The Georgia State men’s basketball team posted 14 consecutive victories, not losing a game in more than two months. Troy put an end to that streak Saturday night in a 85-81 upset over the Panthers. While it may be a hard pill to swallow, it may have be a good thing for the Panthers to move into March without the streak. Most people would think that a winning streak approaching March would be wonderful, but winning streaks are dangerous when it comes to postseason success.
One thing that could have shown up to derail a possible championship run is the pressure of keeping was already a school record winning streak going. Pressure can be a silent killer sneaking up and snatching its prey when least expected.
To add to the pressure, the Panthers are now taking a national stage as the outside media has taken notice. ESPN2 picked up Saturday night’s game against Troy, which was the Panthers’ first national broadcast of the season. Sports Illustrated‘s Brian Hamilton wrote a feature on Ryan Harrow’s role on his new team. All this attention has put Georgia State on the map, but with the added media attention comes the pressure to put on a good show.
In addition to pressure, there is the question of whether or not the team has peaked. A team can always improve, but the Panthers certainly were playing their best basketball during the streak with more than a month to go in the regular season.
The scary part of this equation is that if the Panthers string together a couple bad games, they could lose the momentum they’ve worked all season to build. This would cause Georgia State running the risk of not making the NCAA tournament with a slip-up early in the conference tournament. Once the regular season is over, it’s win or go home.
The fact that the Panthers are a veteran bunch bodes well for them. Veteran players tend to be able to deal with pressure and outside distractions better than younger players.
Teams such as Syracuse and Wichita State are evidence that veteran teams can handle the pressures of winning as they are on a 25- and 26-game winning streak, respectively.
However, Oklahoma State was not as fortunate. The team began its season 15-2, ranked in the top five in the country and is now 1-7 in its last eight games. That puts the team in danger of missing the NCAA tournament completely despite having a veteran team and multiple NBA prospects.
Now that Georgia State’s streak is over, most of the pressure and outside distractions will subside. The loss to Troy isn’t a season-crushing loss. The Panthers have a solid cushion in the Sun Belt standings up by two games.
The Panthers could very well be about to peak and ride it into the postseason, taking us all on a magic carpet ride through March. There is still more than a month left in the season for the Panthers to try on their glass slippers as they look to become the next Cinderella story of March.