Introducing Cinderella: Georgia State and Ron Hunter are back!
Conference: Sun Belt
Coach: Ron Hunter
Record: 24-10, 12-6 (2nd Sun Belt)
Rankings and Ratings:
– Kenpom: 96
– RPI: 130
– AP/USA TODAY: Not ranked
Seeding: Georgia State did not play a single Quadrant 1 opponent this season. Not one. Their league is strong enough and they won enough games that they likely won’t end up in a play-in game, but there is a non-zero chance that they end up at a No. 16 seed.
Names you need to know: D’Marcus Simonds. He’s the program’s leading scorer and one of the most talented mid-major players in the country. If he ever finds a way to learn how to shoot the ball consistently he will play in the NBA. He’s that good.
Stats you need to know: 20.9 points, 5.8 boards, 4.5 assists, 1.7 steals. Those are the numbers that Simonds averaged this season. He had 27 points in the Sun Belt title game against UT Arlington. He’s a monster, and he can absolutely carry the Panthers to a win over a higher-seeded team.
Big wins, bad losses: The Panthers didn’t play a great schedule, but they did beat a good Montana team earlier this year. They also picked off Tulane, who was improved this season.
How’d they get here?: After losing four of their last six regular season games, the Panthers put together an impressive run to the Sun Belt automatic bid. They along the way they beat Troy, who had swept them during the regular season, and a pair of title contenders in Georgia Southern and UT Arlington.
Outlook: It depends on where they get seeded and who they are forced to play. If the Panthers can sneak onto the No. 15 seed line, I don’t think it’s crazy to think that a team that plays a lot of zone can pick off someone like, say, Cincinnati or Tennessee.
How do I know you?: Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter produced my favorite moment in NCAA tournament history a few seasons back. In 2015, Hunter, while coaching a team that had his son on it, tore his achilles while celebrating the automatic bid. Then, in the first round of the NCAA tournament, his son hit a game-winner against Baylor that knocked him out of his chair: