basketball with ecu logo

The East Carolina University logo stamped onto a team basketball.

East Carolina University men’s basketball (American Athletic Conference) recently had its out of conference schedule revealed and with the team under new leadership, the first half of the season for the Pirates looks optimistic.

Basketball season tips off on Nov. 8, at Minges Coliseum in Greenville, North Carolina, against Mercer University (Southern Conference). Last season, Mercer faced a losing season with a weaker strength of schedule than the Pirates. Mercer’s most notable game of the season came against the University of Arkansas (Southeastern Conference) on Nov. 9, 2021. In the 74-61 loss, Mercer put up a fight against a Razorbacks team that made a deep postseason run.

Mercer made it to the second round of their conference tournament, defeating Western Carolina University (SOCON) 81-53 in round one on March 4, 2022. The team met their end of the season when the conference’s No. 2 seed Furman University (SOCON) defeated the squad 80-66 after dominating the first half’s scoring.

Four days after facing Mercer, the Pirates will remain at home to compete against Presbyterian College (Big South Conference) on Nov. 12. PC’s 12-20 season last year was one full of narrow games with plenty of blowouts. In the game against Truett-McConnell University (Appalachian Athletic Conference), Presbyterian dominated the outmatched TMU team by a score of 91-49. TMU’s final score was equivalent to Presbyterian’s first half score.

On the other side of that coin, when Presbyterian faced off against the No. 13 University of Tennessee, the tides turned in the Volunteer’s favor. Tennessee convincingly defeated Presbyterian by a score of 86-44 and just as Presbyterian did to TMU, Tennessee’s first half scoring out paced both halves of Presbyterian’s side of the ball. The Vols scored 45 points in the first half.

The first two games of the season should swing much the way that early home games did for the Pirates last season. Through the first ten home games for ECU last season, the team was undefeated. Though the team has many questions to answer, ECU could see their home slate of out of conference games for the 2022-2023 season fall much the same way.

Following the game against Presbyterian, the Pirates will continue the home stretch against Hampton University (Colonial Athletic Association) on Wednesday, Nov. 16. Hampton was another out of conference opponent that faced a losing record last season, going 9-19 on the year. Hampton’s strength of schedule was the worst of the first three opponents, with their biggest win of the season coming against Campbell University (SOCON) by a score of 68-66.

After the three game home stand, the Pirates will travel to compete in the Gulf Coast Showcase. Their first opponent will be Indiana State University (The Valley Conference) with the second and third opponents to be determined. The Sycamores finished last season with an 11-20 record, ending the season on six consecutive losses. The No. 7 Purdue University was the most notable team that the Sycamores faced last season, losing 92-67 on Nov. 12, 2021.

Following the Gulf Coast Showcase, the Pirates will travel for the first away game of the season against Old Dominion University (ODU) on Nov. 26 in Norfolk, Virginia. ODU also faced a losing record last season, finishing 13-19 on the year. The Monarchs met up with the Pirates during the Myrtle Beach Invitational last season on Nov. 19, 2021. The Pirates won that game, the only game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational that the Pirates won, by a score of 73-60.

ECU will return home following the game against ODU for back to back games against South Carolina State University (Mideastern Athletic Conference) on Nov. 29 and Campbell on Dec. 2. The Pirates faced South Carolina State to open the 2021-2022 season at home, defeating the team 70-62 for the first win of the season. The Camels are the first team to have a winning record from the previous season, finishing 16-13.

The final four games of ECU’s out of conference schedule from Dec. 6 to Dec. 21 bounce back and forth from home to away.

The Pirates will travel to Wilmington, North Carolina, to face the University of North Carolina Wilmington (CAA) before returning home to play the familiar Coppin State University (MEAC). After which, ECU will once again hit the road to face the University of South Carolina (SEC) and then finally returning home to face High Point University (Big South Conference).

The sky is the limit for ECU’s out of conference schedule, especially under the leadership of new head coach Michael Schwartz. This season will be the first in a rebuild for the program, which can lead to variance in team success. Keeping the season prior in mind, should most schools perform similarly to the 2021-2022, the Pirates could enter conference play 13-0.

Less optimistically, the Pirates could struggle to pull things together at the season’s start. Under new leadership and with new players and play styles coming together, it could take time for ECU’s identity to mesh together. Only time will tell. The Pirates face a realistic floor of 4-9. If the wheels completely fall off of the bus, things could fall even shorter. However, that outcome seems unlikely.

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