Exams are over and now the Tar Heels can enjoy some time away from the classroom. UNC (7-2) will have an in-state rival head into the Dean Dome, as the East Carolina Pirates (6-1) take the hour and a half trip to Chapel Hill.
The Pirates will be led by head coach Jeff Lebo, a former player for the Tar Heels in the late 1980s.
This will be the first time Roy Williams has faced the Pirates and the third time that UNC has faced its in-state foe, with the last being March 18, 1993 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, as the Tar Heels took down the Pirates on its way to the NCAA championship.
Tipoff will be at noon on Saturday at the Dean Dome and will be televised on ESPNU.
Lebo has had a solid career in basketball, both coaching and as a player.
As a player, Lebo was highly regarded around the league and respected throughout. ECU head coach played guard at UNC while Williams was an assistant under the legendary Dean Smith. In fact, Williams helped recruit Lebo to Chapel Hill out of Carlisle (Pa.).
While at UNC, Lebo earned second-team All-ACC honors and Academic All-ACC in 1988 and All-ACC Tournament in 1987, 1988, and 1989. He ranks second in UNC history in three-point field goal percentage, shooting 42.8 percent through his career; just behind assistant coach Hubert Davis who shot 43.5 percent in his Tar Heel career.
Lebo also ranks 24th overall at UNC in total points (1,567 total points), fifth in total three-point field goals (211 made three-point field goals), and fourth in career free throw percentage with 83.9 percent.
Everywhere he has gone as head coach, Lebo has been able to post winning records. He has faced UNC once before, as head coach of Tennessee Tech, but here's his resume with past teams as head coach.
Tennessee Tech (98-02):75-43
Chattanooga (02-04): 40-20
Auburn (04-10): 96-93
East Carolina (10-12): 38-32
As one can tell with his winning record everywhere he's been, Lebo is a good coach that gets his team to believe in what he teaches. ECU, before him, was a struggling program year in and year out in C-USA.
Now, ECU has become a respectable program and could be on the rise in its league.
ECU's PLAN OF ATTACK
ECU hasn't played the toughest schedule so far this season, with a strength of schedule (RPI) at 281.
However, it still has been a great start for the Pirates so far, with the Pirates only loss coming against Charlotte, who was undefeated at the time.
ECU is coming of its best game last week against St. Andrews, dominating in a 111-59 rout.
In the game, ECU hit a program record 18 three-point field goals, showing its potential against UNC and what they are capable of doing.
Senior forward Maurice Kemp and junior forward Robert Sampson will give UNC a strong test against in the post against James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson, and Joel James.
Kemp is averaging 16.8 points and 8.1 rebounds and Sampson is putting up respectable numbers of 9.6 points and 8.9 rebounds a game.
Miguel Paul will be the Pirates leader in the backcourt, as he was voted All-CUSA preseason second team and is averaging 12.6 points and 4.2 assists per game.
Paul is capable of carrying the team and Dexter Strickland and Marcus Paige will have to play solid defense, as UNC did against East Tennessee State last week.
The Pirates will have to have its best performance of the year so far to pull off the upset, but they are more than capable of keeping this a close game.
Through the Pirates first seven games, they have been putting up decent numbers against its opponents.
Points per Game: 79.1
Field Goal Percentage: 45.7 %
Three-point percentage: 31.3%
Rebounds (Off./Def.): 39.7 (12.7/ 27.0)
Even though the Pirates will be an underdog coming into the game, coach Lebo seems excited and up to the challenge.
"It's exciting to go back and it's exciting for our players to give them an opportunity to play on that stage in that atmosphere," Lebo said. "I think it's going to be really helpful to our team and to our players. I think it's something they'll remember and they're really looking forward to this game."
However, ECU doesn't have the best record when it faces a ranked opponent on the road, as the Pirates are 0-44 all-time.
UNC will look to continue its recent success against lesser opponents, as the Tar Heels have been shooting lights out the past few games from beyond the arc. The Tar Heels look to continue its outside presence against the Pirates Saturday, along with the dominance down low, trying to develop the confidence with the freshmen.
This will be the Tar Heels last chance at home before they put its experience on the line and try to work on its trouble on the road. UNC will have three more games before they face its first ACC foe in Virginia on January 6.