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Sun Belt Tournament: In a wacky bracket, Appalachian State clinched its first bid since 2000

Mountaineers win four games in four days to win their first Sun Belt Tournament.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 18 Presbyterian at Butler Photo by Michael Allio/Presbyterian Athletics

Appalachian State is heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years.

Dustin Kerns led his Mountaineers to four wins in four days, all culminating in an 82-73 victory over Georgia State on Monday night. The Mountaineers would come out of the gates dominant early, but a 14-3 run by Georgia State had momentum back on their side, and ultimately saw them head in the locker room with a 37-35 halftime lead.

Out of the break, it was a different story. Georgia State went on a five-minute field goal drought, as the Mountaineers were able to regain the lead and get it up to 10.

The Mountaineers would stretch the lead out to 14, as it was too much to overcome for the Panthers. The pure joy as the buzzer sounded showed why March is such a great month for these student-athletes. Players running laps, families getting hugs, confetti, and more.

On Monday night, the Mountaineers were led by Stony Brook transfer Michael Almonacy. He played all 40 minutes and dropped a career-high 32 points. Adrian Delph was right behind him with 22.

Along with their play, their team defense was a huge key to victory. They held Georgia State to 38.7 percent from the field, one of the better shooting teams in the league.

The Mountaineers were able to get to the championship via possibly the hardest route possible. In the first round, they beat preseason favorite Little Rock, 67-60. In the next round, they blew an eight-point lead against top-seeded Texas State with 33 seconds left but eked by in overtime, 76-73.

The same kind of scenario happened in the semifinals as it was Coastal Carolina who was dominant throughout, but the Mountaineers were able to pull out the 64-61 victory in overtime.

As advertised, nine of the twelve tournament games were decided by single digits. Two of those went into overtime, and five were by two or fewer possessions. There were also loads of upsets as Scott Cross and sixth-seeded Troy upset his former school, third-seeded UT Arlington by a score of 91-86. App State would then go on to pull off the three other major upsets of the tournament in the final three rounds.

Appalachian State (17-11, 7-8, #211 KenPom) now awaits its NCAA tournament seed.

Many will have the Mountaineers as a No. 16 seed. There has even been some jokes and chatter of matching them up with Michigan, rematching the two from the Mountaineers epic upset in football back in 2007.

That game alone might give the NCAA back its lost money from last season's cancelled tournament.