The Game: No. 4 Appalachian State (14-15, 10-8 SoCon) vs. No. 12 Furman (7-23, 3-15 SoCon)
The Round: Quarterfinals/2013 Southern Conference Basketball Tournament
The Place: Asheville, N.C., U.S. Cellular Arena (7,826)
The Date and Time: Saturday, March 9, 2013, 2:30 p.m. EST
Quick Preview: No. 4 Appalachian State commences play in the quarterfinal round in the Southern Conference tournament for the first time since the 2010 season, which was the last time the Mountaineers found themselves battling it out for a Southern Conference title in a championship matchup with Wofford, only to drop a 56-51 decision.
The Mountaineers' opening-round opponent in Saturday's second quarterfinal matchup provided the shocker of the tournament so far, as the injury-riddled and No. 12-seeded Furman Paladins snapped a 10-game losing streak and got a 55-51 opening-round win over Samford in the second opening-round matchup of the tournament on Friday.
The Mountaineers and Paladins have met on 13 previous occasions in the Southern Conference tournament, with Appalachian State holding a 9-4 edge.
Saturday's meeting will be their first since the 2001 tournament. That year, a Donald Payne buzzer-beater propelled a defending champion Appalachian State club to a 58-56 win at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville.
Just a year earlier in the same venue, the Paladins and Mountaineers engaged in one of the more thrilling Southern Conference semifinal matchups in recent memory, as it was Tyson Patterson's six points in the waning moments that helped the gritty Apps overcome a late-game deficit to win, 60-56.
It would be the fuel the Apps needed to get by College of Charleston in the title game, producing ASU's first NCAA tourney appearance since the Bobby Cremins era.
ASU and Furman have also met in Asheville in a couple of memorable games, with a first-round matchup that saw the lower-seeded Mountaineers take a 78-73 win over Furman in 1995. That night saw the Apps get monster games from their frontcourt tandem of Chad McClendon and SoCon Freshman sensation Kareem Livingston en route to an upset win over the Joe Cantafio-led Paladins.
Perhaps the loss that stings Furman fans the most was that 1991 Southern Conference semifinal clash, which saw the Mountaineers upset the Paladins, the pre-tournament favorites, 100-82.
That Paladin club, led by Butch Estes, won 20 games and tied for the SoCon regular-season title. That team also knocked off 10th-ranked East Tennessee State during the regular season. But big nights from Tim Powers (17 points) and Steve Spurlock (13 points) propelled the Apps into a title-game date with East Tennessee State—where the Apps fell, 101-82.
A year earlier, Furman met ASU in the SoCon semifinals, but the Paladins were playing with heavy hearts on that particular afternoon. Furman point guard Neil Garrison lost his father to a heart attack in the previous evening's thrilling finish in Furman's 82-77 overtime win over former SoCon member Marshall.
The only matchup between the two in the regular season saw Appalachian State post a 72-66 win in Boone in a game in which Furman hung around despite falling behind by as many as 18 points in the first half.
For Furman, in its seven wins this season, Bobby Austin (7.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG) has usually played a major role. He posted a team-leading 17 points in the win over Samford in Friday's opening-round upset.
Furman, which gained the services of previously injured Stephen Croone (9.9 PPG, 3.9 APG) and Charlie Reddick (9.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG) in Friday's win over Samford, was certainly helped by their return. Colin Reddick (12.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG) enters the contest as Furman's lone player averaging in double figures.
The Mountaineers have fought tooth and nail to acquire that final bye for the tournament, as the Apps had to wait until the final day of the regular season to garner that No. 4 seed.
ASU played a school-record five overtime games during the 2012-13 season. The Mountaineers went 3-2 in those games, and a late-season double-overtime 70-67 win over Samford proved to be absolutely huge in helping the Apps qualify as the No. 4 seed heading to Asheville.
Canty, Baskin and Hamilton are just part of that strong cast of characters that fourth-year head coach Jason Capel brings into the 2013 tournament. Versatility-wise, the Mountaineers offer some of the toughest matchups of any of the tourney's 12 teams.
One of those tough matchups has been Nathan Healy (14.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG), who has come into his own during his senior campaign. Healy is the consummate team player and hard worker on both ends of the floor. Healy, an All-SoCon performer, will team with Canty in the paint for the Mountaineers, and it will be Michael Obacha (5.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG) rounding out that talented trio underneath for the Appalachian State.
The Mountaineers suffered through the first eight games of the season, going just 1-7 without their starting point guard Mike Neal (8.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 77 assists). But when he came back to the team in December, Neal and the Mountaineers became an instant contender.
One of the players that came up big down the stretch as a part of that Mountaineer backcourt was Jamaal Trice (6.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG). After battling a stomach illness for much of the early portion of the season, he seems to have rebounded to find his scoring touch in the latter portion of the campaign. His 18-point performance against Samford, including eight straight points down the stretch to help the Mountaineers to force overtime, showed his importance to this Capel-coached club.
This one has the potential to be a close quarterfinal matchup. If the Paladins play as well as they did in Boone, they could make this one interesting. However, I suspect Cinderella's slipper no longer fits. I expect the Mountaineers to move on to the semifinals Sunday.
Final Score Prediction: Appalachian State 66, Furman 58