Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season so far. I know I have! It’s hard not to when you get to spend time with family, eat tons of great food, watch a new Star Wars movie and, of course, cheer on your App State basketball team from inside the Dean Dome.
That UNC game feels like it happened forever ago. Part of the reason is because it was 11 days ago when they played which is equal to the amount of time that App has actually played basketball against another opponent. There is a lot that this team can build off of from that game and having time to recuperate and get your legs back should give us to cause to believe that App will take the floor fresh and hungry on Thursday afternoon when they open up their Sun Belt slate down in Monroe, LA.
For mid-major programs like App State, the non conference portion of the schedule is essentially a means to really get as well prepared as you can before running through the conference gauntlet. The Sun Belt, as we know, is a one team bid conference where only the tournament winner in early March gets a ticket to the dance so a strong performance is paramount if App (or any other Sun Belt team) want that distinction.
So far, App has had a season that, to this point, has fallen short of what they hoped it would be. They’ve had games where they’ve underwhelmed; especially against teams that they have every bit of ability to beat. However, this team has also come into games against teams like UNC and Texas in their building where they are way overmatched and have showed great resilience and fight.
Throw all of it out the window.
Regardless of whether you start off 0-11 or 11-0, conference games are a different animal. For the first time all season, the stakes become much more tangible and the outcomes more important. For App and their fellow Sun Belt members, the end goal to become conference champions comes into full swing, but in order to accomplish this, you have to qualify for the conference tournament in New Orleans.
Unlike the majority of conferences nationally, only 8 of the 11 participating teams will be able to qualify for the chance to compete with 67 other teams for a national championship. While teams in other conferences are worried about what seed positioning they’ll end up with, App is tasked with making sure that they finish with a high enough seed to earn them an invitation in the first place. That adds a whole other level of importance and intensity to each game played.
From a schedule perspective out of conference, Fox got this team prepared better than I’ve seen in a long time. No Division II games, an early season tournament, tough games against Furman and Charlotte, both of whom are rivals in a sense, this team played a game in a big neutral site arena, and most importantly, Fox scheduled elite competition in the likes of Texas and UNC. The schedule will do nothing, but benefit these kids, as they enter the grind of Sun Belt play, regardless of what their current record says.
It all starts this afternoon. App will tip against Monroe at 3:00 PM.
Cover Photo Credit: Tim Cowie from App State Sports
Read the full article here: This is where the Fun Begins…..