2021 THERSday Predictions: Men’s Basketball

Head Coach Rob Lanier reacts to play during the Georgia State/Georgia Southern men’s basketball game toward the end of the 2019-2020 season. Photo: Jordan Crawford for THERSdayNight.com

In this article, the whole THERSday Night gang locks their predictions into the vault for the upcoming season on the hardwood.

OOC record:

Brady: I’m going to go with 9-3. I think they take care of business at home, win both games of the Legends Classic at High Point, get some road revenge on Mercer after losing to them in Macon last season and win at least one of the games against Richmond, Mississippi State and Georgia Tech. Winning any and each of those potential road upsets could be the difference in seed lines if Georgia State makes the tournament, so picking up multiple of them could go a long way.

David: I think the Panthers go 10-2 in out of conference due to the light schedule at home and the quality of returning production from the 2020-2021 season. Mississippi State and Georgia Tech pose a tough challenge for Georgia State as the former just missed the NCAA Tournament, losing to eventual SEC tournament winner Alabama, and the latter Georgia Tech upset Florida State in the ACC tournament to secure the ACC automatic bid. The Jackets finished their 2021 season with an 8-1 record in their final 9 games and will be a tough matchup for the Panthers. Georgia State takes a road trip to both of these schools and the matchup will be difficult for the Panthers. 

Jordan: I’d be disappointed with fewer than 8 out of conference wins, but I’m choosing to believe this squad gets it done. I’m going to echo David here and choose 10-2. It’s a lighter OOC than most of the Panthers’ recent seasons, and this veteran squad ought not have much issue coming out on top in most matchups provided guys get and stay healthy.

Taylor: This is a Georgia State team coming into the 2021-22 season with a deep team featuring veterans at key positions. Considering the OOC slate that they’ve scheduled this year, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect this team to finish with 10+ OOC wins heading into conference play later this season. Protecting home court against teams you should beat sets the foundation for a good season, but I’m looking forward to the Panthers’ trip to Richmond in their third regular season game of the year as a litmus test as to what to expect for the rest of the OOC schedule. The spiders are coming off a 14-9 season in which they made it to the second round of the NIT tournament before falling to Mississippi State, a team the Panthers will play later in December. The toughest part of their schedule lies in December where they play Mississippi State in Starkville and get another look at a Georgia Tech team eager for revenge after GSU’s thrilling 4OT win to open the season last year. Those 2 games will be the biggest measure of where to set expectations before conference play in my mind. I’m looking for a 10-2 start to the season from Georgia State

Overall record:

Brady: 24-6 in the regular season, making for a 15-3 Sun Belt record. Think they take a couple more road splits on conference road trips than they would like, but they can take care of business at home and rack up conference wins. 15-3 would have been good enough for the regular season title in almost every Sun Belt season in recent memory, so if the Panthers can hit this mark, there’s a good chance of getting the 1 seed heading to Pensacola.

David: With a regular season record of 26-4 and a conference record of 16-2, Georgia State should easily receive the #1 seed headed into the conference tournament in Pensacola. From there, they will control their own destiny as they try to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time under head coach Rob Lanier. It feels like the Panthers have had something halt their ability to truly dominate the Sun Belt each of the last few seasons, and this year, unless there is a rash of injuries, they should finally put it all together and put in an all-time performance. 

Jordan: I’m going to set my O/U at 25 wins in the regular season, which would set the Panthers up for 25-5 overall and 15-3 in the Sun Belt. While the team has been named preseason favorites once again, we all know how much of a bloodbath conference games can be when push comes to shove. This team is definitely capable of running the table – but there’s still a few question marks to be had with some key Sun Belt matchups.

Taylor: I’m going to keep in the spirit and predict a 25-5 record for the Panthers. This team was picked 1st in the preseason rankings for a reason. Barring some #FunBelt shenanigans, as is bound to happen every year, they should handily find themselves in control of a top seed heading into the conference tournament. Quality, veteran guard play has time and time again been the biggest indicator of a team’s potential for success in college basketball and luckily that’s where the Panthers’ biggest strengths lie. A 25-win regular season would put Georgia State in a great position to make their way back to the NCAA Tournament this year.

Top scorer: 

Brady: The easy bet of Corey Allen got easier when he came out and dropped 22 in the exhibition against Clayton State on 9-of-11 shooting (4-of-4 from 3). Corey stepped up from 13.5 ppg to 15 ppg in 2020 and he looks ready to take another step this season. Early indications are he’s got his eyes set on getting the Panthers back to the Big Dance and he could well earn First Team All-Sun Belt honors along the way.

