The most confusing team in the SoCon will make one of its longest road trips in conference play when Georgia Southern faces Appalachian on Thursday evening in Boone. The Eagles have struggled on the road this season, only posting two wins against Kennesaw State and Virginia Tech. Since the win at Virginia Tech, a team who the Mountaineers lost to three weeks prior to Southern’s win, the Eagles have gone winless on the road and have posted some pretty ugly losses. Southern has lost every true road game since and have averaged losing by 14.7 points per game. Southern has struggled when they have had trouble scoring this season. The Eagles have won all but one game where they have scored 62 points or more this season, and have lost all but one when they have scored 62 or fewer. That is a rather low magic number, while Appalachian has lost every game where the opponent has scored 72 points.
The Eagles feature three double figure scorers in Eric Ferguson (14.2), CJ Reed (11.7) and Tre Bussey (10.7), but beyond that, the productions falls off considerably. Their next three highest scoring players combine for 16.3 points per game. The Eagles are also a team that fouls a lot compared to their opponents, fouling the opponent close to eighteen times per game. That is an average good enough for a single bonus in both halves of play. In turn, the Eagles do not draw fouls well enough, and it shows as they are out-shot on the free throw line by over three percent.
Appalachian is a team that draws exactly nineteen fouls a game and shoots well from the free throw line, but can be streaky when they do not frequent the line enough in a game. Evidence is provided in their last two games, losses at Samford (11/18) and Chattanooga (16/23). Both games were decided by four points or fewer and another free throw here and there could have been huge in the closing minutes. Appalachian needs to own the glass on Thursday, as the Eagles only average just over thirty rebounds a game, while the Mountaineers average nearly thirty-six rebounds a game. The Mountaineers have out-rebounded Georgia Southern on the season by 21, in one less game.
Our first line we saw gave the Mountaineers an eight point advantage. Our first feeling was that eight was somewhat of a high number, until we started researching Georgia Southern. The Eagles are bad on the road, winning only two of nine games, and are coming off a terrible performance to the worst team in the league in The Citadel. That was coming off of beating Charleston and Davidson in back to back games. However, all those games came at home, and the Eagles are back on the road, and have to deal with a very chilly Boone climate off the court. History has shown that Georgia Southern teams have not fared well coming to the mountains, across all sports, when the weather outside is below 40 degrees. Appalachian has won five in a row over Georgia Southern at home. We are not confident about the eight points, despite Appalachian playing well this past weekend outside of a six minute stretch in Chattanooga. We would like to see a spread of 6.5 to be comfortable, but we are not likely to see it. I have a feeling the line might take off toward 9 once the day wears on. We will update throughout the day as usual, if the line does change.
12:38 PM UPDATE: Line has edged downward to -7.5 for the Apps. Leaning toward an Eagle cover.
5:16 PM UPDATE: Earlier this afternoon, the line dropped another whole point, all the way to -6.5, and that was the number we were looking for. It’s been a bore this year picking games, but we will ride the Apps at home.
For the second time in a week, Appalachian was forced to overtime by an inferior opponent by losing a double digit lead in the second half. This time around, Appalachian lost a 17 point lead with 8:44 to play before holding off Georgia Southern in overtime. Last week, Appalachian lost in overtime after losing a nineteen point lead on the road in Chattanooga. This time the Mountaineers managed to win, against one of the least talented teams in the conference.
When Appalachian took a 52-35 lead with 8:44 to play, the lead was large, but never seemed safe the entire game. This game was one where Georgia Southern was a couple of made shots away from making a run, and turning the game around. Over the next six minutes of play, Appalachian could not score, much less get the ball across halfcourt without having to work out of a trap. The Eagles managed to trim the lead slowly, as Appalachian could only manage five points in the last eight plus minutes of the game. In overtime, Appalachian “outscored” Southern 7-5, which was good enough on this night.
So you ask, how did this lead evaporate? This game may be better explained than “The Chatty Collapse.” Jay Canty re-injured the same thumb he has had trouble with all season, and only played two minutes. Midway through the second half, Mike Neal suffered a foot injury, that was awkward to say the least. Neal took a contested three pointer and he drew contact from an Eagle defender, but no foul was called. Neal landed off balance, and tried to walk the injury off before crumbling to the floor in agony. Neal would not return to the game, and Appalachian’s lead would begin shrinking. Head Coach Jason Capel was forced to run with a lineup that included Chris Burgess, Tab Hamilton, Jamaal Trice, Nathan Healy, Tevin Baskin and Michael Obacha. Six players split minutes for the remainder of the game and overtime. This, after a long road trip that included another overtime game. We wrote a few days ago how this team was an injury away being run ragged as far as minutes played per player. Neal is considered on the plus side of questionable for Saturday against Davidson, while Canty is considered closer to doubtful than questionable for Saturday.
The spread came down to 6.5 points in favor of Appalachian, which would have worked out just fine had the Mountaineers not lost both Neal and Canty. So, after covering their first ten games, Appalachian has been figured out by Vegas and has dropped three straight covers. Two of those covers leave a sour taste in your mouth, as the Mountaineers had both games covered in the second half with ease, before falling apart and going to overtime. Appalachian is now 10-3 against the spread and our picks are 9-4. Depending on the injuries for the Mountaineers, I expect Davidson to be favored big time on Saturday, perhaps as many as 11 or 12 points. Davidson has not been a team that has ever played well against the spread, so this line will be especially intriguing on Saturday morning.