NCAA Tournament predictions by staff

Georgia State men's basketball team celebrating the Sun Belt Conference Championship while confetti falls inside Lakefront Arena. Submitted by the Sun Belt Conference.

No. 15 Georgia State plays No. 2 Cincinnati in the Round of 64 on March 16 at 2:00 p.m. EST. Georgia State is a semi-popular upset pick by those who remember head coach Ron Hunter falling of his stool in 2015 while upsetting Baylor in the big dance.

Does The Signal feel the same way? They are making the short trip to Nashville, Tennessee and will see how accurate they are.

Jerell Rushin, Sports Editor

Those expecting No. 15 Georgia State to follow the NCAA Tournament rules of getting embarrassed by a No. 2 seed will be embarrassed. Georgia State matches up pretty well against 30-4 Cincinnati. They can outscore, outshoot and out-hustle the Bearcats. Match that hustle with their sure-bet defense and this will not be your average No. 2 v. No. 15 game.

Georgia State is styming opponents as of lately. The Ron Hunter coached team held their three Sun Belt Conference tournament opponents to a combined 33.5 percent shooting. That’s better than Cincinnati’s second-ranked national 36.8 percent mark.

However, Cincinnati did not come to play. They didn’t go 30-4 just for kicks. I fully expect them to dominate on a boards as they have done all season by out-rebounding opponents by 7.3 per game. This will put nails in Georgia State’s coffin Panther Nation.

Fortunately for Atlanta, Cincy won’t close it shut– Georgia State will be the biggest story of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years. Devin Mitchell, Jeff Thomas, Malik Benlevi and Isiah Williams will stretch the floor by catching fire and make Cincy play up-tempo in response. They’ll struggle and lose a heartbreaker.

What will be the moment to remember? D’Marcus Simonds chirping with the crowd after the Panthers secure the victory.

Georgia State: 71 Cincinnati: 65

The Madness doesn’t end there. In the second round, Georgia State will nearly down the 10-seeded Texas Longhorns. Simonds and future NBA Draft lottery pick Mohamed Mamba will put on a show to remember. But Texas advances to the Sweet Sixteen because they have more scorers.

Texas: 77 Georgia State: 73

D’Mitri Chin, Associate Sports Editor

The Georgia State Panthers are in the ‘Big Dance’ for the second time in four years, and their dancing partner is the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Panthers enter the tournament on Friday as the No. 15 seed with the task of having to knock off the No. 2 seed Bearcats. While this seems impossible to accomplish in the eyes of many, the Panthers have a legitimate chance to do the unimaginable– and it is contingent on how well the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year D’Marcus Simonds plays, along with head coach Ron Hunter creating a defensive scheme for the opposing offense.

This contest will be a defensive battle being that Cincinnati is ranked second in the nation in defensive field-goal percentage while Georgia State is ranked sixth in the same category. However, whoever wins the turnover battle will most likely advance to the next round. For the Panthers to win this game, they will need to remain aggressive throughout and stay true to whom they are: Simonds attacking the basket, perimeter shooters cashing in from three-point land, executing their zone defense and making smart plays with the basketball.

It is also worth noting that Georgia State is ranked No. 32 in the nation in three-point field goals made while Cincinnati is ranked No. 11 in three-point defense.

Having said that, I believe the Panthers will fall just short of becoming the Cinderella of the tournament, but it will be a closely contested match.

Cincinnati: 62 Georgia State: 52

Blake Corrigan

The Georgia State Panthers are going dancing and have found a partner in Cincinnati. The Sun Belt Conference champion Panthers will be tasked with slowing down the American Athletic Conference champion Cincinnati Bearcats on Friday, March 16 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The 24-10 Panthers should not be looking forward to this matchup with the 30-4 Bearcats. The Bearcats come to Nashville riding a seven-game winning streak, putting up 69.4 points per game over that span. While the Panthers are also on a four game win streak of their own and have put up an average of 77.5 points per game over the past four outings, the Cincinnati defense is on a different level. The Bearcats defense is smothering to say the least, allowing only 57.1 points per game, obviously presenting a problem for D’Marcus Simonds and company.  

Cincinnati only allowed 80 points to one team and that was No. 1 seed Xavier early in the year.  

The Panthers will have to hope the Atlanta faithful travels well and brings the noise if they want to make this game interesting. However, it shouldn’t matter much because I feel the Bearcats defense will prove too much for head coach Ron Hunter’s Panthers.

This one could get out of hand quickly if the Panthers offense cannot find their rhythm in the first half, when it’s all said and done I am expecting a victory for the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Cincinnati: 72 Georgia State: 54

Christian Crittenden

The Georgia State Panthers will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2014-15 season. This year the Panthers enter as a 15 seed against the No. 2 seed Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats come into this game 30-4 and they have four players who average double-digit points. Cincinnati comes into this game as a 14 point favorite. Not only will Georgia State cover the spread, but they will also win the game outright. The Panthers led by star D’Marcus Simonds will pull off another upset in the NCAA Tournament.

This game will be a real defensive battle with both teams being ranked in the top ten in the country in field goal percentage defense. The Bearcats are one of the best defensive teams in the nation; they rank second in the nation in scoring defense. However, Simonds will be the x-factor in the game. His 21 points per game is a full eight points higher than Cincinnati’s highest scorer. As long as Simonds has a good day, and the Panthers get their emotional leader Malik Benlevi involved in the game, they will win a close one.

Georgia State: 72 Cincinnati: 70

Georgia State will likely matchup with Nevada in the next round, where they will lose to the Wolfpack in a close one. Georgia State will be the next great mid-major, and they will start that with a win over Cincinnati.

Nevada: 76 Georgia State: 70