Western Carolina at Appalachian State
When: Thursday at 7 p.m.
Where: Holmes Convocation Center, Boone, N.C.
Heading into the game ... Western Carolina is a half-game behind UTC in the North Division, and App State is two behind the Mocs. It's a critical game in the race for first-round tournament byes. Each team has won four straight, all against the rest of the North.
Western Carolina wins if ... guards Mike Williams and Trey Sumler can come close to matching the backcourt production of ASU guards Donald Sims and Omar Carter.
Appalachian State wins if ... Sims has one of those memorable nights. He's easily capable of a 30-point game and could get 40 at home if he's hitting his 3s.
The X-factor is ... WCU center Richie Gordon. He's averaging 10 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Anything over his averages will be a bonus.
1. Ascent with Vincent—In three seasons at Appalachian State, women's coach Darcie Vincent has led the Mountaineers from SoCon afterthought to SoCon champions. ASU went 9-22 in 2008-09, her first season, but at 21-4 this year (15-2 SoCon), the Mountaineers have clinched a share of the regular-season title. "If you'd have told me three years ago that it would have happened this fast, I'd have said you're nuts," Vincent said. "I thought maybe four or five years, but not this fast."
2. BracketBuster bust—Wofford coach Mike Young had hopes of getting his team into one of 11 televised games of the ESPN BracketBuster series that will be played this weekend. The network chose to send Vermont to the College of Charleston and put that game on ESPNU. The Terriers will face Ball State in Spartanburg on Saturday without a TV crew. "We thought that we would have a good opportunity to get a TV game," Young said. "Ball State is very good. It's different preparation in that we don't know a lot about them. It's February, it's a college basketball game against a team from a great league."
3. Furman's free food—Lines for the concession stands in Furman's Timmons Arena are longer this season than ever before. That's due in part to the Paladins' play, and in part because the food is free—for everybody. Fans can grab up to four items—say, popcorn, a drink, a hot dog and a slice of pepperoni pizza per trip to the concession stand. And there's no limit to the number of trips fans can take. "It seemed like it was packed like I've never seen it before," said Davidson coach Bob McKillop, whose team lost before 2,800 in Timmons on Saturday. "Tongue in cheek, I think they were well-fed."
North Division SoCon All
UTC 10-5 .667 14-13 .519
Western Carolina 9-5 .643 13-13 .500
Appalachian State 8-7 .533 12-13 .480
UNC Greensboro 5-9 .357 5-20 .200
Elon 5-10 .333 11-15 .423
Samford 4-10 .286 12-14 .462
College of Charleston 12-2 .857 19-7 .731
Furman 11-4 .733 19-7 .731
Wofford 11-4 .733 14-12 .538
Davidson 7-8 .467 13-13 .500
The Citadel 5-9 .357 9-18 .333
Georgia Southern 0-14 .000 4-23 .148
Appalachian State 15-2 .882 21-4 .840
Samford 13-5 .722 20-7 .741
Elon 11-6 .647 17-9 .654
UNC Greensboro 10-7 .588 13-12 .520
UTC 10-7 .58813-13 .500
Georgia Southern 8-8 .500 11-14 .440
Furman 7-10 .412 11-15 .423
Davidson 6-11 .353 11-15 .423
College of Charleston 5-12 .294 8-18 .308
Western Carolina 5-12 .294 7-19 .269
Wofford 3-13 .188 7-17 .292
Upcoming Men's Schedule
UTC at Georgia Tech, 7:30
Georgia Southern at Davidson, 7
Wofford at Samford, 8
College of Charleston at The Citadel, 7
Western Carolina at Appalachian State, 7
Eastern Kentucky at Western Carolina, 2
Vermont at College of Charleston, 5
Furman at Samford, 5
Appalachian State at High Point, 7
Ball State at Wofford, 7
Davidson at Presbyterian, 7