Fresh off a hard fought game against Tennessee, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will host the Eastern Carolina Pirates on Friday night. The game will be broadcast on ACCNE at 7:30pm.
So who is Eastern Carolina? Well aside from being the largest school in North Carolina and being known as the NC "party school", they are currently making their way into the conversation as the up and coming program in the American Athletic Conference. The ECU program made a fantastic hire during the offseason, luring Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley away from Fort Myers.
Dooley spent time in the Bill Self coaching tree prior to his hiring at FGCU. He was widely known to be one of the Jayhawk's most effective recruiters early in the Self era, credited with landing players such as Cole Aldrich, Tyshawn Taylor and Mario Chalmers. In 2013 he left Lawrence for Fort Myers for his second head coaching position, replacing Andy Enfield after he departed for USC. In five seasons at FGCU he made the NCAA tournament twice and the NIT twice. He won 21 games or more in all five seasons and never finished worse than second in the Atlantic Sun Conference. He departed the Eagles with a 114-58 record.
The interesting thing about Dooley is that he was actually the Head Coach of the Pirates before this season. He led the purple and black from 1995-1999 after Eddie Payne departed for Oregon State. During his first stint at ECU, Dooley went 57-52.
The Pirates come into the GT game with a 2-1 record, averaging 79 points per game. ECU also played Lamar early in the 2018-19 season, a game in which they needed overtime to win. ECU has an ACC flavor as Dooley brought on former Virginia Tech Assistant Coach Steve Roccaforte, who in turn brought former Hokie Seth LeDay with him. He's also bringing former Hokies Tyrie Jackson and Khadim Sy in for the 2019 class.
LeDay has led the Pirates through the first three games, averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Freshman Jayden Gardner and sophomore K.J. Davis give Dooley a nice duo to back up LeDay, combining to score 25 points and snag better than 12 rebounds per contest early in the 2018-19 season.
The straw that stirs the drink is senior point guard Isaac Fleming. The former Hawaii Rainbow Warrior has been a fantastic addition to the Pirate program, averaging 12.2 points, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game through 33 games. Fleming is solid but does not provide an outside threat, shooting less than 28% from deep over the course of his career.
Strangely enough, one of Georgia's own is the player that concerns me. Freshman Tae Hardy, a Miller Grove product, has played well early for the Pirates. The 6'3" guard averages 9 points, 2.7 rebounds, an assist and a steal per game early in his career. He likes to jump passing lanes and get out in the open court. He could be a huge X-factor in this game.
At the end of the day it's hard to predict what we will see here. This is a new coach with a new program who has yet to stock the pond with his players. Dooley keeps the tempo pretty low and doesn't historically play a ton of defense (according to KenPom).
Given the most recent performance by the Jackets against Tennessee, I can't imagine the spread is going to be crazy. I do like the Jackets to cover in this contest if the spread is set at single digits. East Carolina is not Tennessee. I think this is the game where Jose Alvarado and Shembarri Phillips both get right.