Friday, February 29, 2008

Duquesne blogger answers questions about Dukes

This week I got a request from the author of The Dukes Court, the blogging home of Duquesne Dukes basketball, to trade info on our respective teams heading into Charlotte's 2 p.m. game Sunday with the Dukes at Halton Arena.

Listed below are his answers to my questions about Duquesne. You can see my answers to his questions at

1. Duquesne, like Charlotte, has experienced the craziness of the A-10 this year, registering good wins, but also experiencing losses to teams lower in the league standings. How have the Dukes dealt with that

The Richmond loss at home was one of the toughest this season, and the Dukes played horribly in their next game at Xavier. Losing to Umass at home had a similar effect on the Dukes, who followed up that tough loss by playing horribly and losing to St. Bonaventure. Now that the Dukes have lost two tough games in a row I would expect they are ripe for a defeat Sunday at Charlotte, especially since they have struggled on the road this year.

2. Duquense has lost three in a row and appears to have one of the tougher schedules among A-10 teams down the stretch. How are the Dukes positioned to close the season?

The Dukes seem exhausted as a team, the up-tempo high energy system the Dukes play has them worn out. A similar thing happened last year, the Dukes played well in the first half of the year but then fell apart
during the stretch run of the season. It wouldn't shock me if the Dukes lost their last three games in the regular season, especially since the next two are on the road against tough A10 teams, (Charlotte and
3. The Dukes love man defense, but Charlotte has been at its best against it this season. How has Duquesne faired against other similar teams?

The Dukes defense is the key the team's success. When the Dukes are creating turnovers with their press they win ballgames, (St. Joe's), when a team finds a way to consistently beat their press, (UMass and Richmond) the Dukes struggle to create much of their offense in the half court game. If Charlotte can find a way to deal with Duquesne's press they should continue to have success against the Dukes' man defense.
4. Like Charlotte, Duquesne has played a lot of close games, in wins and losses. What is it the Dukes are missing to put them over the hump?

Experience. Two years ago Duquesne won 3 games, last year they won 10, Duquesne simply doesn't have experience playing in close games, (a decade of losing will do that to a program.) On top of that several of the key members of this year's Duquesne team did not suit up for the Dukes last year, including transfers Shawn James, Kojo Mensah, and freshmen Damian Saunders, and Bill Clark. This year's squad has gelled quite a bit throughout the year, but the Dukes are still learning to play together.
5. Prediction?

Charlotte 68, Duquesne 60
The Dukes have struggled on the road this year, and they have been in a funk ever since they upset Dayton back on February 13.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A-10 to keep Atlantic City as tournament host for another year

The Atlantic 10 announced Wednesday it had agreed to a one-year contract extension that will allow the conference tournament to remain in Atlantic City, N.J., through the 2009 season.

For all intents and purposes if the A-10 is going to try to keep some form of neutral site for its men’s basketball tournament, Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall is probably the best available option.

It’s a very nice basketball arena and did well as the tournament host last season. Some teams have complained about their lodging – some were housed in hotels 20 miles from the strip, and on the other side of the coin having college students housed in the midst of gambling casinos could be asking for trouble.

All in all, however, Atlantic City has served well. It would be hard to come up with another neutral site that was in general proximity to most conference teams. Holding the tournament in Cincinnati, even if technically not on Xavier’s home court, was still an advantage for the Musketeers.

With teams as far north as Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as far south as Richmond and Charlotte and as far west as Saint Louis, a compromising neutral court isn’t easy to find.

The only other areas I think could work would be metropolitan New York or perhaps the Baltimore/College Park, Md. area. Otherwise, if neutral sites are abandoned, I would at least try to host the tournament at arenas not used by the member schools as home courts.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

On crazy day in A-10, win gives 49ers hope

Talk about crazy.

George Washington beats Richmond. Fordham beats Temple. And Charlotte beats Saint Louis.

What does that all mean? Well, it means when the 49ers travel to face Temple next Wednesday night in Philadelphia, the winner of that game could be in second place in the Atlantic 10 with six losses.


