College of Charleston (13-10, 5-7 SoCon) at Appalachian State (9-12, 5-6 SoCon), 2p.m.
Both Appalachian State and the College of Charleston are coming off tough losses on Thursday night, as the Cougars dropped a heartbreaking 99-98 decision at Elon in double overtime, while Appalachian State was nipped, 53-52, by North Division foe Samford on the home floor.
The Mountaineers and Cougars have forged quite a rivalry over the past few seasons. The two teams split the season series a year ago, with the Cougars posting a 73-64 win at TD Arena last season, while the Mountaineers posted an 85-70 win over the Cougars at the Holmes Center.
The two teams will be meeting for the 28th time on Saturday afternoon. The Cougars hold a 16-11 all-time series edge.
Just when it seemed Appalachian was coming of age as a team, the Mountaineers suffered a setback. After going toe-to-toe with Davidson a few weeks ago, it appeared this Appalachian State team was ready to take that next step.
However, ASU has started slow of the past month, and on Thursday night against Samford head coach Jason Capel's Mountaineers looked lethargic from the tip-off to the final buzzer.
College of Charleston continues to adjust to life without Bobby Cremins.
Cremins is a name that is a name recognizable to both programs, having coached at College of Charleston for the past six seasons and taking the Cougars to three SoCon title games.
In his six seasons as head coach at Appalachian State (1975-81), Cremins took the Apps to a regular-season and conference tournament titles in 1979, helping the program garner one its two NCAA Tournament bids.
Cremins, of course, has taken an indefinite leave of absence for medical purposes, and now the Cougars are under the leadership interim head coach Mark Byington. Byington is 1-2 on the sidelines through his three games as head coach. Since Christmas, the Cougars have lost nine of their last 12 basketball games.
This game is huge for Appalachian State, as it jockeys for position in the jumbled North Division. The Mountaineers still entertain real aspirations of garnering a North Division title and, at worst, a bye for the upcoming Southern Conference Tournament as the second-place team in the SoCon North.
To do that after Thursday night's loss at Samford, Saturday's game against the Cougars becomes a must win.
The past couple of games, Capel has brought his leading scorer, Omar Carter (13.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG), off the bench. Carter is coming off a performance against the Bulldogs in which he posted just six points, while dishing out four assists. Against the Cougars last season, Carter posted a pair of double-figure scoring performances, posting 10 and 13 points.
Carter was the SoCon's preseason Player of the Year, and if the Mountaineers hope to garner a division title, or even a bye as a result of finishing second in the North Division, he's going to have to step up and be more of an active leader the rest of the way for the Black and Gold.
Carter is joined in double figure scoring average by Jamaal Trice (11.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG) and Andre Williamson (10.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG). Trice has been ASU's top perimeter shooter so far this season, entering the matchup against the Cougars having connected on a team-best 40 triples so far this season.
Trice is shooting 41.2 percent (40-for-97) from three-point range this season. And Williamson continues to get it done on the defensive end, leading the Southern Conference in blocked shots with 34 swats on the season.
One of the players that has been a real bright spot for the Mountaineers as of late in the paint has been Nathan Healy (4.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG), who matched a career-high with 14 points in the loss to Samford on Thursday night. Healy has been one of the players that Capel has singled out for his strong play.
Likely to round out the starting five this afternoon for the Mountaineers will be Tab Hamilton (7.7 PPG,1.4 RPG) and point guard Mike Neal (6.6 PPG, 3.1 APG, 2.1 RPG). Neal has done a nice job of handling the point guard responsibilities this season. He is coming off a solid performance against Samford, in which he posted eight points and three assists—but turned the ball over four times.
Hamilton has the ability to score points in bunches, as evidenced by his season-high 22 points in the 65-63 loss at Chattanooga a few weeks ago. The last time out, Hamilton posted seven points in the loss to the Bulldogs. He has scored in double figures on six occasions this season.
The top performers off the bench for ASU have been Ike Butts (7.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG) in the frontcourt, along with the aforementioned Carter, who will likely come off the bench once again on Saturday afternoon against the Cougars.
That allows ASU to have some scoring punch coming into the game, and it also allows the team to have an immediate jolt in the lineup after getting off to some slow starts as of late. G.J. Vilarino (3.3 PPG,1.6 RPG) and Mitch Woods (1.2 PPG, 1.6 APG) also provide depth at point guard.
College of Charleston enters the matchup being led this season by senior Antwaine Wiggins (16.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG), who is one of three Cougars averaging in double figures entering this afternoon's contest.
Wiggins was not know for his scoring coming into the season, but was known as one of the league's best one-on-one defenders. In two meetings against the Mountaineers last season, Wiggins scored 14 and seven points. Wiggins leads the team with 49 triples on the season.
Joining Wiggins in double figures entering this afternoon's contest will be Andrew Lawrence (13.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG) and Trent Wiedeman (11.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG). Lawrence is a strong perimeter threat, ranking just behind his teammate Wiggins in that respect, with 47 treys this season.
On the interior, Wiedeman remains one of the SoCon's top men on the backboards, ranking second in the league in rebounding average per game.
The starting five will be rounded out by point guard Nori Johnson (3.6 PPG, 1.3 RPG), who has continued to improve in his full-time starting responsibilities since the injury to Anthony Stitt.
Adejhi Baru (8.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG), another newcomer, has been a talent in progress for the Cougars. When he realizes his full potential, he will no doubt become one of the best frontcourt players in the SoCon.
Coming off the Cougars' bench this afternoon, Matt Sundberg (7.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and Jordan Scott (4.0 PPG, 1.1 RPG) remain the top players as reserves in the backcourt. Sundberg is a lethal outside shooter, with 33 of his 51 field goals on the season coming from three-point land. Scott is one of the best athletes on the Cougars' roster.
This game should be another classic, but as good as CofC has been since joining the league, they have traditionally struggled at ASU with a 5-5 mark. However, the Cougars have been the better team in the series as of late, having won five of the last seven meetings.
The Cougars will drop their second-straight game at the Holmes Center this afternoon, however.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: APPALACHIAN STATE 77, COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON 72