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Bailey's Take on C-USA Basketball

From the Anchor Desk
Friday, January 11, 2002
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

ECU-Charlotte Rivalry About to Heat Up


East Carolina has a new 'biggest rival' in basketball.

Much like the CAA, where East Carolina and UNC Wilmington were rival mates, Conference USA includes the Pirates and Charlotte. The league’s Carolina entries are set to battle Saturday at Williams Arena.

The two teams have met eight times before, splitting the series at four and four, but now the intensity of the rivalry is about to take on a whole new dimension.

Former Farmville Central standout Jarvis Lang was a star for what was then UNC-Charlotte in the early 1990’s. Lang enjoyed coming back to play East Carolina, and large crowds were the norm in those games between the Pirates and the 49ers.

Charlotte has a great history in Conference USA, being the only team to have won a couple of tournament championships. The 49ers hold the records for the most league tournament victories (13) and championship game appearances (4).

Joining Conference USA gives this Pirate program a legitimate shot at post-season play every year. Check out Charlotte's example: The Niners advanced to the NCAA second round for the fourth time in five years this past season and have earned a spot in post-season play in seven of eight seasons.

Obviously, it will take time for Bill Herrion to navigate ECU to the level that it also has a chance to battle for a league title. But the opportunity is there — just look at Saturday’s opponent.

49ers Come Up Short at No. 10 Cincinnati

Charlotte will come to Greenville after falling to Cincinnati 71-58 on Tuesday night. Jobey Thomas, who scored 26 points in the loss to the Bearcats, leads the 49ers. He is averaging 27.5 points per game over his last two contests and is just the eighth player in league history to surpass the 1,400-career point plateau.

Cam Stephens had his second straight double-double — his fifth of the season — and is averaging 13.8 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting nearly 58 percent from the floor in his last six outings.

Charlotte head coach Bobby Lutz notched the 250th victory of his head coaching career and his 69th at Charlotte with a 76-68 triumph over No. 25 Marquette on January 5.

Pirates, Despite Winless League Mark, Have Been Competitive

Nobody said this Conference USA stuff was going to be easy. ECU has held its own, though, in the two losses so far.

The crowd on Saturday night was great, but the team really deserved a sellout. The 7,143 fans in attendance represented the largest crowd at Minges Coliseum since February 20, 1999, when the Pirates took on UNC-Wilmington in front of 7,311.

ECU is hoping for another big crowd on Saturday, but the noon start may dampen that enthusiasm. Television dictates the start time in all college sports, and once again, an East Carolina home crowd will be down because of the early start. (See ECU vs. Southern Miss at 11 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving.)

College Hoops Craziness Continues

I bet you didn’t know that North Carolina’s biggest loss in school history came against the Lynchburg Elks back in 1915. The Heels lost that game by 43 points.

Maryland almost beat that mark in College Park on Wednesday night. The Terps called off the dogs early, and still won by 33.

I bring this up because the Carolina downfall is just a part of what has been a crazy season to date, and it’s not even mid-January yet.

Check out Wednesday night’s scoreboard. Top ranked Kansas was an easy winner, but there were several upsets or near-upsets:

Georgia beat 8th ranked Kentucky in Lexington. 9th ranked Illinois traveled to Purdue and suffered a nine-point loss. 3rd ranked Florida needed overtime to slip past Tennessee.

It’s this way just about every night. Duke is no longer invincible in the ACC. Cincinnati will stumble a couple of times in Conference USA.

It’s absolute craziness every night out. Hang on, it’s still early. Here’s hoping the Pirates get in on the upset parade, beginning with Charlotte on Saturday at high noon.

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02/23/2007 01:22:21 AM

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