The first round of the Sun Belt tournament tips off tonight, and one of the first-round games will feature the Georgia State Panthers taking on the Texas State Bobcats. We’ll preview the matchup before going over why side I’ll be backing in this one.
One of the best things you can head into March with as a college basketball team is momentum, and unfortunately for Georgia State, they do not have any. The Panthers will head into the conference tournament after going 1-9 in their last ten games, which brought their conference record to 3-15 on the year.
When you finish the season with three conference wins, not much went well, obviously, but the Panthers' struggles on offense are certainly noteworthy. Entering the tournament, the Panthers rank 320th in the country in offensive efficiency rating according to KenPom, and they also managed to rank 325th in shooting percentage.
Defensively, the Panthers rank 200th in defensive efficiency rating on KenPom, and in their most recent loss, they allowed 90 points to James Madison. The bright side for Georgia State tonight is their opponent ranks 204th in offensive efficiency rating on KenPom and finished their last ten-game stretch of the season with a 3-7 record.
Texas State managed a 6-12 conference record this season and struggled on the defensive end over their last five games. In that five-game span, the Bobcats allowed an average of 76.4 points per game, which is relatively uncharacteristic since their slow play style typically leads to lower-scoring games. The Bobcats are 9th in the country in opponent field goal attempts per game, so it will be vital for them to control the tempo tonight.
On the offensive end, the Bobcats are led by Mason Harrell, who is averaging 16 points per game this season. On the season, Harrell is shooting 33.9% from three, but he has an excellent opportunity to find success tonight against a Panthers team that is 310th in the country in opponent's three-point percentage.
The Texas State Bobcats are currently listed at -4.5 point favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. Georgia State is 3-14-1 ATS in conference games this season and 2-13-1 when listed as an underdog. Texas State has played in three neutral site games this season, and they went 2-1 ATS in that span.
Neither side has the momentum advantage tonight, and the two teams did not meet this season, so if it comes down to all-around ability on both ends of the floor, I think Texas State is the way to go. The Bobcats have a distinct advantage in rebounding for this matchup as they allow opponents to pull in an average of just 30.9 rebounds per game which is ranked 17th in the country, while the Panthers rank 237th in rebounds per game.
Both teams have struggled with consistent shooting, but if the Bobcats can force the Panthers to play at their pace, they will give their offense a lot of trouble since they rank 347th in effective field goal percentage. Between the interior scoring, rebounding advantage, and lack of shooting ability the Panthers have, I think Texas State can advance to the next round while also being profitable for their backers.
Texas State (-4.5)