It took him two years, but Alan Major has the Charlotte 49ers back in the postseason. The 12th-ranked 49ers face fifth-seeded St. Joe's on Wednesday at Hagan Arena in Philadelphia, a place they've already won at this year. But both squads are playing at a different level than in Charlotte's 57-52 early January win.
To get a closer look at Phil Martelli's Hawks, Niner Report spoke with Aaron Bracy, Philly hoops expert and Editor of Philahoops.com. We asked Bracy about the offensive woes of St. Joe's in the first game, how they'll attack on Wednesday and what the backcourt of Langston Galloway and Carl Jones brings to the table.
Josh Carpenter: You were courtside for the January matchup between these teams. What was Charlotte able to do to limit St. Joe's offensively?
Aaron Bracy: Charlotte was able to keep St. Joe's out of the paint. The Hawks settled for one 3-point shot after another even though they weren't hitting, finishing a woeful 2-for-21 (9.5 percent) from the arc. Carl Jones is 5-foot-11 and couldn't get past the 49ers bigger guards and while Langston Galloway is 6-2, he's more of a stand-still jump shooter (and an excellent one) than a penetrator. St. Joe's got to the line just seven times, compared to 22 by Charlotte. The 49ers also had 13 steals. Basically, almost from the jump, the bigger, wider 49ers bothered the Hawks and took them out of their offense - other than deep 3-pointers that weren't falling.
JC: Do you think they'll change things up offensively from what they tried in January? If so, how will they attack?
AB: Well, they're going to have to. I'd expect St. Joe's to do whatever necessary to get into the paint and get to the free-throw line early - even if it means getting a charge or two called. The problem, something I'll address more below, is it seems to me that you need a decent back-to-the-basket big guy against a team like Charlotte and the Hawks don't really have that player. The closest they have to it is A-10 Sixth Man of the Year Ronald Roberts, who is explosive inside but uses more athleticism than craftiness in the post. The Hawks are going to need to create some offense off their defense and get some easy fastbreak baskets to help them get into a better flow offensively. I'd still expect a lot of 3-pointers, probably at least 15, and the home fans just have to hope for a better shooting day. Can't be worse, right?
JC: What's the feeling from the Hawks coaching staff about this matchup they got? Worried?
AB: Martelli spoke openly on Monday's A-10 call about how much Chris Braswell concerns him - and rightly so. Martelli didn't hide the fact that he really wanted to get a bye with a win last Wednesday over the Bonnies. Now, of course he wants a win so I don't want to come across as stating the obvious (which I am). I don't think the Hawks or their coaches are afraid, but I'd bet they didn't want to have to see Charlotte again. The 49ers are just the wrong kind of team for St. Joe's, which has struggled against bigger players. Temple gave the Hawks similar problems the first time and St. Joe's was helped by a raucous crowd, as well as an attacking style, in its win over the Owls in the rematch at Hagan. The Hawks won't get that kind of a boost from the crowd on Tuesday, as the students are off on spring break.
JC: What's a glaring weakness the Hawks have and how have teams been able to exploit it throughout the year?
AB: Much like the first game against Charlotte, the Hawks can struggle on offense when stuck in a strictly half-court game. They aren't a fastbreak team by any means, but rely on the energy of a few big plays - often generated from C.J. Aiken blocks - to carry them to some needed points. Halil Kanacevic is a crafty player who leads the Hawks in both assists and rebounds - a rare one-two. Daryus Quarles is a good perimeter defender and good role player. Aiken is a tremendous shot blocker but is somewhat limited on offense. Roberts is the Hawks' most explosive player and he comes off the bench. I'd say their biggest weakness is a lack of an interior presence on the offensive end, someone that can put his back to the basket and use some low-post moves to get a bucket or a foul. Roberts is the closest thing they have to that. Aiken and Kanacevic often play on the perimeter. St. Joe's isn't a particularly good rebounding team, but can make up for its lack of girth with smarts and good positioning. Against a bigger, stronger team like Charlotte, though, that's tougher.
JC: What does the backcourt of Jones and Galloway bring to the table?
AB: Galloway is a terrific shooter, but rarely takes his man off the dribble. Jones is a fantastic penetrator and decent shooter, but is undersized and has trouble against bigger guards at times. Jones had an ankle injury midseason that limited some of his explosiveness, but looked as good as I'd seen him since early in the season in overtime against the Bonnies last Wednesday. Galloway has really been on his game and shoots lights out from the arc.