Appalachian State ready for game in Oxford

Appalachian State head coach Houston Fancher said the most important thing for his Mountaineers is that they can now move on and play.

"It was a long week and we agonized over where we'd play, who we'd play, and which tournament we'd be invited to," said Fancher, his 25-7 squad having lost to College of Charleston in overtime in the Southern Conference Tournament way back on March 2. "Now we've been given a charge and that's to go down and play Ole Miss."

Fancher, in his seventh season as head coach at ASU, has the Mountaineers in postseason play for the first time. He said he felt his team deserved a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"It's fair to the people who got in, I'll tell you that," he said when asked about the NCAA selection process. "I don't know if it's fair to the ones who didn't get in. I thought we had a very valid argument. We were 4-1 against teams in the (NCAA) tournament. We had as much ground to stand on as anybody. Had we gotten in we would have been questionable. If Kansas State had gotten in they'd have been questionable. Missouri State didn't get in for the second straight year. I'm certain they don't think it's fair."

Fancher said his team has every reason to be excited, and they are. It's been a while since they played a game.

"It's been a little wait but it's been a good break," he said. "It's given us time to forget about what happened in Charleston and to get used to each other again. Now that we're close to the next game, we're recharged again. Our practices have been good. We're in the middle of spring break, so this is all they've focused on. There's a lot to play for and be excited about. We're three games away from Madison Square Garden."

As you would expect, ASU feels they should be playing at home in Boone, N.C.

"We'd love to have a home game and we believe we deserved one, but we didn't get one," Fancher said. "Syracuse and Kansas State didn't get in (the NCAA Tournament), and they didn't even get a No. 1 seed in the NIT. So every team has a gripe for a different reason this time of year. We choose to play what we're dealt and deal with it."

Fancher said winning at C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum won't be easy.

"Ole Miss is a team that's 15-1 at home and plays very well in their confines," he said. "So we know what's ahead and what we need to do and we'll go attack it. When I was at Vanderbilt (as an assistant) we played at Ole Miss. I know Tad Smith Coliseum is a tough place to play. It's a different environment. They're on spring break too, so it may not be as raucous as it may be while the students are there. Andy Kennedy has got them excited about basketball again. They won't be flat. They will be jacked for a first game of the NIT. It's important for us to meet their energy level early so we can be in position to be there late."

ASU senior guard D.J. Johnson said the players are looking forward to the NIT game.

"I'm just happy to be playing again," said Thompson, who started all 32 games and leads the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game. "It's good to know where we're playing and who. It can drive you crazy not knowing. Our bubble got burst, and we're OK to play in the NIT. A lot of teams don't get to play in the postseason, and we do. So that's a good thing."

Fancher said he's impressed with 20-12 Ole Miss and says they look familiar.

"They're a lot like us in that they have three senior starters in the backcourt," he said. "Clarence Sanders is an All-SEC caliber guard who can really shoot it. Bam Doyne is a very talented wing player. Todd Abernethy is a really solid point guard. They have some bruisers inside with Dwayne Curtis and Kenny Williams. They have some beef on the inside. It will be a very physical game. They have an athletic team that won't try to finesse you. They'll get it up and down the floor and try to outrun you and power you around the bucket. If we're not tough, we could get run out of the gym."

Fancher said since Sunday night when they found out they'd be playing Ole Miss, they've still focused on themselves while also encompassing what they've learned about the Rebels.

"We've continued to work on what we do," Fancher said. "We haven't changed a whole lot. We're like anybody else, we've got one or two days to get ready for Ole Miss and they've got one or two days to get ready for us. At this time of year, you throw two teams in the ring and see who is left standing. Just getting an opportunity to become the first team in Appalachian history to win a postseason game is big for us."

Thompson said he's glad to be getting away from home since his fellow Appalachian State students have had that opportunity this week.

"We're excited about playing on the road," Thompson said. "After missing out on spring break, we're ready to make a trip. It's a place we've never been before, so we're looking forward to it."

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