The Panthers have to be in win-now mode

Photo by Trent Legaspi | The Signal

It’s almost that time of the year again, where the nets come down, and dancing begins. 

The 83rd edition of March Madness, which begins on March 13th in New Orleans, is only a month away, and this year’s potential bracket looks like it will be crazier than ever. 

As for the Georgia State Panthers, their chances to make the big dance this year are unfortunately very slim, as the team has struggled throughout the year. This year’s team does not look like the same regular-season conference champions with a conference-best record of 16-4. 

Some would say this has been a disappointing year for the Panthers as the team has regressed in play. 

The team had big expectations coming into the season, as they were essentially the favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference. In the preseason coaches poll, they were voted the number one team in the Sun Belt Conference. 

Head coach Rob Lanier was also able to bring back 12 players this year, which featured Preseason All-Sun Belt honorees Corey Allen, Eliel Nsoseme and Kane Williams. 

Today the Panthers are currently near the bottom, sitting in tenth place in the Sun Belt standings with a 3-5 conference record and a 9-10 overall record. 

Early in the season, the team started red hot as they were 5-1 but have been up and down ever since. 

Photo by Trent Legaspi | The Signal

Since then, they have gone a shocking 4-9 and suffered big-time losses against quality opponents in Mississippi State, Rhode Island and Georgia Tech, who made the tournament last season but lost in the first round against Loyola Chicago. 

However, the Panthers are not out of the race yet. Right now, it is a tossup on who could win the Sun Belt Conference, as it has been a rollercoaster of a year in the standings. 

Currently, the play of the Sun Belt has been underwhelming, with no team cementing themselves as the definitive best team in the conference giving each team the ability to knock out the other. 

There is only a five-game difference in the current standings between first and last place, with the Panthers only being four games out of first. 

Standing at the top of the conference are the 2021 conference tournament champions, the Appalachian State Mountaineers, with only a 15-10 record. 

Back at his post-game presser against South Alabama on Feb.5th, head coach Rob Lanier did not focus on the current standings and only team improvement. 

“I don’t know what a good position is with the way our conference is,” said Lanier. “Anybody can beat anybody. I’m not worried about the standings at this point. All I’m concerned about is my team improving and getting to a point where we play our best basketball going into the conference tournament and play whoever they line us up against.” 

With only six games left on the schedule, each game is as important as the next. 

In those games, the Panthers faced Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern twice, Louisiana Monroe, Louisiana University, and the team they lost to in the conference tournament championship Appalachian State. 

The Panthers will have to treat each game as an elimination game and play like the team everyone knows they’re capable of being if they want to have any chance of snatching an NCAA Tournament bid.