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Mid-Major Focus: Appalachian State

Each week CC will take a closer look at an under-appreciated team that Louisville fans can scoff at because of what they didn't do 20 years ago, but who in reality would probably dominate the Cardinals if they faced them on the hardwood tomorrow.

For the record I've always hated the term "mid-major," but until I come up with something better that takes the nation by storm, I suppose it will have to suffice. The same goes for "Super Bowl."

Team: Appalachian State Mountaineers

Conference: Southern Conference

Coach: Houston Fancher (7th season) (92-100, 45-42 Southern Conference)

Has not led the Mounties to the NCAA Tournament since taking over as Head Coach in 2000.

Southern Conference Coach of the Year for the '02-'03 season in which the Mountaineers won the regular season conference title, but fell in the tournament championship game.  Fancher's squad also fell in last year's SoCon title game.

Record: 11-3, 3-0

Best Win: 80-69 over Virginia on Dec. 19.

Worst Loss: 37-69 to Virginia Tech on Dec. 10.

Standout(s): Junior forward Donte Minter was forced to miss ASU's first eight games since he enrolled at the university this summer and thus was forced to sit out two semesters. Since Minter became eligible on Dec. 14 the Mountaineers have run off six straight victories, and captured the championship at the San Juan Shootout where Minter scored 27 points to lift ASU over Vandy in the title game.

In Appalachian State's most recent contest, a 73-30 win over VCU, Minter scored 25 points including 17 of the team's final 20. He was named the Southern Conference player of the week on Jan. 2.

RPI: 9

Pomeroy Ranking: 113

Sagarin Ranking: 73

College Insider Mid-Major Ranking: 15

Points Per Game: 75.3

Points Allowed Per Game: 69.2

Breakdown:

There's no way to start this except by talking about that RPI ranking. The truth is the RPI means absolutely nothing right now and Kem Pomeroy will tell you as much if you ask him. The Apps have beaten just one team with any hope of making the big dance (Virginia), and have been beaten by 30 or more twice (49-79 to Clemson, and 37-69 to Virginia Tech). But the Mounties have ascended to heights previously unreached by those hailing from the mighty SoCon for two reasons: first, because their multiple victories over non-division 1 foes doesn't hurt their strength of schedule in the RPI because only games involving two Division 1 teams are factored into the formula, and two, because margin of victory (or defeat) isn't factored into the RPI either.

The Apps aren't one of the 50 best teams in the country, in fact they're not the best team in their conference. Davidson has represented the league in the NCAA Tournament for the past two season and appears poised to do so again. The Wildcats are 12-3 with victories over Charlotte (by 28), Ohio and Arizona State, and have also started conference play with three straight wins. The Mountaineers travel to Davidson on Jan. 20 for the only regualar season meeting between the schools.

Minter has gotten a lot of credit for his arrival coinciding with a six-game winning streak, but DJ Thompson has been and will be the guy to lead ASU as conference play kicks into full gear.

The 5-8 senior guard is the team's leading scorer at 15.1 points per game, and also leads the team in minutes (32.1) and assists (4.9) per game. Thompson earned all-conference honors for the 2005-2006 season in which he averaged 19.1 ppg. and scored 20 or more points 18 times. He is third all-time at ASU in steals, fifth in assists and is the school's 25th 1,000 point scorer.

Thompson has cooled off a bit since Minter joined the team, but sill poured in 15 against Vandy, 17 against Virginia and 27 against Georgia Southern in the month of December.

When Thompson isn't scoring or getting the ball to Minter, he's looking for either fellow senior guard Nathan Crawford (10.4 ppg), or junior forward Jeremy Clayton (10.3 ppg) who leads the team in rebounding at just under eight boards a contest.

The Mountaineers return to action after a week-long hiatus tonight with a 6 p.m. game at perennial conference power UT-Chattannooga.

Predicted Final Record: (20-7, 14-4)

Predicted Conference Finish: Second

Predicted Postseason: None

And of course, the real reason Appalachian got the nod for the first Mid-Major Focus, they're so damned Hot-Hot-Hot.