The game between Appalachian and Samford on Thursday night in the Holmes Dome is about as big of a game that Appalachian will play this season. Elon has already wrapped up the North division crown, while Samford, Appalachian and Western Carolina will fight it out for the fourth overall seed for the SoCon tourney. Western and Appalachian play the same teams in reverse order in Samford and Chattanooga both at home, while Samford is on the road for both games. Whichever team can go 2-0 this weekend will win that fourth seed most likely, but is extremely possible that this thing gets real weird and we head to break this tie on some ridiculous rule the SoCon invented.
If Appalachian can go 2-0, that puts them at 10-8, and Samford could finish 10-8 at best, by beating Western, who would finish 9-7 in this scenario. Tiebreaker would go to Appalachian for beating second seeded Elon once.
If Appalachian can go 2-0, Samford goes 0-2, and Western goes 2-0, which would tie Appalachian and Western, the tiebreaker would go to Appalachian, once again for beating Elon once.
Appalachian could go 1-1 and still get the fourth seed, but it starts and begins with beating Samford. Without beating Samford, Appalachian’s seed will be out of their control.
Just for fun, if Western and Samford tie at 10-8, the tiebreaker would go to Samford for beating Charleston once.
Can the Mountaineers beat Samford. Of course, if they play to their best game and to their potential. In the first matchup, Samford played lights outs, hitting all the shots they needed to hit, quieting every Mountaineer run. The Bulldogs shot 55% from the field and 47% from three point land. Any time a shoots that well, it is going to be tough sledding beating them on the road, seven hours from your campus.
The early line is 3.5 points, favoring the Mountaineers. As has happened all year long, the line will move. Appalachian has covered in every game against North Division opponents at home this year, but has struggled recently against the South. Samford has covered the spread in twelve of its last fourteen games, with the other two games resulting in pushes. That is an incredible stretch that has to come to an end soon. We will watch the line and make our pick tomorrow.
In order to remain in contention for the bye, Appalachian did what it needed to do, even if it took them ten extra minutes. The Mountaineers led the entire first half, at one point by as many as twelve points, but as has been the case all season, Appalachian would relinquich that lead. After trailing by twelve points in the first half, Samford went on a long run that lasted close to twenty minutes of game time that put them ahead by eight points with 4:08 to play in the game. During that stretch, Samford outscored the Mountaineers 39-19.
When Samford grabbed their largest lead of the game with 4:08 to play in the second half, at 59-51, it was the last points they would score in regulation. Appalachian went on a 8-0 run themselves. Jamaal Trice scored five of his team leading 18 points during that stretch.
The first overtime period was an awful five minutes of basketball to watch. The two teams combined to shoot 1/9 in the period, with Appalachian’s two points coming on the free throw line by the most unlikely of players in Michael Obacha. The second overtime saw Appalachian score nine points in the first three minutes, and held on to win down the stretch as Samford failed to score in the final 2:18 of the game.
Appalchian improves its record against the spread to 14-9, which is our record as well. Saturday could bring about an interesting number consider the nature of how the first game between Appalachian and Chattanooga went down. Appalachian will be in a situation where they can win the game and secure the fourth seed and final bye heading into the SoCon tournament.