The Mountaineers are 3-1 in SoCon play. The Mocs are 2-2. Of course, the Mountaineers three wins come over teams with a combined 5-9 SoCon record and only one was on the road- at 1-4 Wofford. The Mocs two wins have come over teams that are a combined 3-6, but both of them were on the road. Appalachian State's one loss was at Western Carolina and the Mocs two losses were at home against Davidson and at College of Charleston.
The best win for Appalachian State? Either at Wofford, or at home against Elon. The Mocs best win? Probably at Samford, who is 3-1 in SoCon play.
In other words, the Mocs SoCon schedule has been tougher than the Appalachian State schedule so far. Then again, the Mocs have lost to the two best teams on their schedule. So who knows?
Appalachian State has won five games in a row and six of seven. The Mocs have won five out of seven. So these are two hot teams. This ought to be a very competitive game.
The Mountaineers are a solid rebounding team. They are 88th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. They are 188th in offensive rebounding percentage. So they are a good rebounding team and the Mocs have been struggling to find a way to rebound the ball in SoCon games, despite doing very well at that early in the season.
The Mountaineers defense ranks among the worst in the country. They rank 315th in the country in eFG% defense. They rank 337th in the country in two point shot percentage defense, at 55.0%. That's not good. But Appalachian State is getting better all the time. They rank as one of the better three point shooting teams in the country, shooting 36.6% from long distance.
Appalachian State has Mike Neal back from injury earlier in the year. He's been back for seven games and they have won six of them. He is averaging 10.6 points per game and 3.7 assists per contest. Neal seems to be the glue person for this team, as the team has rapidly improved since Neal has been back.
Jay Canty and Nathan Healy have been doing good work on the inside. Healy is shooting 54.3% from the floor. He also is shooting 44.6% from three point range. He is averaging 6.9 rebounds per game, to go along with 14.3 points per contest. He's also come up with 22 blocks on the season, most on the team.
Canty is averaging 6.3 rebounds per game along with a team high 15.3 points per game. Canty has been very good. He also leads the team in assists. He is averaging 2.9 per game (which is less than Neal), but has 43 on the year.
Tab Hamilton is the Mountaineers other excellent three point shooter. He has made a team high 26 threes, and is shooting 36.1% from long distance. He is averaging 10.2 points per contest. Tevin Baskin is averaging 10.3 points per game in just 20.5 minutes per game. He is also averaging 4.7 rebounds per game.
Jamaal Trice makes 35.7% of his threes and scores 6.9 points per game. Trice is a threat to make a bucket load of threes if the Mocs don't guard him.
The Mocs have been struggling in giving up too many threes this year. Will they be able to slow down Neal, Healy, Hamilton, and Trice from three? That is asking a lot from this defense. The Mocs have been hot from three point range themselves in recent games, with Farad Cobb, Rico White, and Dontay Hampton getting hot from long range. On top of that, players like Gee McGhee are starting to come into their own. Z Mason has been good all season long. On top of that, Drazen Zlovaric has been ice cold most of the year. Will this be the game where he breaks out?
The Mocs blowout loss to College of Charleston brought the Mocs back to work harder. The Cougars dominating performance really made the Mocs look bad. The only thing to do was move on. We'll find out how much the Mocs have moved on in this one.
LEAD PIPE LOCK PREDICTIONS THAT ARE SURE TO GO WRONG
--The Mocs will get back to good rebounding, and outrebound the Mountaineers....kind of well.
--Mason and Zlovaric will have good games. Zlovaric will have his best game yet.
--The Mountaineers will make a ton of threes.
--The Mocs will commit too many turnovers and the Mountaineers won't force any- something Appy has gotten good at in conference play.
--Mocs 79, Appalachian State 76. This game is going to be an offensive showdown, as the Mountaineers offense is very good. We'll have to see if the Mocs have what it takes to win another tight game down the stretch. They may just have it figured out. This game will tell us all a lot about where the Mocs are right now after the blowout loss to College of Charleston. We'll see. Big game for both teams in the North race.