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Sun Belt Tournament previews

Christian Critteden

Men: The Georgia State men’s basketball team finished the season off with a much-needed victory against rival Georgia Southern. That win secured the No.2 seed in the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Getting that No. 2 seed means they will have a first round by, which coach Ron Hunter said was huge.Georgia State is also 2-0 in neutral site games this season. They will either face Little Rock or Louisiana. Georgia State beat both of those two teams rather handily this season.

Exactly one week after Georgia State defeated Georgia Southern, the teams are likely to have a rematch for the third time this season. This contest should go in favor of Georgia State because they are the better team by a slight margin. That will set Georgia State up with a rematch against UT-Arlington, Georgia State lost that matchup on a last second three, but they were up by as many as 15 in that game. This game will probably come down to a last-second field goal, but expect Georgia State to win and return to the NCAA tournament.

Women: The Georgia State women’s basketball team faces an uphill battle to reach the NCAA tournament this year.They enter the Sun Belt Conference tournament as the seventh seed, after their victory over rival Georgia Southern. First up for Georgia State is South Alabama. Georgia State won the only matchup between those two teams this season, 55-45, that game was played at South Alabama. Georgia State wins this matchup if their best team comes to play. They rank ahead of South Alabama in the major offensive categories. However, South Alabama is ranked second in the conference in total defense, giving up only 58 points per game. Georgia State is the better team, so expect them to win rather easily.

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The toughest test will come in game two of the tournament when they square off against UT- Arlington. Georgia State did win the only matchup between the two teams this season. UT-Arlington is the two seed, so don’t expect an upset here despite Georgia State’s previous win this season. I do think that Georgia State will keep it close, but in the end, UT-Arlington wins the game and the Panthers season will end there. However, I would not be surprised at all if Georgia State pulls off the upset and moves on the semi-finals.

Tobi Adeyemi 

Men: What a comeback season it has been for Georgia State. After a drop-off year last season, the Panthers have roared back in 2017. The Panthers are heading into this tournament with confidence and they should be. They have reason to believe they are the best team in the tournament; if not for a few late game collapses, they would have won the Sun Belt. Expect the Panthers to go all the way this year. They should easily beat whoever they match up with in the quarterfinals to set up another State vs Southern rematch in the semis. I’m predicting Georgia State to win that battle again for a place in the Sun Belt championship most likely against the number one seed, UT Arlington. Expect the Panthers to avenge their buzzer beating loss, and once again be dancing in March.

Women: It seemed like the lady Panthers’ season was going to be derailed before it even really started. Early in the season the Panthers lost Madison Newby, the reigning Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year and arguably their best player, for the season. That left a big hole for the team to fill, but they responded admirably. The emergence of three point sniper Makeba Ponder and freshman Jada Lewis helped the Panthers stay afloat on their way to a 12-17 season. The Panthers should be able to take that first win, but that’s as far as I see them going. They have a shot against a strong UT-Arlington side in the quarterfinals, another team they beat in the regular season, I just don’t see them being able to do it again.

D’Mitri Chin-Harrison 

Men: The Georgia State men’s basketball team has secured the No. 2 seed in the Sun Belt tournament, and that will be the reason why they will eventually be crowned the champions of the Sun Belt. With the No. 2 seed comes an extra day for the Panthers to rest and gameplan for whoever their opponent will be.

It’s worth noting that Georgia State annihilated UL Lafayette and also took care of business against Little Rock. Now, many may feel as if the Panthers will face a dominant team in UT Arlington that may knock Georgia State off their path to greatness, but let’s not forget that UT Arlington won on a three that was a few feet away from half court with under two seconds left on the clock. In other words, they got lucky. Also, Georgia Southern, who is considered to be a threat witnessed how tough it is to beat Georgia State when fully healthy. I expect Head Coach Ron Hunter and his experienced staff to get his team prepared mentally for the challenge ahead and ultimately win the Sun Belt championship.

Women: I believe the Panthers will advance to the second round of the tournament and, unfortunately, their season will end there. The Panthers had a regular season with the majority of their losses coming by double digits. I expect that to continue as they seem not to be able to play consistent basketball. Also, UT Arlington, who the Panthers surprisingly beat in their only matchup of the regular season, is perhaps a better team and is seeking revenge. Let’s be honest here; UT Arlington ended the season with a 21-7 regular season record, and they were on a four-game winning streak. That’s impressive. I just don’t think the Panthers are disciplined enough to beat this team a second go around, especially in the playoffs. It would take another mental breakdown by UT Arlington for the Panthers to score another big win against a more dominant opponent. But first things first, the Panthers have to actually beat South Alabama.

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