Regular-season tournaments have been good to the Charlotte 49ers in recent years.
The 49ers (1-0), who open play in the Charleston Classic at 5 p.m. Thursday against Penn State (2-0), have won the past two November tournaments in which they have played – last season’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off and the Great Alaska Shootout in 2012.
“I think we thrive on being the underdog going into these tournaments,” 49ers coach Alan Major said. “We weren’t supposed to win (in Puerto Rico or Alaska). But I think our guys enjoy playing in those settings.”
The Charleston field isn’t as tough as last season’s Puerto Rico tournament, in which the 49ers beat Kansas State, Northeastern and Michigan. In all the 49ers have won 18 regular-season tournaments, the first coming in the Queen City event in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1973.
In Charleston, Charlotte and Penn State are in the same bracket as South Carolina and Cornell, who play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Other first-round games in College of Charleston’s TD Arena have Southern California facing Akron at 12:30 p.m. and Miami playing Drexel at 3 p.m. The tournament continues with four games Friday and concludes with four more Sunday (the championship is at 9 p.m. on ESPN2).
“We know when we play on TV or against these big-time schools that we’re the underdogs, so we have a chip on our shoulders,” 49ers point guard Pierria Henry said. “We go into it wanting to make it a dogfight.
“Even though we’re promised three games, we go in there thinking we don’t want to lose. It helps our momentum going into the rest of the season. It helps build our legs and with the type of tempo we want to play.”