David: Justin Roberts has been close to leading the Panthers in points in each of his two seasons in Atlanta, and his third is where he will put it all together. Roberts’ 3-point shooting took a step back in the 2020-2021 season. After shooting 40% on 5.3 attempts per game in 2019-2020, Roberts shot 35% on 4.7 attempts per game in 10 fewer games. With that in mind, Roberts’ points per game remained the same at 13.2. With so many options for scoring, Roberts should get the space he needs to inch that 3-point percentage back up and take over as the Panthers’ leading scorer. 

Jordan: Gotta go with Corey Allen on this one. It’s evident he’s been putting in the work to improve his game and his physical fitness, and I’m expecting him to have a banner year.

Taylor: I’m going to take the easy money on this one and say Corey Allen. A summer of conditioning and practice has Allen in a position for a breakout performance as the Panthers top scoring option this year surrounded by talented facilitators. The decision from he and fellow senior guard Kane Williams to return for a final season says a lot about the team’s attitude and internal expectations entering head coach Rob Lanier’s third season at Georgia State. I’m looking for Corey Allen to finish somewhere in the realm of 17 to 18 ppg this season and lead the Panthers in scoring.

Panthers to be named All-Sun Belt honorees:

Brady: As I alluded to above, I think Corey Allen is going to top-score his way to the First Team when all is said and done this year. I also think Kane Williams will end up on the All-Sun Belt Second Team. And predicting the frontcourt production right now is made more difficult with Eliel Nsoseme’s injury, but I think Jalen Thomas has really been growing into who he is as a player and is becoming a real offensive weapon, so I think he will find his way onto the Third Team. Eliel’s all-conference prospects are obviously dependent on getting back to 100% health, but he could also be in for a Second or Third Team spot if he gets right fast enough, possibly in lieu of Jalen.

David: A case can be made that the projected starting five for Georgia State will receive an award, but for brevity, one can expect Corey Allen, Jalen Thomas, Kane Williams and Justin Roberts to all receive All-Sun Belt honors. The Panthers also have a few options off the bench who will fight for some postseason love in Jordan Rawls and Nelson Phillips. Depending on the severity of his injury, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Eliel Nsoseme receive some attention as well. It’s a deep team. 

Jordan: I won’t go so far as to predict who lands on which team, but if we don’t see Corey Allen, Kane Williams and Justin Roberts make a team, I think some questions will need to be asked. There’s another handful of guys who could be in the conversation as well, pending getting and/or staying healthy and playing smart ball when it counts.

Taylor: As I mentioned before, Georgia State is a team whose strength lies in experienced guard play. With that fact in mind, I expect Corey Allen to make the All-Sun Belt First Ream as the primary scoring option in a potent Panther offense this year. Kane Williams was named to the 2019-20 All-Sun Belt Second Ream and I’m looking for him to earn that honor again this year as Allen’s partner in the Georgia State backcourt. Justin Roberts is due some respect with an All-Sun Belt nod this year as well, in my opinion. With the frontcourt rotation less clear to start the season, it’s tough to say if any Panther big men will receive consideration. But if Eliel Nsoseme can find his way back into the action as he recovers from injury, he’s got the physical tools and the potential to be dominant this year and possibly earn himself a Second or Third Team look.

Finish this sentence: Georgia State’s season is a success if __________:

Brady: They make the NCAA Tournament. Obviously to reach the heights they want to as a program, they need to get back to the tournament AND go on a run when they get there, but after missing the last two, just getting back in the Dance and resetting that as the expectation is a win. Regular season success is better than regular season failure, but getting the best record attainable won’t do much for Georgia State if they can’t win the Sun Belt title game in Pensacola and hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

David: If they win an NCAA Tournament game. Making the tournament for the first time under coach Rob Lanier will be important, but he didn’t come here to get a ticket to the dance and he will be the first person to admit that. Coach Lanier wants to make a run and play basketball for as long as the Panthers can. Being a high seed and drawing a tough 1-3 matchup won’t cut it for this Panthers team. Expectations have long since passed that point. The Sun Belt title being the low bar is too low, given the experience and potential of this team, especially after it escaped them last year. 

Jordan: Georgia State’s season is a success if they consistently finish tough games. We remember the collapse and loss to App State in last year’s Sun Belt tournament final, and I’m willing to bet the team remembers it even more. Discussing the tournament is all well and good, but at this point in the program’s trajectory it’s become the expectation. Focusing on the micro aspects and ensuring you play consistent, good basketball and take care of business is the formula to get to the tournament again. However, until the Panthers punch their ticket to the Big Dance, the only thing that matters is winning the next game.

Taylor: If they make it back to the NCAA tournament. Rob Lanier has a talented and experienced roster this year and the expectations should be to make the tournament. After missing the last two seasons of March Madness action, the Panthers will look to re-establish themselves as the premier basketball program in the Sun Belt and give Coach Lanier his first taste of NCAA Tournament action as a head coach since the 2001-02 season.

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