The Charlotte 49ers will finish their regular season with four games against the other three teams in the bottom portion of the Conference USA standings, as part of the league’s “bonus play” scheduling concept.
The 49ers (6-19, 3-11 C-USA), in last place in the 14-team league, will play at Middle Tennessee (8-19, 5-9) on Saturday (6 p.m.); at home against Texas-El Paso (8-17, 3-11) on March 3 (4 p.m., Senior Day), then at home against Rice (5-9, 10-17) on March 6 (7 p.m.) and at Rice on March 9 (8 p.m.).
The 49ers, two games behind Middle Tennessee and Rice in the standings, will have to climb into 12th place to qualify for C-USA’s 14-team conference tournament scheduled for March 13-16 in Frisco, Tex.
C-USA’s “pool play” schedule separates the league into three pods in an attempt to bolster the NCAA tournament at-large bid chances of the team’s in the first pod. The first group, made up of the top five teams in the standings (Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, Texas-San Antonio, North Texas and Southern Mississippi), will play only each other over that time. Playing a tougher schedule will, theoretically, boost those teams’ chances in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee — both for receiving potential bids or receiving higher seeds.
It also means the teams in the bottom four will also play only against each other. So, rather than having to potentially make up ground by playing opposition from the upper echelons of the conference, Charlotte will do so against teams it still has a chance to leapfrog into the 12th and final conference tournament spot.
The 49ers, however, are winless against Middle Tennessee, UTEP and Rice.
David Scott: @davidscott14