Appalachian looks to build on its win over UMKC when it faces off against South Carolina (RPI #196) on Wednesday evening. The Gamecocks (6-3) are an interesting team thus far in the season. They really do not own a quality win, but have had some questionable losses. The obvious one is their twelve point home loss to Elon. Another questionable loss is the nine point home loss to Clemson and thirdly, a twenty-four point loss to St. John’s in Queens, NY. This South Carolina team has the look of a very inconsistent team.
First year head coach Frank Martin, formerly of Kansas State is working through a lineup that has yet to find a true leading scorer. Four ‘Cocks are averaging in double figures, but the leading scorer, Brenton Williams who leads the team with 13.2 points per contest has only started in four games. Only three players on Martin’s roster have started all nine games, and they average a combined 19.4 points per game. As a team, the ‘Cocks average a riduculous 19 turnovers a game, but are outrebounding their opponents by over ten rebounds per game. This will be South Carolina’s first game since December 7th.
Appalachian benefited greatly from Mike Neal being eligible for the first time this season in their win over UMKC. Even though Neal’s numbers didn’t show it, you could almost hear it on the radio how this team has come together. I am trying not to get ahead of myself, as I believe this team could contend in the North Division . Only Davidson has separated itself from rest of the conference and the Mountaineers could be getting things together at the right time. Jay Canty continues to lead the team in scoring at 17.9 points per game and 6.4 rebounds. The Mountaineers feature three regular players shooting over 40% from behind the arc in Tab Hamilton, Nathan Healy and Jamaal Trice.
The spread has been set at nine points by one Vegas book, but we will wait until tomorrow for a more official line. South Carolina has been up and down against the line, while the Mountaineers are on fire, covering every lined game this season. If the number stays around nine points we will likely stick with the Mountaineers, and especially so if it creeps into the double digits. Currenty we are 5-1 on the season.
UPDATE: As of 1:15, spread has jumped up to 10.5 points in favor of South Carolina. This movement even garnered interest from twitter in this tweet.
@statmyles: Appalachian St 2-7, but a perfect 6-0 ATS, they are +10 road dogs (move from +9.5) vs S.Carolina, 5PM tip
Appalachian rallied from a double digit deficit twice in the first half before eventually falling at South Carolina. The Mountaineers trailed most of the game, but battled back from several occasions where South Carolina could have pulled away. Appalachian trailed by 7 points with 1:47, 1:34 and 0:37 remaining in the second half but still managed an opportunity to tie the game with a three pointer on their final possession. South Carolina missed several key free throws down the stretch, which gave Appalachian a chance at tying the game at the end of regulation. Unfortunately, some misplaced passes on their final possession hurried a three point attempt from Nathan Healy that fell well short. South Carolina iced the game with two made free throws after the missed shot from Appalachian and subsequent foul.
Appalachian mostly used a seven man rotation even though Chris Burgess logged four minutes. Every other player that saw action played at least twenty minutes. Three Mountaineers led all scorers with sixteen points. Jay Canty added eight rebounds to his sixteen points. Mike Neal, starting in his first game of the season, finished with sixteen points and grabbed seven rebounds while assisting on seven made baskets. Tevin Baskin added four rebounds and four blocks to his team leading point total.
Appalachian’s streak of covering spreads will eventually end, but here is hoping the Vegas sharks are making some money on the Mountaineers. For the seventh straight game this season, the Mountaineers covered the spread. Despite a 2-8 record, the Mountaineers are 7-0 in lined games. We made the right call, and moved our record to 6-1 on the season. There is a high likelihood that Presbyterian will not draw interest on a Saturday to deserve a spread, but we will keep our eyes peeled. More likely, is that Milligan will not garner a spread either in the next game. Once the conference season starts, the lines will have had time to reset themselves, and we will probably see more challenging picks during the conference season.