The Battle for the Fourth Bye comes down to this. Samford needs to only win this game and they will get the bye. If Appalachian State beats Samford and Chattanooga, they will get the bye. This is how the bye is decided.
Of course, it is not completely how the bye is decided. Both Western Carolina and Chattanooga can still get the fourth bye. However, this is the game that dictates what matters from this point forward. While Western Carolina and Chattanooga are battling in Cullowhee, they will be keeping an eye on the scoreboard to see the result of this one.
The Bulldogs beat Appalachian State 72-68 earlier this year. Raijon Kelly leads Samford in scoring with 14.8 points per game and also has 4.8 assists per game. He has made his way into the discussion for the All SoCon teams. Kelly is shooting 43.4% from three point range. Kelly also averages almost one steal per game. His assists to turnover is 1.4.
Tim Williams ia also a contender for an All SoCon team and for Freshman of the Year. He's averaging 7.0 rebounds per game, and 14.3 points per game. He is shooting 54% from the floor. He's also come up with 1.2 blocks per game.
Williams is not the only contender for an All Freshman team on the Bulldogs. Clide Geffrard Jr. is also one of the top freshman in the league. He's averaging 11.4 points per game and is second on the team in rebounding, with 4.4 boards per contest. Tyler Hood scored fourteen against UNCG last time out, and is averaging 8.2 points per game. He is shooting 36.5% from three point range.
Samford is last in the league in OR% and is seventh in DR%. The Bulldogs leads the league in eFG% at 54.5%. They are shooting 41.5% from three point range, which is also tops in the SoCon. They are the best in the league at forcing turnovers too.
Appalachian State is lead by Nathan Healy. He leads the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game, rebounding at 7.6 boards per contest, steals with 1.9 per game, and blocks with 1.4. He is among the SoCon leaders in all those categories as well. Healy also is shooting 40.2% from three point range and nearly 50% from the floor.
Mike Neal leads the team in assists with 3.4 per game. He's also averaging nine points per game and 1.1 steals per game. He was out early in the year, and Neal has been playing well since he returned, and the Mountaineers have been much better since then as well.
Jay Canty averages 14.1 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, along with 2.8 assists per game. He is second in all of those categories on the team. Canty and Healy combined are both excellent contributors to the team and will have to have huge games in the future. Tab Hamilton may be the most explosive three point shooter on the team. Healy is even better percentage-wise. However, Hamilton is shooting 38.3% from three point range. He averages 9.9 points per game.
Appalachian State is mediocre in rebounding percentages. They are the third best team in the SoCon in three point field goal percentage defense. They are ranked second to last in the conference in forcing turnovers.
LEAD PIPE LOCK PREDICTIONS THAT ARE SURE TO GO WRONG
--The Mountaineers will make some threes.
--The Bulldogs will challenge the Mountaineers three point defense.
--Williams and Geffrard will have big games in the lane, and Kelly will also have a decent game.
--Samford 67, Appalachian State 65. This game is as 50/50 as they come. Who knows who will win this game? With the way The Citadel walked into Boone and won last week, it makes me wonder if the Mountaineers have quit on the season. Maybe they have. That's the reason that I picked Samford. Healy will have a solid game, and Williams will too. This is going to be huge. In the end, Samford locks down the fourth bye.