Just a day ago, when Charlotte was in the midst of a three-game losing streak and had dropped five of its past six, the 49ers' season seemed to be falling apart.

In the span of one victory and a couple upsets, Charlotte is back in position to claim one of the four first-round byes in next month's conference tournament in Atlantic City, N.J.

"We can finish anywhere from second to not making the (conference) tournament. And that's still a mathematical possibility," Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said after the game. "You don't want to think negatively, but that is true of us and a lot of teams in our league.

"It's just so wide open. Tonight's win helped us secure our position a little bit better."

And by no means have Charlotte's players packed it in this season.

"There is still a lot to play for," said freshman An'Juan Wilderness. "We need to play hard in these last few games and in the conference tournament. It's been so up-and-down this season, I definitely think we can get back up there with everybody else."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Q&A with Hendrick's Travis Gordon

While spending the better part of the past week and a half in Daytona Beach, Fla., I had the chance to catch up with Travis Gordon, who graduated in May and had spent four seasons as a walk-on with the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team.

Gordon, 23, is working on his MBA but also works full time for Hendrick Motorsports. He originally was going to spend most of his time on Hendrick’s No. 5 Sprint Cup Series team, driven this year by Casey Mears, but after recovering from a motorcycle accident in December, he ended up joining the pit crew of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Chevrolet team.

Gordon splits his time, working on data acquisition with Hendrick’s No. 5 and serving as backup jackman and tire catcher for the No. 88 on race days. During Speedweeks, Gordon was part of the team that earned victories in the Budweiser Shootout, a Gatorade Duel and a ninth-place finish in the Daytona 500.

Q: How was the Shootout win?
Gordon: It was crazy. It was the first time Dale Jr. drove in a race for us. First time with Hendrick turns into his first win. I’ve done a lot in basketball, but that feeling that night, that pretty much topped it all. It was a monumental thing. There was a lot of pressure on Junior to win and a lot of questions about how the move would turn out.

Q: What’s the experience of being around Dale Jr. and his team?
Gordon: There certainly are more fans cheering for you, for one. A lot of people know who you are. When Dale Jr. takes the lead in a race, it’s fun to see the fans in stands go crazy. Dale Jr. himself is just a down-to-earth country boy like the rest of us.

Q: How do you think things have shaped up in your career?
Gordon: I’m been very fortunate in my life with the opportunities that I’ve had. I’ve worked hard to set myself up with good opportunities, but I’ve also had some given to me. Some of the things I’ve been able to do are once-in-a-lifetime things.

Friday, February 15, 2008

49ers' goal should be securing first-round bye

After a strong start in Atlantic 10 play, the Charlotte 49ers have lost three of their last four league games and trail leader Xavier by 3 1/2 games. Tied for sixth place with Richmond, it's time for the 49ers to focus on something every bit as important as winning the regular-season championship (which is what Charlotte was thinking about two weeks ago before consecutive losses to Richmond and Dayton, then another Wednesday to Xavier): That's finishing in the top four and earning a first-round bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament March 12-15 in Atlantic City, N.J.

Coach Bobby Lutz understands the importance, saying recently that winning four games in four days - with the lure of an NCAA tournament berth dangling - is an unenviably tough task.

The 49ers are 5-4 in the league entering Sunday's game at Fordham and one of 11 teams behind Xavier that have between three and six losses. George Washington and St. Bonaventure are the only two teams that have no shot at a top-four finish.

It's close enough in the middle part of the league that any loss now might consign a team to that four-games-in-four-days scenario. And that's with Xavier most likely awaiting on that final day.

