Thursday, March 14, 2013
For most East Carolina University fans, March is typically a month of misery as much of North Carolina’s focus turns to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and, later, to the NCAA dance. The Pirates, who have traditionally struggled to achieve on the hardwood, often content themselves with baseball instead, ignoring all the hubbub of postseason basketball.
This year, however, things have changed as both the men’s and women’s teams begin the Conference USA tournament with legitimate dreams of bringing titles back to Greenville. As an excited Pirate fan base follows the teams’ exploits in Tulsa, they should celebrate a season to remember and look with hope toward a future in which March matters at long last.
Since East Carolina first assembled a men’s basketball team in 1931 — its first intercollegiate athletic sport — success has been fleeting. The Pirates won two conference titles in the modern era — capturing the Southern Conference in 1972 and the Colonial Athletic Conference in 1993 — to win appearances in the NCAA Tournament, falling in the first round both times.
The women’s squad has followed a similarly unspectacular path in its 43 seasons. Two postseason titles in the old ECAC South (later Colonial Athletic) Conference were supplanted as the program’s high-water mark by the 2006-07 Conference USA crown and its automatic NCAA bid. The school lost in the first round but returned to post-season play with an NIT selection in 2010.
Tonight, both the men’s and women’s teams begin play at their conference tournaments in Tulsa, looking to make a statement about the state of Pirate basketball. Coach Jeff Lebo’s squad enjoyed a tremendous year that saw senior forward Maurice Kemp selected for first-team all-conference. C-USA Coach of the Year Heather Macy led her team to the conference tournament’s second seed and a 21-8 record.
East Carolina’s modest historical record may soon be forgotten if this year’s achievements can be sustained. With promising recruits pledged to East Carolina and a state-of-the-art practice facility nearing completion, Pirate basketball is making its case as a rising star in a state traditionally enamored with the college game, albeit with a resolute focus on the ACC schools.
Nothing would grab more attention than a strong showing at the C-USA tournaments, as both the men’s and women’s teams begin play tonight. However, for the Pirate faithful — who have suffered for years in the long shadows cast in March by the other state schools — this March is already one to savor.
via The Daily Reflector.