3 things to watch in Georgia State’s basketball game tonight

The Georgia State men’s basketball team will host Georgia College in an exhibition game on Monday at the Sports Arena.

The Panthers are the defending Sun Belt Conference champs and being tabbed as an NCAA Tournament team to watch … before the season even starts.

The team added several new players in the offseason, including Louisville transfer Kevin Ware and freshmen Jeff Thomas and Jordan Session, and David Travers returned after taking a year off from the game.

Here are three things to watch tonight:

Will Kevin Ware and Curtis Washington play? I’ll be surprised if either plays more than a few minutes if at all. Ware is returning from a high ankle sprain and Washington from an injury sustained this summer. Hunter hopes this team’s chemistry will come together quicker than it took last year’s team, which had a few poor performances early. To do that, the starting five, which figures to include Ware at point guard and Washington at center, need to play together as often as possible so that everyone can settle into their roles.

If they start on Monday, I’m guessing the first five will be Ware, Washington, R.J. Hunter, Ryan Harrow and Jordan Session.

Rebounding. Why will Session, a freshman start, when Hunter has started one freshmen (guess who that is) consistently since he arrived at Georgia State? Because Session, a 6-foot-7 forward, can rebound.

You may remember that last year’s team couldn’t rebound. Its margin was almost minus-5 in that category. In the 82-81 overtime loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt tournament championship game the Panthers were outrebounded by 16. The Ragin’ Cajuns had as many offensive rebounds (20) as the Panthers had defensive rebounds (26).

That area must be improved if the Panthers are to make it to the NCAA tournament. Yes, the team can shoot (46.8 shooting percentage last year), but that advantage is neutralized when opponents get 1.5-2 chances to Georgia State’s one.

That is also why Markus Crider, T.J. Shipes and Jalen Brown may get more playing time this year in place of or in support of Washington, who averaged 5.9 rebounds per game last year. The Panthers need a physical presence who can take box out in the free-throw lane. It can be tough to do because the zone schemes Hunter prefers can leave gaps near the basket that can be attacked, but it must be done.

So, watch the efforts at rebounding on Monday.

The freshmen. Session isn’t the only freshmen who will play. Jeff Thomas was being penciled into the starting lineup by Hunter this summer because of his ability to hit 3-pointers. Isaiah Dennis, a redshirt freshman who sat out last year because of a foot injury, could get time at point guard if Ware doesn’t play on Monday.

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