IRVING, Texas The Charlotte 49ers’ women’s basketball team comes into Conference USA with some pretty high expectations, at least according to the league’s coaches.
The 49ers men? That won’t be known until league play begins in January.
The C-USA men’s coaches voted not to have a preseason poll, perhaps because of a prevailing sense of unfamiliarity that comes from a league with eight new members.
The women, however, went ahead and voted on a poll. Charlotte finished fourth, behind Middle Tennessee, Texas-El Paso and Tulane.
“That’s probably about what I would have expected,” said 49ers coach Cara Consuegra at C-USA’s basketball media day Tuesday. “The teams ahead of us have had a lot of tradition and success, and we do as well.”
The 49ers have played in the postseason 11 consecutive years, although nine of those have been in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. That’s become a source of frustration for Consuegra, who is in her third season at Charlotte.
“You want to play in the postseason, no doubt, and to have the opportunity to play in (the WNIT) is always a good thing,” said Consuegra, who has two starters back from last season’s 26-6 team. “But we’ve got our sites set on playing in the NCAA tournament.”
• Tulane men’s coach Ed Conroy said Charlotte is getting an excellent shooter and leader in guard Ben Cherry, a former Myers Park High player who transferred from the Green Wave to play his final season of eligibility as a grad student for the 49ers.
“He knows the game very well and he can find a way to blend in and be successful in any system,” said Conroy, who coached Cherry for three seasons at Tulane and one at The Citadel.
Conroy said he didn’t have any problem in allowing Cherry to transfer to another Conference USA school, saying he understood that he wanted to play in his hometown.
“But I hope he doesn’t come into our place (Feb. 7) and play well,” said Conroy.
• Conference USA has several recognizable men’s coaches:
East Carolina’s Jeff Lebo is a former North Carolina basketball player; Florida Atlantic’s Mike Jarvis coached at St. John’s for six seasons; Marshall’s Tom Herrion was at College of Charleston from 2002-06; Middle Tennessee assistant Monte Towe is a former N.C. State star; Old Dominion’s Jeff Jones played and coached at Virginia; Tulane’s Ed Conroy is a former coach at The Citadel; Tulsa’s Danny Manning is from Greensboro and later starred at Kansas; Alabama-Birmingham’s Jerod Haase is a former North Carolina assistant (Blazers assistant Shammond Williams is a former Tar Heels player); Texas-El Paso’s Tim Floyd coached the New Orleans Hornets soon after the franchise left Charlotte.
• The league’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will include all 16 teams will be eligible for the tournament, which is scheduled for March 11-15 in El Paso, Texas. The top four seeds will all earn double byes and automatically qualify for the quarterfinals.
• League-champ Memphis was Conference USA’s lone representative in the NCAA men’s tournament last season. Southern Mississippi played in the National Invitation Tournament, while East Carolina won the Coaches Invitation Tournament. Middle Tennessee made the NCAA tournament as an at-large team out of the Sun Belt, where the Blue Raiders were the regular-season winners.
• Last season was about as good as it’s ever been for East Carolina’s men’s program. The Pirates won 20 games for just the second time in school history and captured the CollegeInsider.com tournament, beating Weber State in the championship game. This is East Carolina’s final season in Conference USA before departing for the new American Athletic Conference.
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