-David Scott

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lutz explains 'idiots' comment

Charlotte 49ers men's basketball coach Bobby Lutz asked me to share this open letter to Charlotte fans regarding his comments made in Sunday's Observer following the 49ers' win over St. Bonaventure:
To our loyal 49er fans:

It is my understanding that some of the 49er faithful are concerned about my comments in an article in Sunday's paper written by David Scott. I am truly sorry if I offended any of the thousands of wonderful fans that we have at UNC Charlotte. I would like to explain that the comment was directed toward a very few fans who had been incredibly rude and harsh on Lee during the past week. I have no problem with fans questioning me as that is part of my business but I am very protective of our players. My point was that fans who attack players like Lee really don't understand what is going on and those attacks had occurred during the past week and during our home game by a season ticket holder who booed him throughout the game.

I respect the right of fans to question my decisions because that is the nature of my profession and certainly respect those who confront me directly rather than blindly on a message board or by anonymous emails from bogus return addresses. I love the passion of the 49er faithful and regret hurting any true supporter. Those of you who have contacted me in the past know that I respond to every communication I receive regarding our team and my coaching decisions.

After defeating St. Bonaventure I was asked about the previous two losses and was passionately defending Lee during the press conference that followed the game. He is everything that is right about college basketball and I know that the overwhelming majority of you understand how special he is. While this has been a difficult year in some ways the amazing support of Niner Nation has been constant and I will always be thankful. While most of us make mistakes from time to time, a public blunder is sometimes difficult to get past.

All I can ask is that our true fans try to understand that my objective was only to protect Lee (and to single out the few who had been critical of him despite all he has done for our team and program) and to ask our fans to take out any frustrations on me rather than our players. This group in particular (led by Lee) gives me and you everything they have every day whether it is practice, game, academics, or community service and I felt compelled to defend them (and him).

Again, I wish I could turn back the clock and respond more precisely but now simply ask for forgiveness from anyone who felt I was talking about Niner Nation as a whole. That was clearly not my intent. You should know that I will always fight for my players even in a down year as we experienced in 06-07. However, I will work hard to do so in a more positive and clear manner.

Go Niners! See you at Halton Arena on Wednesday for the Xavier game.
Bobby Lutz

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lutz appreciates his predecessors

Amidst the clamor of Charlotte’s victory Saturday against St. Bonaventure and Bobby Lutz’s emotional defense of Leemire Goldwire, something nice happened to the 49ers coach: The 87-83 triumph against the Bonnies was the 182nd of his 10-year career, tying him with Jeff Mullins atop the school’s all-time coaching victories list.

Lutz downplayed the accomplishment and at first appeared hesitant to talk about it. But, as anyone who knows Lutz understands, he can get a bit wound up and he quickly DID talk about it.

But he was eloquent in speaking about what the record that will soon be his alone means to him, and paid tribute to two of 49ers coaches who came before him:

"I know at the end of the year – at the end of my career – it will mean an enormous amount," Lutz said. "Of course it’s important now. I don’t want to devalue it. To tie coach Jeff Mullins is an unbelievable feeling.

"But I haven’t thought about it one time. I have the utmost respect for him. He resurrected our program. We wouldn’t have gone into Conference USA or the Atlantic 10 without him.

"Now, Lee Rose set the standard, getting to the Final Four (in 1977). And nobody else has reached that. But to tie the guy who put us on the map, got us the facility (Halton Arena) we have, is nice.
"It makes me appreciate all the assistants and players and our families."

– David Scott

Friday, February 8, 2008

49ers wearing pink to raise aware for breast cancer research

Some updates on 49ers athletics:

-- The Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team (14-10, 5-3 Atlantic 10) hosts conference rival St. Bonaventure at 7 p.m. Saturday at Halton Arena in what is being called, "Think Pink” Night.
Sponsored by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), “Think Pink” is a nation-wide campaign created to generate awareness for breast cancer research through fan support during women’s basketball games.
The 49ers coaching staff and players will be wearing pink in some form during the game. Also, the first 250 fans at the game will receive a free “Think Pink” wristband. Charlotte is 77-14 at Halton over the past seven seasons.

-- Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball senior guard Sabrina Gregory has been named for the second straight season to the first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District III women’s basketball team, selected by CoSIDA.
As a result of being named first-team academic all-district, Gregory will represent the district on a national ballot for Academic All-America honors. Gregory, who has a 3.74 GPA in mathematics for business.

