Midwest Region: Georgia State vs Houston Prediction
Georgia State vs Houston Preview
The Houston Cougars (31-3), the American Athletic Conference regular-season champions, are the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region, while 14th-seeded Georgia State (24-9) won both the Sun Belt Conference regular-season and tournament championships. The Panthers and the Cougars are meeting for the first time ever.
We have not seen a Houston team this good since Phi Slama Jama which featured Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. I won’t go as far to say this team is on that level, but anytime you can win 31 games, it’s an impressive feat.
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, the AAC’s coach of the year, said his team needed a rest and welcomed not having to start the tournament with a game on Thursday. Playing Friday, and with just a short trip from Houston to Tulsa, gives the Cougars an extra day to heal after a 34-game season and a brutal stretch in the AAC tournament.
“It’s significant to me that we don’t play until Friday,” Sampson told the Houston Chronicle on Sunday. “I was really hoping to get a Friday bracket. When you play three games in three days, especially the way we play, we’ve got some guys banged up.”
The significance is due to the Cougars star player, Corey Davis Jr. dealing with a hip injury that is getting more and more worrisome for the team.
Davis, who was named to the all-conference first team, leads the Cougars in scoring at 16.7 points per game. He has reached double figures in 13 straight games, averaging 20.1 points during that span.
Davis said Monday that his hip was on the mend and that he didn’t expect it to be a factor come Friday.
“I couldn’t really move how I wanted to, couldn’t defend, get off the ground as much,” Davis explained about how the injury affected him in the loss to Cincinnati. “My legs were already heavy before I took a blow (to the hip), and that was kind of the knockout punch. It’s feeling a little better… got some treatment done and taking some meds. It’s a process, but I’m doing a lot better.”
Georgia State has success as a 14-seed. In 2015, the team knocked off 3-seed Baylor at the hands of the R.J. Hunter, son of head coach Ron Hunter. R.J. is no longer on the team, but the Panthers sport a lineup that is not afraid to match up with the Cougars.
Guard D’Marcus Simonds is averaging 18.4 points and five rebounds per game this season after he was an Associated Press All-America honorable mention selection as a sophomore in 2018.
The Panthers won their final three games of the regular season to clinch the championship and then twice in the Sun Belt Conference tournament to claim that title for the second straight year. Georgia State pushed aside Texas-Arlington 73-64 in the tournament final behind 16 points and 11 rebounds from Malik Benlevi.
“This group played as a team all year long, and what they did over the last two days defensively is just remarkable,” Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said after the win over Texas-Arlington. “But like we have said, not only do we want to make it to the NCAA Tournament, we want to go win a game in the tournament, and we get that chance now.”
LINE: -11.5 Houston
Dan’s Bet: Under 141.5
Bracket Pick: Houston
Score Prediction: Houston 73 Georgia State 60