Now we all know every Niner fan faces east 5 times a day to praise Lebo, but tomorrow the Niners make the pilgrimage to
Mecca Greenville to play the ECU Pirates (5 PM, MASN -oh noes!). This will be the third contest for the Niners against the Pirates since the anointed one, Jeff Lebo, took over the program. Lebo Almighty has “turned” the Pirates “around”, having guided them to a 15-16 record last season, including purchasing a post-season appearance for the Pirates (1-2 -non-DI games are pathetic and we don’t count them as wins) on Terry Holland’s credit card. Now, although Lebo is Lord and Savior of the ECU basketball program, the Niners, in their worst season since “Wissel-ball”, managed to split with the Pirates 1-1 last year, including a one point loss.
This season, Lebo’s Apostles are led by Darrius Morrow, the bruising forward Lebo has tapped to spread his message on the basketball court. Pope Morrow has averaged in double figures in scoring throughout his years and adds some modest rebounding with his 6’8″ 245 lbs frame. This season Morrow has been hampered by foul troubles in games against real competition, fouling out in the loss against Campbell and picking up four fouls against Crappalachian State and Old Dominion. Somewhat surprising is his rebounding, which has tailed off a bit this season compared to his first three campaigns, as he is averaging only 4.2 rpg. One might expect better rebounding numbers for a player who’s seen 3 games already this season where the opponent is little more than a meat shield (Milligan, Coker and Chowan). Of course mind you the average fan doesn’t realize how difficult it is for ECU to schedule now that they are an elite program and besides, Milligan is a highly-rated NAIA school!
Another focal point for East Carolina is Miguel Paul. Paul originally played two seasons under Mike Anderson at Missouri before transferring to learn under the tutelage of Lebo Almighty. That training has clearly paid off as Paul is averaging 16 ppg for the Pirates through 3 games. What is most impressive is the 24.4% shooting from the field that Paul is putting up. What equally impresses me is Paul’s ability to get Nash-ty with the ball, dribbling out the shot clock and shooting awful shots. Just what every team needs in a point guard. Watching ECU play ODU, we originally thought the other players on the court were just standing around disinterested as Paul essentially ignored them. Wrong. Paul was showing them the Gospel under Lebo and they were merely studying his every move.
What else does Lebo Almighty have to throw at the Niners on Saturday? Well none other than Shamarr “Shamwow” (as he likes to be called) Bowden. As Niner fans know, Bowden played 15 games for Charlotte in 2009-2010 before bailing on the team quicker than that helicopter pilot bailed on David Thompson when he flew 15 feet between the magnolia tree and the property line. But he scored 19 points on Louisville! Yeah, he also was streaky and played lousy defense as evidenced in ECU’s loss to ODU when he committed a turnover and subsequently let his man blow by him causing Darrius Morrow to get a critical fourth foul which sent him to the bench. That’s the Shamwow we remember most, so no matter how hot he is or isn’t, he’ll always be the French Army on defense. Hopefully Niner guards remember that and take advantage of it.
Delving into the numbers like Lebo delves into sermon each practice, it might become apparent that ECU is a better shooting team. Not true. Again I reference their three games against non-DI opponents (remember how the Niners beat Belmont-Abbey like a drum?). When you consider only DI opposition, ECU is shooting less than 40% from the field (compared to 41.6% for the Niners), are roughly even in rebounding and commit more fouls than the opposition. One important caveat though -this will be ECU’s first real game at home.
So what do the Niners do to win? Obviously more than merely show up, since we’ve suffered two losses @ ECU over the years. What they need to do is obviously take care of the ball, as turnovers particularly at the bookends of games, have been a problem. Protecting Braswell in the paint will also be important as Darrius Morrow will want to impose his will inside to try to get Braswell in foul trouble. Aside from that, expect a lot of three point attempts from Paul, Bowden and Paris Roberts-Campbell. It will also be of critical importance for Derrio Green and Deuce Briscoe not to try to out hero Shamwow, who’s sure to be excited to play his former team. Bowden could very well get hot but his inability to play any semblance of defense on the other end can be exploited -provided the Niner backcourt keeps its composure.
As you’re reading this you might be thinking “Gee that’s a lot of vitriol for a program that is as important as Our Lady of the Blind in college basketball.” and you’d be right. ECU is irrelevant. However, we just don’t like a few of their obnoxious fan(s), so what better than to go down to Greenville and make them walk their own plank.