2019/2020 MBB Non-Conference Primer
In the middle of a tremendous season for Georgia State football, it’s almost too easy to forget basketball is right around the corner. The new-look Panthers under Rob Lanier have played their exhibition game and are ready for the games where the score counts. Here’s the THERSdayNight.com preview of what to look out for in Georgia State’s non-conference schedule:
vs Brewton-Parker (NAIA) – 3-25 record last season
The Barons of Brewton-Parker College will be the first official opponent of the Lanier era in Atlanta. After a 101-66 win over Point in exhibition, Coach Lanier was not too pleased with his team’s defense in the half-court. The result of this one shouldn’t be in doubt and it feels like an opportunity for the Panthers to get a lot of practice in their new man-to-man defensive scheme, perhaps showing the effort in that area Coach thought was missing last time out.
at College of Charleston (Colonial) – 24-9 last season
The Panthers’ first D1 opponent on the season comes in the form of this road test in Charleston. The Cougars were picked 2nd in the CAA in their preseason poll, actually receiving the most 1st-place votes, and senior guard Grant Riller was selected as the preseason player of the year after averaging 21.9 points a game in 2018/19. This will be a good barometer to see where the Panthers are at this early stage of the season.
at Duke (ACC) – 32-6 last season
This game may be less a barometer of success, more an opportunity to test Coach Lanier’s goal of looking the big guys in the eye. Duke lost most of their key contributors – namely Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish – but it’s Duke. They’ll be really, really, really good. This is a chance to go into one of college basketball’s hallowed arenas, take on a giant of the game and see what happens.
at Georgetown (Big East) – 19-14 last season
Georgetown has steadily worked its way back from college basketball obscurity under school legend and NBA hall-of-famer Patrick Ewing and this is the year expectations have really jumped in DC. Coming off an NIT appearance last postseason, the Hoyas will be looking for a bump in production from electrifying sophomore Mac McClung and the Panther bigs will be tested by the versatile seven-footer Omer Yurtseven (57% from the floor, 50% from 3 last season at NC State).
November 22 (In Riverside, CA)
Prairie View (SWAC) – 22-13 last season
Only three current Panthers were active players the last time Georgia State played their Panther compadres in 2017/18, also in a non-conference tournament. It was an inexplicable 71-56 loss – in the conversation for the worst loss of Coach Hunter’s tenure at GSU. This time, it’s a Prairie View coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance (its first since 1998) and tabbed to repeat in the SWAC preseason poll. After the two power conference tests previous, this will be a good chance for the Panthers to go into a tournament format and replicate the madness to come in March.
November 23 (In Riverside, CA)
Central Arkansas (Southland) – 14-19 last season
OR Cal Baptist (WAC) – 16-15 last season
If Georgia State do indeed exorcise their Panther demons, the path to winning the mid-major rung of the 2K Empire Classic in Riverside appears straightforward. Regardless of if it’s the projected fifth-place team in the Southland or the WAC, this potential “championship game” would be – on the face of it – a decent chance for the Panthers to bring back some hardware. If it’s coming off a loss to Prairie View, it’s a chance to save face and earn a win before heading back to Atlanta.
vs Charlotte (Conference USA) – 8-21 last season
Charlotte is a team in transition in their second year under coach Ron Sanchez. They lose the 21.7 points per game of Jon Davis, so there is a lot of offensive production to be replaced. But by this point of their non-conference slate, the 49ers should have an idea of who they are. This is a weird time of the year – and will probably be a poorly-attended game right in the middle of Thanksgiving break – but success starts at home and Georgia State should handle this home game if they have higher aspirations on the year.
vs Dartmouth (Ivy League) – 11-19 last season
Likewise, this is a home game Georgia State should win versus a historically-hapless Dartmouth program. The Big Green have missed out on the NCAA Tournament every year since 1959 and have not had a winning record in this millenium. But hope springs eternal in Hanover and maybe this is the year. The Ivy League voted them joint-last place in their preseason poll but Dartmouth will look to take a big step up, led by talismanic forward Chris Knight and Weber State transfer Trevon Ary-Turner.
at Mercer (Southern) – 11-20 last season
This in-state matchup will feature two power-conference assistants in their first year at their new schools, as former Purdue assistant Greg Gary replaces Bob Hoffman in Macon. Mercer has fallen off from the heights they reached when they knocked off Duke in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, facing adversity in what has become an increasingly stronger Southern Conference, but this will still be a good road battle against a team that gave the Panthers everything they could handle in the Sports Arena last November and an easy trip for Panther fans to make.
at SMU (American) – 15-17 last season
After facing arguably their toughest Sun Belt homestand when the Texas schools come to the Third Floor, Georgia State keeps the Lone Star theme going by travelling to Dallas for a road game just before Christmas. Tim Jankovich took over the SMU program after serving as Larry Brown’s lieutenant during the program’s rise back to national prominence. But after a 30-win campaign his first season in charge, Jankovich hasn’t been able to keep the momentum going. This is a big year for him and the Mustangs, and any chance for the Panthers to perform in front of AAC eyes can’t be missed. SMU will miss point guard Jimmy Whitt, who grad-transferred to Arkansas this offseason.
vs Middle Georgia State (NAIA) – 19-13 last season
This serves as a final tune-up after the holiday break and before the onslaught of conference play well and truly begins.