Jeff Lebo has won a lot of basketball games at the Dean Smith Center. On Saturday, he hopes to win another, albeit at the expense of his alma mater.
In his third season at East Carolina, Lebo will bring the Pirates to the Dean Dome for the first time ever. The schools have met just twice before, once in the first round of the 1993 NCAA Tournament when the Tar Heels were a No. 1 seed. UNC won the national championship a few weeks later.
Lebo, who has also been the head coach at Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga and Auburn, was a terrific combo guard at North Carolina in the late 1980s. He is UNC’s second all-time 3-point shooter, having made 42.8 percent of his treys and setting a school record with 17 assists in a single game. Lebo averaged 11.8 points per game in his career. The Tar Heels went 116-25 in his four seasons playing for Dean Smith.
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The Pirates go into this game owning a 6-1 mark, though half of those victories are over teams that aren’t in Division I. Three, however, are over UNC-Greensboro, Appalachian State and Georgia State. In its last game out, ECU fell at Charlotte, 76-64.
UNC (7-2) is coming off of final exams and may get an early test in the noon tip, but the Tar Heels are just too talented to lose this game. Of importance for Carolina is to get more of a conventional inside game than it has been in recent outings.
Pick: UNC, 87-70
Weekend Quick Picks
Charlotte (9-0) at Miami (5-1)
Full Court Press: Tough game for the Hurricanes coming out of exams and having not played an actual game for 13 days. Miami’s last contest was a road win at UMass. The 49ers’ best win is over Davidson, and they’ve also beaten East Carolina, Central Michigan and Northeastern. Pick: Miami, 70-65
Georgia Southern (3-5) at Virginia Tech (8-1)
Full Court Press: The Eagles have struggled scoring against Division I opponents, having lost to all but Kennesaw State. The Hokies can use this game to build more depth, as first-year coach James Johnson must find more players he can eventually count on later in the season. Pick: Virginia Tech, 81-57
Norfolk State (6-6) at N.C. State (6-2)
Full Court Press: Norfolk, which upset Missouri in the NCAA Tournament last spring, has beaten Rhode Island and lost at Seton Hall by 13 and at Illinois by 10. This team can play and could give a Wolfpack club coming off of final exams some fits. N.C. State lacks depth, so it must take care of business early. Pick: N.C. State, 78-63.
Florida A&M (4-6) at Clemson (5-3)
Full Court Press: To some, this may be a throw-away game for the Tigers, but it’s not. They need the work and must execute on the offensive end. Clemson is in good shape defensively, but must find more ways to score and players to emerge. This game offers such an opportunity. Pick: Clemson, 77-57.
New Hampshire (4-5) at Boston College (4-5)
Full Court Press: The Wildcats have three wins over Ivy League teams, though none are named Harvard. Boston College has been a bit inconsistent, having beaten Auburn and won at Penn State – though both teams are struggling – but lost at home to Bryant and Harvard by 16 points. Steve Donahue can’t afford to lose this one. Pick: Boston College, 68-55.