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Q/A with Yosef's Cabin: Appalachian State versus Georgia Tech

A question and answer session with Appalachian State's fan site Yosef's Cabin. Check our responses out at the Cabin's main page.

App State already has one ACC win this year.
App State already has one ACC win this year.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Please welcome Kyle from Yosef's Cabin today in our App State hoops preview Q/A.

Bird: Let's start off a little off topic. App State just went FBS this year and had a pretty successful second half of the season. What's the vibe around App State's football program and the transition? Are Mountaineer fans happy about the move up?

Kyle@YC: Appalachian State football has a long history of success and has not endured back to back losing seasons since the 1980s. At 1-5 this year, we were very much staring down the tailpipe of updating that statistic and it left many of the Mountaineer faithful wondering whether we had the right coach, the right pieces in place, or if we had made a terrible mistake making the move to FBS. Our fan base is pretty rabid and very much has the mentality of “Anytime, Anyone, Anywhere”, but we were pretty split before the move up on whether we should embark on that journey or not. Starting out with that horrid record culminating in our loss to Liberty, it only exasperated that divide. We did have a lot of fans, however, that stayed the course and knew the first few years may be tough.

There was hope though. Our team was starting only 2 seniors and had some great young talent that just lacked experience. After rattling off wins against Troy and Georgia State, our true tests with the Sun Belt were to come in the form of 3 tough games in a row against ULM, Arkansas State, and Louisiana Lafayette. It was great seeing the team rally against ULM and you could sense a turn in the attitudes of our fan base. Before that, we were supposed to beat Troy and Georgia State, so neither really validated our move up. Rattling off 6 wins in a row and running through the Sun Belt liked swiss cheese restored the confidence that we made the right move and that we could be successful in the first year. Fans expected to win 5-6 games this year, but few, if any expected the wins to happen the way they did and against the opponents they did.

There have been many great moments in Appalachian State football over the last few years; Miracle on the Mountain, back-to-back-to-back national championships, manhandling Michigan in 2007 (yes manhandling – go watch the game and don’t just look at the final score). The end of our season and the morale our team and fan base have is as high as it has been with any of those great moments but the excitement about our future has never been greater. Sure, there are still a few folks who miss the FCS college playoff system and our old foes, but our fan base has accepted the move up and is excited to see what the next chapter in Appalachian football brings.

Bird: An interesting bit of trivia about App State hoops is that legendary Tech coach Bobby Cremins coached App State to their first NCAA Tournament in 1979. App State has only been to one tourney since. What are the program goals for 2014? Is a Sun Belt title and NCAA bid a realistic goal?

Kyle@YC: We like to think that if it wasn’t for us educating Bobby (and the Yellow Jackets theft of said Bobby), Georgia Tech would not have the storied basketball history under his tutelage that you enjoyed through the 80s and 90s. When Bobby left Georgia Tech, there was a big push for us to go after him and bring him in to take us back to the promised land. A deal couldn’t be worked out and Bobby took his services to the College of Charleston. While he was only at Appalachian a short time, there are still very fond memories of him and he will always be a friend of Appalachian State.

We’ve been mediocre at best since Cremins time. There have been a few up years and a few down years, but we have not had any sustainable success in the basketball space. There is certainly support for our team, but quite frankly, the fan base just does not provide the moral support our basketball program so desperately needs. With our court being right on campus, we struggle mightily to get students to the games to create a true home court environment and that plays into the success (or lack thereof) that our team has had. It’s been a vicious cycle that leads to our team performing poorly, followed by less enthusiasm, followed by more poor performance – you get the drift. Our most recent head coach, Jason Capel, inherited a sub-par program 4 years ago and has subsequently run it into the ground. Our APR is disastrous and has crippled our post seasons chances, making us ineligible for an NCAA bid this year.

We have viewed this as a rebuilding year, axing coach Capel and replacing him with long time Davidson assistant Jim Fox. The main goals for our program are to get our APR up and to install a completely new mindset in our players. Coach Fox has a different scheme than Capel did which requires our team come into the games with an entirely different mindset and game plan. Truth be told, I’m not sure anyone really knew what Capel’s scheme was. While we might have a losing season this year under Coach Fox, there certainly is a bit more support from our fans as we have already seen marked improvements in our team’s fundamentals. I think the win over Virginia Tech surprised many of us and really got our attention. Hopefully our team can build off of that and come in to Georgia Tech and play a respectable game, of course squeaking out a win in the last few minutes!

A conference title is always a goal that our team aims for and this season is no different. I would not say that we are expecting our team to compete for it, but it’s certainly a goal we have.

Bird: At 6'7" and 225 lbs, Tommy Spagnolo is leading App State in most offensive categories. What kind of player is Spagnolo? Is he a physical presence inside or a finesse forward? Who else leads the offense for the Mountaineers and why should Tech be worried about them?

Kyle@YC: Spagnolo has an interesting story behind him. Not many people know that he was not recruited to Appalachian State as a basketball player. He came in as not even a walk on. Our prior coach, Jason Capel recruited him straight out of the university intramural legaues. He had taken two years off from basketball by the time he started playing for us last year and has been what has to be the best ROI recruit Appalachian State has ever had. We spent $0 recruiting him and as you mentioned he’s leading our offensive stat categories. He’s a physical guy and won’t shy away from pushing a few people around but he’s not tactless either. He’s smart and he does a great job getting position on both ends of the court.

Who else should Tech be worried about? Frank Eaves and Chris Burgess have both been great at the guard spots for us. Frank has the ability to get to the free throw line often, averaging just over 9 attempts per game. His 3 pt shooting percentage, however, leaves a lot to be desired. That is where Burgess can really hurt you. He has the uncanny ability to step up and drain a 3 pointer when we need it and is shooting 56% from 3 point land on the season. Unfortunately he only takes about 3 shots per game, but at this point, it would not upset anyone if he were able to take a few more.

Bird: The season appears to be a rocky road with a big win over Virginia Tech paired with losses to Furman, Hofstra, and Ohio. What has prevented the Mountaineers from being undefeated in 2014?

Kyle@YC: This is a rebuilding year, plain and simple. Coach Fox took over a program in shambles and has done a remarkable job with our team up to this point. We’re going to see a few ups and downs over the next 2 or 3 years as Coach Fox sets a new tone and gets the right athletes in place for his system. Our fans understand that and our team understands that. Hopefully we see more ups and downs, but it’s going to be a turbulent season this year as we experience those pains. Hopefully we see more ups and downs and our tough out of conference schedule will prepare us well for our conference slate this year.

Bird: Do you have any other information you'd like to share about the Mountaineers and what are your predictions for the game?

Kyle@YC: We are going to have to play almost perfect basketball, getting big nights from a couple of our leaders to pull out a W in this one. While my heart says 71-68 App takes the win, my head says something more like 78-61, Tech files away with it. If Spagnolo can shine that glass though, I think we stand a chance of keeping it closer.

To discuss the game further with Yosef's Cabin, check out their message board as well.