Just in Time
by Josh Spence

Times are tough for the East Carolina basketball team. There’s no way around it.  The last time ECU finished with a winning record was 96-97, when Joe Dooley was still roaming the sidelines.  Yet, as much as we all hated to admit it, it was time for a change.  However, with change comes consequence.  The Pirates lost their top scorer Mike Cook, after he learned of the change in coaches.  Add that to the loss of senior center and second leading scorer Moussa Badiane, and it equals a big question mark coming into this year.

After losing its last three games, ECU now sits at 3-4 for the year.  A disappointing start to the Ricky Stokes era, especially considering that two of the three wins have come against Wofford.  The bad news is the upcoming schedule for ECU.  The Pirates have time off for exams before beginning possibly the toughest stretch of the season on December 18, when the team travels to take on Winthrop (4-1), a 2004 NCAA participant.  Three days later East Carolina plays at Toledo (4-2).  The only possible reprieve comes when the Pirates play the first of two at home against Limestone College (3-4) on the 28th.  The Pirates then host UNCW, which has played very well so far this year winning 7 of its 8 games, en route to receiving votes to be ranked in the top 25.  Of course all of these games pale in comparison to the Pirates road game on December 3rd at Wake Forest.

So if the bad news is the schedule, what’s the good news?  Jeremy Ingram.  The Pirates welcome in their newest member when he becomes eligible December 18 to start the aforementioned tough stretch.  The former Kinston star and Wake Forest transfer is expected to make an immediate impact with the Pirates.  Ingram is known as a leaper, with great athleticism with the potential to become one of the best players in ECU history.  Potentially great scorer, but revered for his exceptional skill on defense, Ingram should give this team a much needed shot in the arm.  The only question is how much of the time off will hurt him.  Ingram missed all of last year and the first 7 games of this year in accordance with NCAA policy for a transfer. 

Perhaps the biggest area for improvement is shooting.  The Pirate coaching staff spent a lot of time and effort in the off-season recruiting players that could not only score but shoot it well from the outside.  Over the last several years the Pirates have been known for good defense, holding opponents to low scores, and low shooting percentages.  This year the Pirates’ shooting percentage is below their opponent’s:  44 to 43 percent.  However, a bigger discrepancy lies in three-point, and free throw numbers.  Opponents are out-shooting the Pirates from long range 38%-31%, and from the charity stripe 76%-63%. 

Despite the lack of depth down low, ECU has managed to rebound the ball effectively for the most part.  ECU has won the rebounding battle in five of its seven games this year.  Bottom line, the Pirate offense has to score better.  East Carolina is averaging 66 points per game after putting up a season low 48 points at home versus Western Carolina last week.  This team isn’t that far off.  ECU has really only been badly beaten once, a 26 point setback at ODU.  Besides that the Pirates' other three losses have come by a combined 21 points.  Also remember, the real season hasn’t started for this team.  Although each game counts to your win loss record, the only realistic shot the Pirates have at making the NCAA tournament is with a win in the CUSA tournament.  That puts extra emphasis on the 14 game conference schedule the Pirates begin on January 11.

Josh Spence