to pick it up in this game.
Contrary to last season's nine straight losses to end the season, the 49ers come into the tournament this year winning four out of their previous five, including a win over the No. 1 seed in the East, Middle Tennessee.
Charlotte is led by All-Conference star Jahmir Young, who averages an exceptional 19.8 points per game. Young will be motivated to win this game, as the 49ers have not won a game in the conference tournament since Young has arrived on campus. Expect the junior to put everything on the floor, and have a solid performance against Rice.
The 49ers struggled with Rice's pressure in the first game, as the Owls forced 18 turnovers. If they want to keep their post-season hopes alive, Charlotte will have to do a better job taking care of the ball.
The Owls' game plan was to take the ball out of Young's hands and make other 49ers beat them. It's doubtful that strategy changes for Rice in the second matchup, so Charlotte must create opportunities for their star player, and other players must be ready to contribute.
The Owls had a tough end to their season as they lost six out of their last seven and narrowly pulled off an OT win against the 7-25 Southern Miss Golden Eagles for their only victory down the stretch. The Owls are led by their guards, Travis Evee and Carl Pierre, who average a combined 29.5 points per game. The backcourt duo scores most of their points from behind the arc, so Charlotte has to limit open shots for either player.
Defending the three-point shot has been an area of weakness for the 49ers this season, as they place 314 out of 358 in three-point percentage allowed. Charlotte will need to defend the perimeter better if they hope to make a run, starting on Wednesday.
Prediction: Charlotte wins 63-56:
The game will be highly contested early, with both teams fighting for the edge. Charlotte will gain the advantage in the second half as the play of Young, Butler and Khalifa will be too much to handle. The 49ers will take it 63-56 and move onto the next round in the C-USA tournament.
Looking to game day:
The 49ers hope to win their first C-USA tournament game since the 2015-2016 season. Charlotte will start their post-season journey against Rice on Wednesday, March 9, at 6:30 p.m. in the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. The game will be available to stream on ESPN+.