I’m busted. Outed! Cuff me, officer. I am a secret member of a clandestine cabal whose sole purpose is to undermine the relevance of Appalachian State basketball. Yes, we have business cards.
Our membership is small but penetrating. You see us when we discuss Sun Belt basketball without mentioning the Mountaineers. You feel us when we ignore the brilliance of senior guard Adrian Delph. You hear us when we refer to Appalachian State (when at all) as “the defending Sun Belt TOURNAMENT champion.” We are subtle in our campaign of disrespect.
But our mandate has become far more difficult, because the Mountaineers simply refuse to stop winning Sun Belt basketball games. Appalachian State, led by Delph and underrated star guard Justin Forrest, have won four straight – crippling wins against hated rival Georgia Southern, the puzzling Georgia State and the crafty Chanticleers. At the second of this writing, the Mountaineers are 6-2 in Sun Belt play and crouch in second place behind 4-1 Arkansas State.
The Red Wolves travel the 616 mile trek to Boone on Thursday. Winner gets first place.
It’s difficult to pin down these Mountaineers. They don’t score a pile of points (67.5 per contest), which is lowest in the conference. They’ve sunk more three-pointers than anyone in the Sun Belt – but at just a 31% clip. Appalachian State’s free throw percentage is 64% – worst in the SBC and 329th nationally. Adrian Delph is pouring 17 buckets and nearly five boards per game (and has scored 25, 29, and 24 his last three), but nobody else has breeched double figures (Michale Almonacy and Donovan Gregory come close at nine).
How are these guys doing it? Maybe we’d know if Operation Mountaineers Irrelevance wasn’t such a smashing success. But you can surmise that some of Appalachian State’s success is grit driven – two of its last four wins are one-point 61-60 nail-biters. Five of its victories came at the expense of Sun Belt Basement, so perhaps the schedule helped? What’s certain is that the Mountaineers put up the stiffest defense in the Sun Belt – a 45th ranked 63.3. That’s damn stingy.
It hasn’t been easy, ghosting Appalachian State. They’ve played too well, and they are the defending Sun Belt CHAMPIONS, after all. But if the Red Wolves escape Holmes Convocation Center, we might be printing jackets to match the business cards.