Florida Atlantic Owls vs. East Carolina Pirates Pick & Prediction JANUARY 2nd 2024

Florida Atlantic had plenty of riches to enjoy when it returned from a productive trip to Las Vegas, but the winnings wasted away on Florida’s west coast.

The 17th-ranked Owls (10-3) attempt to make a rapid recovery from Saturday’s jarring upset in Fort Myers and rebound against East Carolina in Tuesday night’s American Athletic Conference debut in Boca Raton, Fla.

Following last Saturday’s 96-95 double-overtime win over then-No. 4 Arizona in Las Vegas, coach Dusty May’s squad returned to the Sunshine State and saw the good times turn bad against Florida Gulf Coast.

The Eagles led early and held on late in a 72-68 win.

In stark contrast with FAU’s previous win over the Pac-12’s Wildcats, Saturday’s shocker served as a riches-to-rags saga for last season’s March Madness Cinderella story.

“What we’ve learned is that our highs are very high and our lows are relatively low,” May said after falling to the Eagles. “And so, back to the drawing board as we head into league play.”

The Owls owned a 42-30 rebounding advantage, but that was offset by dismal shooting — 4-for-20 from distance and 16-for-27 at the stripe.

That clanging shooting showing ultimately led to the Eagles’ fan pouring onto the court in the milestone victory.

“We’re going to have the court storms if we’re not careful,” May said after FAU’s first true road game. “We’re going to have everyone’s best, emotional shot coming at us every single game. We have to learn from this.”

For the Pirates (7-6), second-year coach Mike Schwartz put together a rugged non-conference schedule that he hopes makes his squad battle-tested and tough to play against as the AAC season unfolds.

A seven-year assistant coach at Tennessee under Rick Barnes, Schwartz set about scheduling games like the pair on the road against SEC opposition South Carolina and Florida.

The results were two of the Pirates’ best in close losses — 68-62 at the Gamecocks in Columbia, S.C., and 70-65 facing the Gators in Lakeland, Fla.

“We want to stand in the center of the ring with anybody we face,” Schwartz said. “This time of year, basketball is going to be like this. No one is going to be backed into a corner (with) the rink fight over in the first couple of rounds. We want our guys to understand that.

“South Carolina had 500 Division I starts on that roster, two 1,000-point scorers and four grad seniors. Right now, we don’t have one grad senior or one senior on the team.”

Junior guard RJ Felton tops the Pirates at 16.8 points per game and adds 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Brandon Johnson (14.6, 9.2 rebounds) and Ezra Ausar (13.8) also score in double figures.

ECU has dropped three of its past four contests.

But an unfazed Schwartz added, “All of these experiences we’re going through are really going to help us.”

–Field Level Media

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