#11- East Carolina University Pirates
This year, ECU is aiming to break a streak of mediocre seasons, including last year, when the Pirates finished the season 17-17, including two losses in the Conference USA tournament and the CIT. Surprisingly, the season started off very well for ECU, as they were 11-4 when they opened conference play. While they had no very impressive wins over this span, among the four losses were a couple close games on the road against Duke and NC State, where they lost by 9 and 11, respectively. Opening up the season like this, the Pirates were exceeding expectations and had some momentum heading into Conference USA play. Unfortunately, the conference portion of the season saw completely different results. ECU started off 0-6 in the second half of the season, and ended conference play 5-11, before losing in the second round of the Conference USA tournament to UTEP. The Pirates missed out on a chance to make something out of a great nonconference record, and ended up losing in the first round of the CIT tournament to Wright State.
This season, the same thing can be expected out of ECU. The nonconference schedule is not overly challenging, but it does have a few games in there that could play a large role in determining the identity of this team. Among these is an early season visit to Chapel Hill where ECU will get its first test on a national stage in 2014. This game provides an opportunity for ECU to not only shock the college basketball world, but also to build plenty of momentum to carry them through the nonconference schedule. However, ECU will see an entirely different conference schedule, as they transfer over to the American Athletic Conference for this year. The AAC will no doubt provide greater opposition, as teams like Cincinnati, Memphis, Temple, SMU, and of course, the reigning champions Connecticut, will be hard to defeat. A stronger conference also creates opportunity for ECU, though, as they have a chance to pick up some big wins this year. This year’s team will have substantial experience compared to previous years, as they will retain 4 starters from last year’s squad. This will aid in the growth and development of the team, and will hopefully allow a chance for a better all-around season. The only player who was lost was leading scorer and starting point guard Akeem Richmond, and while this could potentially be a large loss for ECU, they have the tools to recover from the loss. Antonio Robinson, now a senior, could step into a larger role and possible take over the starting PG job, and 3-star recruit Lance Tejada will earn a good amount of playing time as a freshman on this team. ECU is likely to have a shaky start in a new and more difficult conference, but could potentially surprise the world of NCAA basketball as their experienced roster has something to prove.
Paris Roberts-Campbell, Senior G – Paris Roberts-Campbell averaged the second most minutes on the team last season, only behind Akeem Richmond, who graduated after the season. It is highly likely that Roberts-Campbell will step into a larger role this year, and will play some at the point guard position. He has an experienced team around him that should make him better, and he should be able to show off his skills a little more this year.
Lance Tejada, Freshman G – Tejada was recruited out of high school by many schools and received offers from teams such as Florida State, Butler, Miami, Marquette, Virginia, and many more. He turned all of those down to come to ECU, where he could possibly contend for a starting spot as a freshman. ECU lost its starting PG last year, and this is a hole that Tejada will have to fill. While he will need some time to develop into a player who can play in this league, he should be able to contribute to this offense immediately.
Much like last year, ECU is looking at what will be another good nonconference year, but once the conference schedule hits, the Pirates see a stronger set of teams. Even with some more experience, don’t expect ECU to blow anyone away in the AAC conference, but do expect some improvement from last season’s overall record. Final record prediction: 16-13