Date: Friday, March 16
Game Time: 2:00 ET
Venue: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
Line: Cincinnati -14, Cincinnati -1320, Georgia State +830
On Friday, 2-seed Cincinnati (30-4) faces 2-seed Georgia St. (24-10) in Nashville, almost half way in-between Atlanta and Cincinnati. Georgia State is a 14 point underdog, some casinos have it as high as 15.5, the moneyline for them is +830. That my friend, is a bargain. Remember what Ron Hunter’s crew did to 3-seed Baylor in 2015? Ron Hunter remembers…
But can Georgia State do it again? Cincinnati is 30-4, the won the AAC regular season and conference tournament. They have the #2 defense in college basketball in terms of points allowed per game. They have four players that average double-digits in scoring and a deep bench.
This could be the best Bearcat team to make the tournament in quite a while. Defense matters in March. Players get tight. Shots stop falling. A good defense and getting to the line late in games can often be the difference between advancing and going home. Cincinnati knows how to win ugly.
So what makes me think that 15-seed Georgia State has a shot to win this game?
Cincinnati has made it to the Sweet 16 only twice since 1997. They are notorious for falling short of expectations. Cincinnati hasn’t made an Elite Eight since 1996 and their last trip to the Final Four was in 1992. Despite having guys like Kenyon Martin, Jason Maxiell, Lance Stephenson, and Sean Kilpatrick on the roster over the past two decades, the Bearcats always seem to disappoint.
But how much does history really matter in college basketball when you get a whole new set of players every four years? (if you’re Kentucky that might be 1-2 years)
Let’s set history aside for a moment and talk about Georgia State.
While the Panther have only two top-50 RPI wins (Montana and Louisiana), they are on an emotional high after winning the Sun Belt tournament. They are led by combo guard D’Marcus Simonds. Simonds (6-3 180) is GSU’s playmaker and excels at scoring off the dribble. Much like R.J. Hunter in 2015, he’s going to be the one with the ball in his hand if this game is close late. Simonds has caught the eye of NBA scouts and is now considered a 2nd round prospect. If he has a good tournament he could slide even higher.
Furthermore, even as a Georgia Southern fan, you got to love Ron Hunter’s swagger. Young kids feed off of that. He doesn’t act like an underdog, even if they do eat at Wendy’s.
People outside of Atlanta might consider Georgia State a small school, which is Ludacris (GSU alum btw) when you consider that they have an enrollment of 51,670. These kids go to school in a big city, they aren’t some bumpkins from the sticks afraid of the moment. Their school is referenced in Drake songs. The Panthers aren’t afraid of the spotlight, rather, they crave it.
Georgia State: RPI: 119, 6th in OPP FG%, 6th in OPP 2P%, 31st in blocks, 34th in steals, 40th in Turnovers-forced, 32nd in 3P%, 33rd in 3P.
G-D’Marcus Simonds 6-3 180 21.1 Pts, 5.8 Reb, 4.5 Ast
G-Devin Mitchell 6-4 182 12.2 Pts, 2.5 Reb, 1.9 Ast
F-Jeff Thomas 6-5 210 10.7 Pts, 4.3 Reb, 1.2 As
Cincinnati: RPI: 7th, 2nd in PTS/G, 2nd in OPP FG%, 2nd in OPP 2P%, 11th in OPP 3P%, 9th in ORB, 19th in TRB
F-Gary Clark 6-7 230 13.0 Pts, 8.5 Reb, 2.1 Ast
G-Jacob Evans 6-6 210 12.9 Pts, 4.6 Reb, 3.2 Ast
F-Kyle Washington 6-9 230 11.3 Pts, 5.4 Reb, 0.3 Ast
G-Jarron Cumberland 6-5 218 10.9 Pts, 3.7 Reb, 2.9 Ast
Can’t pass up the chance to jinx my alma-mater’s biggest rival.
Georgia State 60