Appalachian decided its fate Saturday with a lethargic end to the regular season. The Mountaineers lost to rival Western Carolina in Cullowhee by a final of 83-75. With the loss, their tournament future was clear despite several other conference games remaining on Saturday evening. The Mountaineers finished the season fifth in the SoCon North Standings. They will play College of Charleston on Friday at 11:30am in Asheville, NC. The Mountaineers regular season record stands at 12-17 and 7-11 in conference play. The seven conference wins were over each team in the North and Furman twice. The Mountaineers five non-conference wins were over Winthrop, Tennessee Tech, Campbell, Milligan and Lees-McRae.
Clearly, a disappointing season for a team that will have no players on the all-conference team and will be lucky to get Mike Neal on the all-freshman team. Appalachian was picked to finish second in the North division and senior Omar Carter was selected as the preseason player of the year. The Mountaineers final RPI number will be in the 275 range. Appalachian regressed from last years 16-15 record and 10-8 record in the SoCon. Losing Donald Sims was obviously a huge reason for the decline as Appalachian could never find a consistent scorer. Omar Carter is the only player averaging more than ten points a game.
Appalachian got big games from two of its seniors as they knocked off Winthrop as part of the ESNPU BracketBusters. Ike Butts scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Omar Carter scored 15 points and added six rebounds himself. Nathan Healy and Tab Hamilton chipped in 13 points a piece.
Around the conference, Elon dropped an overtime game at home to Western Carolina and Samford held off Furman down the stretch to create a four team log jam in the North division. Two games separate second through fifth place in the standings, and there is a possibility that we could see a four-way tie before the season is over with. Elon faces the two teams that lead their respective divisions. Samford has two road games remaining. Appalachian also faces two games on the road, while Western Carolina’s remaining schedule features two home games. If Elon and Samford lose their remaining games, they finish 8-10. Appalachian could split its two games, while Western Carolina wins their two games, and we would be stuck with a four way tie. The tie is broken by the teams records against all of the tied teams. Elon would be 2-4. Samford 3-3. Appalachian 3-3. Western Carolina 4-2. It is hard to believe that Western Carolina could jump from fifth to second in a matter of days.
UNCG 10-6 Woff, @Elon (Clinched top 2 seed)
Elon 8-8 @Dav, UNCG
Samford 8-8 @WCU, @UTC
App St 7-9 @Cit, @WCU
WCU 6-10 Sam, App St
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.