Here are four thoughts after Georgia State defeated Troy 75-66 75-64 on Saturday. (If you are wondering why the 75-66 is scratched out, it’s becausxe both Mike Holmes and I thought at first that was the final score. I swear I saw it on the scoreboard, but the final score in the book was 75-64.)
Anyway, on to the three thoughts:
Tiebreakers. Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Louisiana-Monroe are tied atop the Sun Belt with 13-5 conference records.
Deciding the regular-season champ, and top seed in the tournament in New Orleans, is solved if the Panthers defeat the Warhawks on Thursday and the Eagles at the GSU Sports Arena on Saturday. If that happens, Georgia State will repeat as champ and earn the tournament’s top seed. The two highest seeds earn byes to the semifinals of the tournament.
If Georgia State splits its remaining two games, things can become more complicated depending upon how Louisiana-Monroe and Georgia Southern do in their remaining game, but the Panthers would still clinch one of the top two seeds. If Georgia State goes 0-2, things can get really weird.
Some of the remaining scenarios:
Georgia State goes 1-1, Georgia Southern goes 1-1 and ULM goes 2-0: The Warhawks would take the regular-season title and the top seed. The Panthers and Eagles tie with the first tiebreaker being head-to-head matchup. They will have split their two-game series. The next tiebreaker is record against the first-place team. The Panthers and Eagles would have split with the Warhawks. The next tiebreaker is record against the next best team, which as of Sunday is Louisiana-Lafayette. Both teams split with the Cajuns, moving the tiebreaker to the head-to-head with the fifth-place team, Texas-Arlington. The Panthers went 2-0 against the Mavericks, while Georgia Southern went 1-1. Georgia State would take the second seed in the tournament, which also comes with a bye to the semifinals.
Georgia State goes 1-1, ULM goes 1-1 and Georgia Southern goes 2-0: The Eagles would take the regular-season title and the top seed. The Panthers and Warhawks will tie for second. The Panthers would win the tiebreaker because they would have won both games against the Warhawks.
Georgia State goes 0-2 and Louisiana-Lafayette goes 2-0: The Panthers and the Cajuns finish tied for third with 13-7 records. They split their series, moving the tiebreaker to each team’s record against the highest-place team, and continuing down the standings until the tie is broken. If Georgia Southern wins the conference, Louisiana-Lafayette will clinch the third seed because it went 1-1 against the Eagles, while Georgia State would finish 0-2. The Panthers would finish fourth. If Louisiana-Monroe wins the conference, Georgia State will clinch the third seed, which comes with a bye to the quarterfinals, because it would finish 1-1 against the Warhawks while the Cajuns went 0-2.
The offense. I’m sure there were probably a few bad shots taken on offense Saturday, but for the most part Georgia State was as efficient and as patient as I can remember in shooting 62 percent from the field. It was the third best mark this season, behind 63 at Oakland and 62.5 against Tennessee Temple in the opener.
Depending upon your view, you could say the offense was either balanced with eight players scoring or top-heavy with Ryan Harrow and Markus Crider combining to score 30 of the team’s 75 points. Either way, it was impressive because R.J. Hunter went 3-of-9 and missed all five of his 3-pointers. A couple, including the first, rimmed in and out. He’s one away from tying the school record for 3-pointers of 240, set by Shellord Pinkett from 1994-98.
Crider has quietly become the glue of Panthers. He had 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals against the Trojans. He has scored at least 10 points in each of the last eight games to provide a scorer inside that Georgia State has lacked. His production, combined with the improved play of Curtis Washington and T.J. Shipes can change this team. The three combined to score 28 points on Saturday as the Panthers dominated the Trojans inside. Troy tried to space the floor with four guards, a tactic used by UALR in Thursday’s loss, but this time Georgia State was able to take advantage of some of the mismatches.
Finishing games. You would think a team that blew an 11-point lead in the finals of last year’s Sun Belt tournament would learn a lesson about finishing games, but it doesn’t seem the Panthers have. Georgia State relaxed in the second half against the Trojans and were outscored 39-36. After building a 23-point lead with 9:43 left, Troy got the margin to 12 in the final minutes. This has been an issue for the team most of the season. Georgia State must learn how to keep its foot on the gas if it hopes to win the conference tournament.