Pirates prepare for conference play

East Carolina finished up the non-conference portion of its schedule with 11 wins. Here's a breakdown of ECU's Conference-USA opponents.

East Carolina (11-4) wrapped up the non-conference portion of its basketball season and now looks to make an impact in Conference-USA competition.

The Pirates notched a 79-71 win over Campbell in their final non-conference game. A victory over the Camels, which halted a two-game skid, should give them some momentum heading into their conference opener versus Old Dominion.

The Monarchs (6-9) enter their first conference game as a C-USA member as a sub-.500 squad. However, they did manage to defeat UNC-Wilmington—a team that bested ECU by two points. With Aaron Bacote averaging north of 18 points per game, the Monarchs are a strong team despite their record.

ECU has the luxury of easing into conference play. In addition to ODU, the Pirates will meet Florida Atlantic (4-10), Florida International (8-7) and Tulane (8-7) in their first four games of the season. FIU and Tulane both finished the non-conference part of the season right in the middle of the C-USA standings.

Then there's FAU. The Owls' four lonely wins in their first 14 outings is good enough to reserve them a spot in the basement of the C-USA standings.

After what looks like an easy beginning to ECU's conference schedule, the Pirates jump right in and take on Southern Miss (13-2). The Golden Eagles took into overtime and defeated a Georgia State squad that handed ECU an 89-82 loss. They've found plenty of success defensively by holding opponents to an average of 62.1 points per game.

The Pirates, on the other hand, have succeeded on the back of their strong offense. They average almost 85 points a game with senior guard Akeem Richmond notching an average of 20 of those points. It will come down to what's stronger—ECU's offense or Southern Miss' defense.

ECU has a challenging stretch afterwards. Middle Tennessee State (9-5), UAB (11-3) and UTEP (10-5) each garnered at least nine wins in non-conference play.

A common denominator between MTSU and UAB is strong play on the boards. MTSU averages just about 40 rebounds a game and UAB averages 48.5, which is good enough for first in the NCAA. Just like in-state rival North Carolina, ECU will have to fight for rebounds on both sides of the court. UAB outrebounded UNC 52-37 en route to a 63-59 upset.

ECU then takes on UTSA (4-9) and Tulsa (5-9) before meeting two of C-USA's strongest new members. North Texas (9-5) and Louisiana Tech (12-3). Just like MTSU and UAB, UTSA and Tulsa are among the nation's leaders in rebounding. Both teams average over 40 boards a game.

What sets Louisiana Tech apart is its offensive prowess. The Bulldogs average 86.1 points per game, which is just north of ECU's 84.5 points per game. Their offense surpassed the 100-point barrier four times in 15 non-conference games—including a 126-52 blowout win over Longwood in their last game before C-USA action.

ECU's only other opponent to notch more than six non-conference wins is another new C-USA team. Charlotte (9-4) has garnered national attention early on this season and has plenty of momentum to carry into conference play. The 49ers claimed the Puerto Rico Classic Tip-Off with an upset over No. 14 Michigan. They'll be determined to make a similar impact in C-USA competition.

ECU then comes full circle to take on ODU in its final game of the season. The Pirates will hope to follow up last season's CIT Championship win with a strong performance in their last season as a C-USA team.

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