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Bailey's Take on Pirate Hoops

From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, January 29, 2002
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

No Lack of Confidence in the Pirate Camp


Cincinnati Can Be Beaten, Players Believe

Despite the way they've played in their last couple of outings, East Carolina’s players think they can pull off the upset at Cincinnati tonight... Really!

Pirate assistant coach Richard Morgan was a guest on my show on Monday night on Cable 7 and WCZI-FM. Morgan says that workouts since the blowout loss to Charlotte have been good, and that he likes the look of this team.

“They really think they can win,” said Morgan. “They remember that we played Cincinnati tough in Greenville without Gabe (Gabriel Mikulas). Now that they’ve got Gabe back, they really feel good about this game.”

Odds-makers aren’t feeling so good about East Carolina. They have installed Cincinnati as a 26-point favorite. The Bearcats were a 19-point favorite when they beat East Carolina 72-62 earlier this month.

Steve Logan became a three-time winner of the league’s player of the week award this past week. The Pirates can only hope that he doesn’t make it four. Logan averaged 26 points and five assists last week for his team.

Cincinnati has an NCAA-best 19-game winning streak and is ranked fourth in the nation. It’s the second time in three years that Cincy has started a season at 19-1.

The Bearcats are also 10-0 at home this season in the Shoemaker Center.

For the Pirates to have any chance in the game, they’ll have to get better guard play. In their January 16 win over Louisville, Travis Holcomb-Faye and Brandon Hawkins were really good. Since then, neither player has matched that kind of intensity.

East Carolina ranks fourth among all league teams in three-pointers per game. But in that 87-52 loss at Charlotte, the Pirates were just 2-24 from beyond the arc.

Erroyl Bing showed he could play against the Bearcats in that first match-up. Bing is the only player in Conference USA who ranks among the Top 11 in both scoring (11th, 14.9 ppg) and rebounding (7th, 8.7 rpg).

American Division Continues to Dominate League

We all knew that East Carolina was placed in the 'tougher' of the two divisions in Conference USA, but. I don’t think we realized just how much tougher the American Division is compared to the National Division.

The league was divided in 1997-98, when the American Division finished 24-12 in crossover games. In 1998-99 and in 1999-00, the American Division won 27 of the games, and lost just 9 to the other division.

The National did narrow the gap a bit last year, winning 16 while losing 20, but this season the American has reestablished its dominance, winning 8 of 11 inter-division match-ups so far.

Just look at the National Division this season: Memphis is 7-0, South Florida and Houston are 4-3, and the rest of the division has losing records. Southern Miss and Texas Christian are both at 1-6, like East Carolina. UAB is just a game better, and Tulane is two games better at 3-4.

Granted, you have to beat good teams to get better. But this transition may have gone a little smoother with some help from the league in placing the Pirates.

Then again, a couple of chances to beat Cincinnati and Louisville each year may be just what the Pirates really look forward to in a couple of years.

ECU has both Southern Miss and TCU on the schedule later this season.  A couple of wins in those games could go a long way towards cornering a spot for the Pirates in the league's post-season tournament.

Pirates Have a 'Prime' Opportunity at Home on Saturday

The Pirates will be back in Williams Arena on Saturday night, hosting St. Louis. It's a game that, on the surface, represents as prime a chance as any for ECU to spring an upset.

The Billikens beat East Carolina 85-72 in St. Louis on January 19. It went in the books as a loss for the Pirates, but the final score was notably closer than was the case a year ago, when the Billikens bombed ECU in the Savvis Center 90-54.

If the Pirates can get their legs back from the road trip by the weekend, I think they have a great chance. Another big crowd certainly wouldn’t hurt, either.

We all knew that wins would be hard to come by in this first year of the league. But this is another great shot for a Pirate victory in Conference USA!

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02/23/2007 01:22:24 AM

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