I would be surprised if there was a line for this game at all. Winthrop has only been lined three times this season and they are 1-2 against the spread. They have had almost their entire schedule either being a PK or NL. However, if there is one, I would expect Appalachian to be favored by close to 10 points.
For the first time all season we had some big movements to the line for the Winthrop game. The game opened with the Mountaineers being favored by 6 points. Two hours later, which was about an hour before tipoff, the line moved on some sites to as low 4 points. I liked the spread of six, and still felt the same way when the line droppped. It was obvious early in the game that Winthrop could not contain Ike Butts, who scored 15 points and snagged 15 rebounds. Winthrop was long and lean and that frusturated the Mountaineers into some second half mistakes and kept the game fairly close down the stretch. Appalachian led by as many as 16 points in the first half, but allowed Winthrop to take a two point lead in the second frame. Appalachian eventually won 76-64, so the spread did not come into play. My record on the season improved to 10-12 with two games remaining in the regular season.
According to ESPNU’s Bracketbusters website, the pairings will be released tomorrow for the 10th annual three day event. This season BracketBusters has increased its number of teams from 114 to 142. This makes it incredibly difficult to guess who Appalachian might be matched up against. There are only 13 games that will be televised either by ESPN, ESPN2 or online by ESPN3. I have no doubts in my mind that Appalachian will not be in one of those televised games. In the past, those teams that are not selected for a televised game will normally be paired according to overall record and geographic proximity to each other. Below I have compiled a list of 12 teams that I think Appalachian could be matched up with in random order.
Boston University (11-12)
James Madison (10-12)
Wright State (11-12)
Tennessee State (13-10)
Morehead State (12-11)
Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne (10-11)
Remember, the team that Appalachian hosts this year, they will play on the road later in 2012 as part of the 2012-2013 season. In the past, geography has played a major key in this game when Appalachian’s record was right around .500, like it is this season. Appalachian’s most heralded appearance in this event was a victory in 2007 over Wichita State. Since, Appalachian has played Niagra (2008), Winthrop (2009), Tennessee Tech (2010) and High Point (2011). I have seen two websites projecting UC-Davis and Central Arkansas as possible opponents. If I had to narrow my list to three teams from the above list, I would choose James Madison, Liberty & UNC-Wilmington.
After all the prognosticating, I was dead wrong and not even close to predicting Appalachian’s Bracketbuster opponent. I discounted all teams that Appalachian had ever played in the event, which in the end, was the absolute wrong approach. It has become obvious over the years, when out of conference teams are matched up for FCS football playoffs or Bracketbusters, the powers that be love to matchup the Southern Conference and the Big South. Appalachian drew the Winthrop Bulldogs for a 2pm tipoff on February 18th in Boone. Appalachian lost the actual BracketBuster game in Rock Hill in 2009, but returned the favor the following season in Boone with a nineteen point victory.