ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands - Some wrap-up thoughts from Paradise Jam as we wait for our late afternoon flight back to Charlotte:
- Winthrop appears to be in good hands with first-year Randy Peele. The Eagles lost their coach, some talented seniors and one player died in a traffic accident in the offseason -- any of which could have thrown this program for a loop -- but they impressed many here with their tenacity and composure. Winthrop looked spent in the championship game against Baylor, but heading back to Rock Hill 3-1 with a win over an ACC team is a strong start to the season.
- It's way too early to make a call on the Charlotte 49ers. They are not as good yet as some thought after starting 2-0, but neither are they as bad as many think after losing the fourth-place game to Monmouth. There is no question the quality of the players and the defense is much improved over last season. The offense still has a long way to go.
- It was never going to be easy to judge Charlotte while one of its starters - Pepperdine transfer Michael Gerrity - sits out the first eight games. With eight new players and a whole compliment not available until second semester, patience will be key. If in January this team still looks the way it did against Monmouth, then it will be time to hit the panic button. I'll say one thing for this team, though, win or lose there is never a dull moment.
- One trademark common to both Winthrop and Charlotte so far this season -- generally classy actions on court by their respective players. During game introductions this year, Charlotte players go and greet the referees. Winthrop does too, but I don't know if they've done that before. Also in six tournament games between them, I don't recall a single instance of a player from either team complaining unnecessarily about bad officiating. In one standout moment Sunday, after Charlotte's Charlie Coley got hit with a technical for hanging on the rim, he let the ball roll out of bounds and off the court. It wasn't required, but Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz asked Coley to retrieve it and give it back to the referees, which he did. There will always be bad calls in games. A young team's ability to play through them is a key ingredient to staying on track.
That's all for now. Winthrop has little time to relax, returning to action on Sunday at home to face Missouri State. Charlotte gets nine days to prepare for Wake Forest on Nov. 29 at Charlotte Bobcats Arena, its second of four games against ACC teams this season.