-- Charlotte 49ers women’s soccer coach Jon Lipsitz has received 12 new commitments to a 2008 team that returns eight starters from the 2007 team which won the Atlantic 10 regular season and conference tournament titles. The team also earned the school's third trip to the NCAA tournament.

Joining the 49ers are: Oni Bernard of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Heather Carter of Badin, North Carolina, Kellie Dean of Raleigh, North Carolina, Jonna Handra of Port Vue, Pennsylvania, Liz Hawes of Valdez, North Carolina, Brooke Kocian of Brenham, Texas, Natalie LaVigne of Rochester, New York, Maro Mansourian of Boca Raton, Florida, Jenna McKeon of Bayside, New York, Kathryn Page of Raleigh, North Carolina, Kait Roberts of Charlotte, North Carolina and Macky Wingo of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Niners loss not end of the world

It's time for some perspective.

Yes, Charlotte blew a late-game lead against a quality opponent in Dayton - a game the 49ers could have and perhaps should have won.

Getting a road win in the Atlantic 10 over a good team -- the Flyers were 13th in the latest RPI rankings -- has been a tough road to hoe for anyone this season. For instance, Duquesne loses at St. Bonaventure on Saturday then demolishes first-place Saint Joseph's at home on Wednesday night.

For the second straight game, Charlotte's leading scorer, Leemire Goldwire, had a bad shooting night. He followed up his season-low five-point performance against Richmond with eight points against Dayton.

When your top scorer -- and one of the top-five in the conference -- has an off night, it's going to require a lot of extra work from others on the team, particularly on the road.

But some of the comments that have been showing up from Charlotte fans after the win have just been astonishing.
One thread on was entitled "HORRIFIC LOSS." Another is sarcastically titled, "Thanks Leemire." And in others, fans are actually debating why coach Bobby Lutz doesn't bench Goldwire for his poor play.

Are you kidding me? Bench the guy who gives you 19 points a game? The guy who has provided the winning margin in far more games this season than when his actions may have contributed to a loss?

This is not the end of the world. What this is, is a team still trying to find itself. It has great days (wins over Clemson, Davidson, Temple and Saint Joseph's). It has bad days (losses to Monmouth, Hofstra and blowing a late-game lead at Dayton).

It is a team growing up. A team that was a preseason pick to finish 10th in its league, that is now being trashed by its fans because it hasn't exceeded expectations ENOUGH.

To act like Wednesday night's performance was somehow reflective of some disastrous turnaround with the team is just shortsighted. This team is inconsistent. It is young. It picked up a great point guard eight games into the season, when the team was running well with another one the first eight games.

You can't call for a coach's head after one loss, then demand a contract extension after a win on a regular basis. It's like the little boy crying wolf.
You won't be taken seriously. Nor should you.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Condolences to a devout 49ers fan

Late Friday evening, I read the story on of the 20-year-old UNC Charlotte student, Simrit Gill, who was killed earlier in the day, found in the home she shared with her husband at the Mission Mallard Creek Apartments.

Only later I found out Simrit is the sister of Mandeep Gill, a recent Charlotte graduate and frequent poster on, a Web site for fans of Charlotte 49er athletics.

Mandeep was one of the first to start up conversations with me when I began covering the 49ers beat fulltime in 2005 and he typically comes by to say hello at home games when in attendance. He once told me he didn't accept a friend request from me on Facebook because he didn't want the media to know everything about him. Can't say that I blame him.

Mandeep was home late Friday to be with his family in Mooresville but took a moment to stop by to thank friends for their prayers and support.

Saturday is homecoming at Halton Arena, and although I'm not positive, I believe Mandeep was planning to attend, complete with his usual green and white painted face and "Cat in the Hat"-style hat. I don't know if Mandeep will be in attendance, but if not, I'm sure it would be a welcome gesture if the student section where he usually can be found would step up their fervor another notch on Saturday to make up for his absent voice.

And say a prayer for him and his family. It's the least we can do.