The Charlotte 49ers and coach Alan Major were saying all the right things after their 21-point loss against Dayton on Wednesday night the 49ers fifth loss in their past six games: That they would keep fighting, play hard and that the season isnt over.
But heading into Saturdays game at St. Bonaventure, the teams confidence and level of play is at such a low point right now (how else do you describe an average losing margin of 19.7 points over the past three games?), its hard to imagine how they can get this thing turned around.
Just two weeks ago, the 49ers had beaten Butler and were a popular pick to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team, or at the very least, considered on the bubble.
Now, at 18-9 and 6-7 in the Atlantic 10 (and one game out of 13th place), theyre in a free fall and could miss the conference tournament if theyre not careful.
What once looked like a favorable schedule over the final four games of the regular season is now anything but.
After losing to Dayton (which hadnt won on the road in the league until coming to Halton Arena), Charlotte plays two teams its tied with in the standings (at St. Bonaventure on Saturday and home against St. Josephs on March 9). In between those games is a road trip to last-place Duquesne.
Charlotte took a huge hit with the losses of DeMario Mayfield and J.T. Thompson. The 49ers are young with underachieving Chris Braswell the only senior in the rotation and the rest freshmen and sophomores. Theyll need to grow up quickly now.
Around the Atlantic 10
• There was so much attention focused on the leagues additions of Butler and Virginia Commonwealth and rightfully so. But Saint Louis has emerged as the conferences top team and appears to have the tools to make a run in the NCAA tournament. The Billikens have run their winning streak to 10 and play George Washington on Saturday.
• Daytons hot shooting against Charlotte (the Flyers made 61.7 of their shots, including 66.7 percent in the second half) shouldnt have come as a surprise. The Flyers remain the leagues top-shooting team (46.6 percent).
• When Butler beat Duquesne recently, it was Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens 161st career win. That ties him with former N.C. State coach Everett Case for second on the NCAAs best-career starts list over six years.
Charlotte at St. Bonaventure, 7 p.m. Saturday
Each remaining game in the Atlantic 10 schedule is huge for the 49ers, and not for reasons they imagined a few weeks ago. Charlotte is now fighting for a spot in the leagues 12-team tournament and is in a four-way tie for ninth in the league, but only one game out of 13th place.
The 49ers got a good game from guard Terrence Williams (15 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals) in a 21-point loss against Dayton on Wednesday.
St. Bonaventure guard Eric Mosley leads the league in 3-point percentage (44.2). The Bonnies only two losses in their past five games were in overtime against La Salle and Richmond.
- David Scott