Game Preview: East Carolina
Our loss to WVU sent us tumbling down the polls to 12th (coaches) and 14th (AP). The drop feels harsh for merely losing to another ranked team, but I think that a.) we were probably a little too highly ranked for our current stage of incubation and b.) voters have probably been looking for an excuse to ding us since we had that personnel issue a couple of weeks ago and finally got it. So be it. Win games and the ranking problem goes away. I don’t remember where “ranking on December 6th” falls on the Selection Committee’s list, but I suspect it isn’t high.
We play ECU tonight and then get a much-needed 10 day break where the team will hopefully rest and re-calibrate (and hopefully not injure key players in practice, which has happened a couple of times in recent years during this stretch). I’m hoping the staff emerges for the Robert Morris game with a better idea of what lineup combinations have and haven’t worked over our first nine games.
I haven’t watched my alma mater play a single second of basketball since February of 2005, when 6'10'’ Moussa Badiane (and his 10% block rate) and his senior class closed out their careers in front of me and the other Minges Maniacs with a 76–72 loss to Tulane. There hasn’t been much to see: the Pirates have finished .500 or better just three times during that span, though they did play in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament in all three of those seasons and won it in 2013. I just discovered that info via Wikipedia, as ECU fancied themselves a baseball school first and a football school second, at least in my day.
ECU is 7–2, but it’s a misleading 7–2, as they haven’t played anyone ranked higher than 165th in the Pomeroy rankings and have lost two of their three meetings with teams ranked higher than 200th. Their biggest problem tonight will be that they don’t play efficient offense; the Pirates are turning the ball over on almost a quarter (23.4%) of their possessions and their EFG% barely crosses 50, and our defense notoriously punishes teams (think FSU) that don’t respect every possession. The Pirates’ strengths so far — drawing fouls and offensive rebounding — should be mitigated by playing a disciplined team with a great deal more physical talent.
Defensively, their numbers are pretty good, though that reflects playing games against Grambling State, Hampton, Florida A&M, and North Carolina A&T as much as it does the Pirates’ defensive prowess. Lebo is a man-to-man devotee first and foremost and his teams sit back in the halfcourt, which should be refreshing after Saturday. The Pirates are 253rd in adjusted tempo (68.3 possessions/game).
Senior forward Caleb White and junior guard B.J. Tyson are the focal points of the Pirate attack. White (15 ppg) has posted a 61.5% EFG so far this season thanks to his 51% three point shooting and Tyson (14.6) is a wiggly threat diving to the rim, where he takes a third of his shots (32.7%) and makes 54% of them. Old friend Andre Washington, eligible this season after transferring from Wake Forest, is scoring 9.8 points per game and grabbing 14.7% of offensive boards and 19.8% on D. He didn’t score in 13 minutes against us in 2014.
I’m not really worried about this game. ECU is going to have problems scoring: they shouldn’t be able to get to the rim, they can’t really shoot threes (players other than White are shooting 28.4%), and we won’t foul them (our opposing FT rate — 25.2 per 100 FG attempts — is 25th in the country). That leaves offensive rebounding as an ECU strength — they’ve been pretty good, securing 37.1% of their misses — but I suspect that advantage will disappear when they’re suddenly at a talent disadvantage for the first time.
G: London Perrantes — 6'2'’ sr #32
Longtime readers may recall me opining that our Brogdon-and-Gill-led offense seemed to flow more smoothly when London took at least 10 shots. LP is only averaging half a shot attempt per game more than he did last year (8.5 to 8.0), which is a number I’d like to see increase. He doesn’t have to take all of Gill and Brogdon’s shots, but I’d like to see him take more of them — as long as he picks them better than he did against WVU.
G: Devon Hall — 6'5'’ jr. #0.
Dev (4 points, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 5 fouls in 21 minutes) had one of our rougher games vs. the Mountaineers.
G: Darius Thompson — 6'4'’ jr #51
My favorite thing about Darius is that he’s taking what comes naturally. He’s not jacking shots, he’s mostly taking good open looks with his feet set that come out of our offense. He’s also moving more north/south and making forays into the lane, a nice contrast from his east/west dribbling (or immediate passing) of last season.
F: Isaiah Wilkins — 6'7'’ jr #21
Cheer up, Isaiah.
F: Jack Salt — 6'11'’ so #33
Jack had an OK game vs. WVU in spite of it being a poor matchup for him. Six points, three rebounds, and a block in 19 minutes.
G: Kyle Guy — 6'3'’ fr #5
I know that Kyle has had a rough time of it on defense at times and made some booboos against WVU’s pressure, but there is no one else on the team that can shoot like he does, and scoring has been a confusing exercise so far against good teams. Free the Bun.
G: Marial Shayok — 6'6'’ jr #4
I’m a fan of the Marial Shayok Small Ball Four experiment so far. I’m also a fan of his sweet, buttery 15-foot bank shot.
F: Jarred Reuter — 6'7'’ so #31
Reuter gave us 17 important minutes against Ohio State, an opponent whose physicality and sluggish pace fits his aesthetic. WVU, with their emphasis on pressure and playing in space, made him look like a relic from a bygone era.
G: BJ Tyson — 6'3'’ jr #21
Tyson’s 25% three point shooting might not even be much of an aberration: he hit only 29.3% last year, but still jacked more than four per game. Keeping him out of the paint limits his effectiveness.
G: Kentrell Barkley — 6'5'’ so #15
Barkley is co-owning the point guard spot with Tyson, but his assist rate (25.3%) is a little lower, his turnover rate (22.3%) is higher, and his three-point shooting (25.9%) is about the same.
F: Caleb White — 6'7'’ sr #2
49 of White’s 87 shots have been threes, and he’s been a lot more successful (51% to 42.5%) out there. Not a passer or rebounder, shooting is about all he does.
F: Clarence Williams — 6'8'’ sr #23
Is an OK and willing rebounder (13.4% DREB, 8.8% OREB) that can step out and hit the occasional jumper. He has turned it over on more than a third of possessions used (34.9% is the ugly truth) this season.
C: Andre Washington — 7'1'’ sr #31
Washington has games of six, five, and three blocks (twice) this season. He also scored 21 points and grabbed 16 boards vs. Stetson. He grabbed 18 total rebounds in his last season at Wake.
F: Deng Riak — 6'10’’ fr #0
Inexperienced (he played in eight games last year before getting hurt) and it shows in his 35% turnover rate. He can rebound some (18.8% DREB), but is 10–30 from the floor (0–6 on threes).
G: Jeremy Sheppard — 6'1'’ fr #1
Elusive guard is moving into the sixth man role. He scored 13 with eight assists (at a 42.9% assist rate for the season now) in ECU’s last game, a win over NC Central. He’s hitting 38.9% (7–18) of his threes.
F: Jabari Craig — 6'10'’ jr #25
Craig cannot throw it in the beach from the ocean (2–13), but he’s oddly 10–15 from the line and has shown signs of other things coaches like, like offensive rebounding (22.4% of his team’s misses) and blocking shots (almost 10% thanks to games of three and four blocks).
Verdict: Victory. Probably a substantial one.