Georgia State +14 vs. Cincinnati O/U 130
Recommendation: Georgia State
Georgia State is a deep, veteran unit that goes with an eight-man rotation which features six upperclassmen. They have multiple scoring threats led by guard D’Marcus Simonds (1st team All-Sun Belt, 21.1 ppg). GSU is 29th nationally in 3-point efficiency with four players who shoot 38% or better and all have at least 107 attempts. Ron Hunter’s squad is also ninth nationally in 2-point FG% defense (43.9%), 39th in steal percentage and despite their lack of height, 13th in shot blocking percentage. Add to those assets their solid turnover percentage rankings on each end of the floor (offensively 61st, defensively 44th) and you have a pretty strong blueprint for tournament format success. There are however a pair of drawbacks in this particular matchup that are glaring and difficult to overcome. The first is strength of schedule where Cincinnati holds a significant edge having played the 89th toughest as opposed to GSU’s 228th which saw them play one NCAA Tournament team (home 71-68 win vs. Montana). That gap is concerning in itself but the glaring fundamental advantage in this game is rebounding where the Bearcats season numbers overwhelm Georgia State. Cincinnati on the offensive glass is a beast ranking third in the country at 38.1% while the Panthers defensive rebounding ranks among the worst at 32.8% which sits 320th. Mick Cronin’s team will likely dominate this category.
Cincinnati overall has been a better offensive team than past versions but they did struggle down the stretch. Their last four games all slowed down to that typical Cincinnati grind (60, 61, 62, 61 possessions respectively) and they had scoring difficulty for stretches in each of those. Georgia State played tremendous in the SunBelt Tournament and is on a 4-0 SU/ATS run. They are a perimeter type team and Cincinnati defends the arc very well but GSU does have quickness to penetrate to the rim and prevent Cincy from extending out and pressing up too much. The most notable improvement for GSU is its defense. They held an extremely talented UT-Arlington offense to 29.8% shooting in the SunBelt title game. There is a class difference here but with a game projected to play in the low-60's poession wise, I feel that the profile with this underdog is a a good one to stick around.