Western Kentucky vs. Charlotte: 2020-21 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

Two of the top Conference USA contenders face off in Charlotte and Western Kentucky. Which team has the edge in this matchup?

TV schedule: Friday, January 1, 2021, 3:00 pm EST.  Stadium

Arena: DALE F. HALTON ARENA in Charlotte, North Carolina

What better way to start off the new year than to have Conference USA begin conference play. After a few days off for both teams, Western Kentucky travels down south to face Charlotte in both teams’ opener in conference play. Both teams are looking to take the first steps in not only claiming the CUSA regular-season title but also winning the CUSA tournament and punching their ticket to the big dance in March.

The Hilltoppers have a record of 7-2 coming into this game. WKU has had some great non-conference games so far this year and some impressive wins. They began the year playing in the Bad Boys Mowers Crossover Classic where they defeated Northern Iowa (93-87) and Memphis (75-69) before falling to #15 WV (70-64) in the Championship game. They also have had a tough loss to Louisville (75-54), but bounced back with wins over Rhode Island (68-65) and Alabama (73-71).

The Hilltoppers are led by All CUSA conference team selection and preseason All-American pick Charles Bassey and preseason All CUSA conference team selection Taveion Hollingsworth. The 6-11 Junior Bassey is not disappointing as he is averaging 17.8 ppg and 11.4 rpg and has already been named CUSA player of the week three times so far this season. The 6-2 Senior Hollingsworth is having a great senior year as he is averaging 14.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 21 assists, and 13 steals.

The 49ers have a record of 4-3 coming into the game and have had a rocky start to the 2020 season, as three out of the first four scheduled contests were canceled due to the pandemic, with one of those games canceled was against Tennessee.

But, once December started the 49ers began playing some games that they were needing to play with a December record of 4-2 including defeating Davidson (63-52) and GW (66-65) both wins on the road. So there are a couple of quality wins before conference play.

Charlotte is led by a couple of 2020 preseason All-CUSA conference picks in guards Jahmir Young and Jordan Shepard.  The 6-1 sophomore Young is averaging 18.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 2.9 assists and was also named player of the week for the Week of Dec 21. The 6-4 senior Shepard is averaging 12.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 2.0 assists.

Both have been key players in their three-game winning streak and the 49ers are looking to both Young and Shepard to come up big in this game and to send a message to the rest of the conference that they are for real and a team to be reckoned with in the CUSA.

Due to the pandemic, CUSA has changed the scheduling for the conference this year, as they are implementing a kind of round-robin format as the teams will play home and away games against each other at one site. So, that is why this game is crucial for both Charlotte and WKU, as they will play back to back games on Charlottes home court.

If the 49ers can somehow spilt with WKU on their home court, it will go a long way, when it comes down to seeding for the conference tournament and possibly NCAA tournament implications, but more importantly, it will signal that Charlotte can play with the big boys.

One the other side of the coin, WKU has an opportunity to make a statement right out of the gate with the start of conference play, as the preseason CUSA favorite to win the CUSA crown, the Hilltoppers have a chance to set the tone for the rest of the season, as the team to beat.

The 49ers are third in the conference in scoring defense (61.7) and are twelfth in scoring offense (66.0). So they score 66 ppg and give up 61 ppg, in most circumstances that would be an encouraging stat as Charlotte is known for defense. But, this WKU team is averaging 77.4 points per game and are battled-tested as they have played WV, Louisville, and Alabama, with exception of the Louisville game, WKU has proved to be that team, you don’t want to play in March.

Bassey is a beast and I can not see anyone on the 49ers stopping him. Bassey goes for a triple-double in this game and leads the way.

Prediction: WKU 88 – Charlotte 75