Appalachian hosts Elon at approxiamately 4:30pm Saturday afternoon in a game that will have tiebreaker implications as far the SoCon tournament goes. Realizing this is only the third conference game for both teams this season, both teams know each game between divisional opponents has been critical the last several years. Both teams stand 1-1 in the conference standings and could really use a win for confidence. A 2-1 conference record looks and feels a lot better than 1-2. This is the first home conference game of the season for Appalachian. Elon will be playing their second conference road game.
Elon has been playing like team that prefers a slower pace and does a really good job of taking care of the basketball. Yes, Elon averages close to 70 points per game, but have only managed 54.5 points per contest in two conference games. The Phoenix have also only committed twelve turnovers in each conference game, against Charleston and Georgia Southern, both members of the Southern Division. Elon has used the same starting lineup in all but two games, and are led by forward Lucas Troutman and sharp shooting guard Jack Isenbarger. Troutman averages 14.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Isenbarger averages scoring 14.6 per game, and leads the team in three pointers and free throws made. Sebaston Koch is also deadly from three point range shooting 44.6% behind the arc while also snagging 4.9 rebounds per game.
For Appalachian, the season has slowly turned around for the positive. Part of that turn around is having their starting point guard back in Mike Neal. Even though Neal has not put up monster numbers, the team has a better chemistry with him in the game. Neal has averaged 7.6 points and 3.8 assists per game. Tevin Baskin has been turning it up the level play as well in the last few games. He has seen increased playing time and has pushed his averaged to 9.5 points per game. Nathan Healy has continued to shoot well from all points on the floor. Healy is a 55% shooter from the field, 44% three point shooter and 88% free throw shooter. Jay Canty continues to lead the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game, but has fallen off recently while he battles a sore thumb.
We are guessing the spread to be somewhere in the 3.5 to 6 point range in favor of Elon. The Phoenix has a much higher RPI, and defeated South Carolina, while the Mountaineers fell just short. However, Elon has not won in Boone since 2007, and is 2-13 all time in Boone. Appalachian played perhaps its best game of the season last year in a 15 point home win over the Phoenix. We will update in the morning on the actual number. Appalachian is still the only undefeated team against the spread in college basketball at 8-0 on the season. Our picks are 7-1 on the season.
12:18 AM UPDATE: Elon opens as a 1.5 point favorite. We had some slight premonitions that we were off in this game, and that we could be looking at a pick’em. However, Appalachian at +1.5 at home, where Elon has only won twice in fifteen previous attempts, seems pretty fair. An easy play would be to buy 0.5 points down on the Apps to ensure a push. We will update our play in the morning once Vegas has time to change they line if they seem necessary.
Appalachian trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half, but rallied for their second straight SoCon win in a 80-70 victory over Elon. The Phoenix started the game with everything falling. At one point, they had hit seven of their first nine shots to take a quick twelve point lead. In fact Elon led by twelve points on three different occasions in the first half, at 21-9, 29-17 and 31-19. Appalachian went on a 15-3 run to end the half, and tie the score a 34.
The second half was tight early on, but Appalachian eventually stretched the lead out on the back of its superb three point shooting. Five different Mountaineers combined to hit ten threes. Nathan Healy and Mike Neal each hit three apiece. Neal hit every one of his attempts. Appalachian finished with five players in double figures, led by Healy’s 22 points, 8 rebounds and four steals. Tevin Baskin came off the bench and continued his strong play with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Mike Neal added 17 points and three assists. Tab Hamilton added ten points, but his best work was done on Elon star Jack Isenbarger, who was held to nine points, making only one three pointer. Ryley Beaumont has the game of his life, hitting 11/13 shots for 26 points while grabbing nine rebounds.
Appalachian has now won four straight games and five of six. Even more impressive, Appalachian has now covered in all of its lined games this season. Eventually oddsmakers will figure out Appalachian, currently 9-0 against the spread. Our pick was correct again and we have improved to 8-1 on the season. Greensboro is next at home and Appalachian will most likely be favored against the struggling Spartans, who are 3-11 on the season, and 0-2 in SoCon play. We believe Appalachian will be favored by 3 to 5 points. As usual, we will update the line in the morning.