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Virginia vs. ECU: The Big Preview

Hoos look to rebound after dropping their first loss of the season.

NCAA Basketball: East Carolina at Tulane
Hoos host ECU at JPJ.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

After dropping their first loss of the season to West Virginia on Saturday, the Hoos have a quick turnaround as they welcome the East Carolina Pirates to JPJ this evening. Tonight’s game is the last game before Virginia’s exam break.

ECU is a middling team out of the American Athletic Conference (AAC), and shouldn’t really give the Hoos much trouble. They’re a decent defensive team, but they are going to have trouble scoring against the Pack Line. They are a big team, which has given the Hoos trouble over the past two games, but they aren’t nearly as talented as OSU and WVU. The Pirates are 7-2 so far on the season, but their best win is over Air Force and their losses came to Mercer (KenPom 189) and Charlotte (KenPom 182).

ECU is led in scoring by 6’7” senior swing man Caleb White, who averages 15 points per game and is shooting over 50% from three. White, who is originally from Charlottesville, will likely get a heavy dose of Devon Hall. Hall should have a strength advantage in that matchup, despite being a couple of inches shorter. In the Pirates loss to Mercer, he was just 2-for-9 (2-for-5 from three) from the field for six points, and he did not play in ECU’s loss to Charlotte. White doesn’t do much other than shoot, and considering he’s 6’7”, you’d like to see him grab more than three rebounds per game for his career.

This year, the Pirates have rebounded the ball well. That is, in part at least, due to 7-foot Wake Forest transfer Andre Washington. Washington is averaging over eight rebounds per game and is proving to be a beast on the offensive glass. Additionally, Washington has had success blocking the ball, which could be an issue for the Hoos trying to get to the basket. Even after their struggles in the paint the last two games, the Hoos are still one of the best teams in the nation at preventing offensive rebounds, so it will be a battle to watch down low.

ECU’s second leading scorer is point guard B.J. Tyson, who functions as more of a combo guard. Tyson leads the team in FG attempts by a wide margin, despite the fact that he isn’t a particularly good shooter, nor efficient scorer. He is, however, quick and he has the ability to get to the rack. Despite being the starting PG and having the ball in his hands a lot, he’s actually second on the team in assists to sophomore Kentrell Barkley.

Barkley is the best all-around player for ECU. He isn’t much of an outside shooter, but he is 6’5” 215 on the wing, he’s able to score inside, and is also a very good one-on-one defender. Barkley’s real claim to fame is that he was punched by former UNC guard P.J. Hairston during a pick up game. This (among other things) led to Hairston’s dismissal from UNC.

The fifth starter is PF Clarence Williams, a 6’8” 215 lb. JUCO transfer. Williams is a half-decent shooter, though he doesn’t get many shots. He’s strong on the boards, especially offensive, but he’s not going to have a lot of luck there against Isaiah Wilkins and the Hoos.

Freshman Jeremy Sheppard has been getting more and more run as the season goes on. He’s impressed with his outside shooting (7-for-18 from three) and his passing. He’s a PG, but he’s spent some time recently playing off the ball, spotting up outside and letting Tyson find him. Sheppard is probably a better player than Tyson, but Tyson is still getting the minutes at the point.

ECU has height and a quick PG. They play defense with energy and intensity. They won’t give up many open shots. But, they’re going to have trouble scoring against the Hoos, and they’re not going to get the offensive rebounds that they have so far this year against lesser competition. The Hoos will use this game to sure up the interior defense, their FT shooting and frankly, the offense as a whole.

Game tips at 7pm on Regional Sports Networks. Stick with Streaking the Lawn for coverage.