How will the Panthers fare on the hardwood this season?

Nelson Phillips taking flight in the GSU jam dunk contest. Photo by Shel Levy| The Signal

Basketball season is upon us. Let’s talk about it.

On the men’s side, the Ron Hunter era is over. After the coach accepted the head coach position at Tulane University, Rob Lanier, former assistant coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, is now at the wheel. Coming off their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the new-look squad will be hoping to match last season’s excitement and ultimate glory.

On the women’s side, Gene Hill is entering his second year in command of the squad that finished last season 17-14. Although the young team may need to go through some early season growing pains, there will be plenty of offensive firepower to look forward to.

The main question is how will the teams fare, and what should your overall expectations be?


Espen Indrisano’s Outlook

They don’t call it the “Fun Belt” for no reason. Georgia State competes in a conference where the last-placed team is always worthy of giving the top teams a run for their money.

Now, am I saying our teams will be at the bottom of the pack? No. But I do think that this season, especially on the men’s side, may bring a few more losses than fans would want to see.

Let’s start with the women. Jada Lewis, fresh off a stellar 2018-19 season, will provide a constant scoring threat from the guard position. Can the redshirt junior be the leader the team needs? Absolutely. 

Seniors Shaquanda Miller-McCray and Madison Ervin will also be responsible for leading the young team through a tough schedule. When it’s all said and done, I see no reason why the team can’t fight for another middle spot in the conference. I am predicting a final record of 15-15, good enough for a fourth- or fifth-place finish in the conference.

Now, the men have also lost quite a bit of talent. D’Marcus Simonds, Jeff Thomas and Malik Benlevi are just a few of the names that will no longer grace the GSU Sports Arena. Like the women, can those who remain fill that void?

Kane Williams and Damon Wilson will surely be an exciting pair to watch in the backcourt. Incoming freshman Joe Jones III and Jalen Thomas will bring in some much-needed height. Will it be enough to challenge for the Sun Belt crown? Chances are that the streak will end this year; however, I do think the team will remain competitive.

I am predicting an overall final record of 17-14. Unless a fairytale conference tournament run concludes the season, the team will probably not make the NCAA Tournament. 


Andrew Freedman’s Men’s Predictions

Coming off of two Sun Belt Conference titles, this is a hungry Panthers squad that looks very different from last year. However, there are many changes that need to be mentioned before this season. 

Rob Lanier, new head coach, and former St. Bonaventure player, will have pressure on his head to continue the solid performances that the Panthers put up the last few seasons. He’ll be accompanied on the sidelines by many new faces. All listed coaches, both graduate assistants and the strength and conditioning coach, will all be new to the program.

Players such as D’Marcus Simonds, Jeff Thomas, and Malik Benlevi will be missed on both ends of the floor, but there are guys on this team who are prepared to step up more than they have before in their college careers.

Kane Williams, Damon Wilson, Corey Allen and Nelson Phillips are all names to look out for this season. Each has a skill set that complements the other and it gives the team optimism for this season. What’s more, the departures of upperclassmen give room for those who took a backseat last year. They watched and learned how to succeed, and they will continue to build on the foundation that the team set last year.

Overall, this is a team that should win 22+ games this season. Their key games include road games at Duke on Nov. 15 and Georgetown on Nov. 17. The trip to Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium will arguably one of the biggest games in program history.


Krystal White’s Women’s Predictions

Georgia State’s women’s basketball had a dramatic turnaround last season, finishing with a 17-14 record under the new head coach Gene Hill. Only five players from last season will be returning. Seven freshmen and four transfers are going to be suiting up for the Panthers this season. 

My prediction is the team will finish with a 19-12 record. In the first few games, the team will struggle with gelling together but will figure it out as the season goes along. The freshmen are going to step up and contribute to the team’s success.  

The team will make it to the semi-finals of the Sun Belt Tournament, but fall just short of conference glory. Jada Lewis will have another strong season and make the Sun Belt Conference First Team. 

While the team will not make the NCAA Tournament this season, it will improve this upcoming off-season and have a legitimate chance of competing in next season’s dance.


Avery Wiggins’s Men’s Predictions

Returning starters Kane Williams and Damon Wilson will be vital to any success the team has this season. Williams was fifth on the team last year in points, with 11.1 per game, and led the team in steals, with 1.9 per game. Other returning players include forwards Chris Clerkley, Kavonte Ivery and Josh Linder, as well as guard Nelson Phillips.

There are some newcomers as well. Freshmen big men Joe Jones lll and Jalen Thomas will add some much-needed size to the interior. Also, after being redshirted for the 2018-19 season, guards Corey Allen and Justin Roberts will be eligible to play. These four will add a much-needed bench presence and will be able to apply pressure to the opposing team when the starters are resting on the bench.

Having ranked fourth in scoring defense and sixth in scoring offense last season, there is one key on both sides of the ball that the Panthers need to keep up in order to be successful this year. On defense, the Panthers need to keep generating turnovers by blocking shots and getting steals. On offense, the Panthers need to keep taking and making three-point shots.

I believe that a balanced attack on both sides, as well as steady contributions off the bench will lead the Panthers to yet another Sun Belt title and punch their ticket to the Big Dance in March.