Appalachian concludes its homestand with a game against UNC-Greesboro on Monday night. Greensboro is having a very tough season, standing at 3-11 and 1-2 in conference play. The Spartans were considered a team that could win the North Division, but have not played that well. They have lost several plays to injuries recently and are short handed at the wrong time of the year. Trevis Simpson has recently had an ankle injury and a concussion, according to uncgspartans.com. The school says that Simpson is a game-time decision on Monday. Korey Van dussen broke his wrist in practice recently and he will be out for a month or more. Freshman center RJ White is also out for the season.
Darrell Armstrong has been carrying the Spartans recently. Armstrong averages 16.6 points per game but has only started four games. Armstrong has scored in double figures in all but two games this season, and tied a season high with 25 points against Western Carolina on Saturday. Simpson averages 18.0 points per game and is easily an all-SoCon performer when he is healthy. Greensboro has a very athletic team and they are tough to defend in transition. Last year, Greensboro won two of the three meetings. Greensboro overcame a huge deficit to beat Appalachian at home in overtime, and then overpowered the Mountaineers in the SoCon tourney.
We are thinking the Mountaineers should be favored here. Eventually Vegas is going to figure out Appalachian. A team cannot go an entire season covering the spread every games. Eventually things will start evening out. Regardless, we are thinking Appalachian is going to be 3 to 5 point favorite tomorrow night. We will update the spread throughout the day on Monday.
5:24 UPDATE: It took all afternoon to get a line up, despite several other SoCon games being out up last night, the Appalachian game was slow to get line. One site lined it at -4.5, but our primary book has it at -5.5 in favor of the Mountaineers. I think that is a very slippery number, and tonight could be the night the Apps lose their cover streak. However, we are going to ride the Mountaineers until they burn us. We will take the Mountaineers.
6:05 UPDATE: For what it is worth, the line has moved to -4.
After falling behind by as many as ten points in the first half, Appalachian exploded for 51 second half points en route to its fifth straight win, 83-70 over UNC-Greensboro. Appalachian came out of halftime down seven, and went on a 18-2 run that surged them ahead by nine points. Appalachian encountered several small runs by the Spartans in the second half, but responded every time with a huge basket of their own.
Perhaps the most noticeable statistic that gives some credit to Appalachian, is how well they have shot free throws and taken care of the basketball recently. Appalachian only turned the ball over nine times against Greensboro, while also getting to the free throw line thirty-four times. Appalachian converted twenty-eight of its free throws for a 82% clip for the game. On the other hand, Greensboro only hit eleven of their eighteen free throw attempts while Appalachian was making its run.
If there is one concern with this recent streak, is that the team is playing a very short bench. Jamaal Trice continues to play limited minutes off the bench due to illnesses. Michael Obacha played twelve minutes, the most action he has seen, mostly by staying out of foul trouble. Chris Burgess played twelve minutes as well, and hit a huge three pointer in the first half. Outside of those three, the rest of team is playing a large number of minutes each night. Nathan Healy (37), Tab Hamilton (35), and Jay Canty (32) and Mike Neal (32) are all averaging well over thirty minutes the last few games. Tevin Baskin played 29 minutes off the bench against UNCG. The scary thing, is this team is an injury away from being in real trouble due to depth.
Four Mountaineers scored in double figures, which will probably continue as long as they are playing thirty-plus minutes each game out. Healy led all scorers with 24 points while also snagging nine rebounds and swatting three shots. Mike Neal scored nineteen points, with nine of those coming on the three point line. Baskin added sixteen points, four rebounds and three steals. Canty was the final double digit scorer for the Apps with 14 points and nine rebounds. Tab Hamilton continues to struggle to find his shot, but has played good defense the last two games, first chasing Elon’s Jack Isenbarger on Saturday, and then playing against a very athletic group of wing players from Greensboro.
For Greensboro, Trevin Simpson did play, but did not start. Simpson finished with 22 points in 27 minutes. Simpson easily has one of the best jumpshots coming off the dribble in the conference. Derrell Armstong finished with 20 points, but no other Spartan scored in double figures. Greensboro is a dangerous team thanks to Simpson and Armstrong, and can beat any team in this league on any given night. The rest of thir roster is a motley crew. Nobody really scares you. Simpson and Armstrong combined for sixteen of the twenty-three Spartan field goals.
Finally, after a line that was posted late in the day, and saw a lot of action in the hours leading up to the game, it finally settled down right where we figured it would. Although the book we use says the final line was -5.5, we know it was closer to 4 as tipoff approached. Regardless, Appalachian covered again, for the tenth time this season. The Mountaineers have yet to lose a game against the spread this season. It is really hard to believe, that a team with an RPI in the high 280’s has yet to lose against the spread. We know this will eventually even out, but for the time being, we are going to enjoy this most unlikely of statistics. The thought is that Appalachian could be considered favorites in its next two road games at Chattanooga and Samford. If we have to guess, a pick’em could be very likely on Saturday at the Roundhouse.