West Region Third Round: #14 Georgia State Panthers vs #6 Xavier Musketeers

2015 NCAA Tournament
West Region Third Round
#6 Xavier Musketeers vs #14 Georgia State Panthers
Veterans Memorial Arena – Jacksonville, Florida
Saturday, March 21, 2015, 6:10 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Opening Line: Xavier -7
Current Line: Xavier -7 1/2
Opening Total: 134
Current Total: 131 1/2
Opening Money Line: Xavier -350 / Georgia State +290
Current Money Line: Xavier -325 / Georgia State +270

Xavier is a 7 point favorite against the Cinderella Georgia State Saturday in Jacksonville.
Xavier is a 7 point favorite against the Cinderella Georgia State Saturday in Jacksonville.

Thursday was one of the craziest days in NCAA Tournament history with upsets and buzzer beaters galore. Nine of the sixteen games were decided by 4 points or less including a record five games decided by one point. One of the most memorable games was the #14 seeded Georgia State Panthers upsetting the #3 seed Baylor Bears 57-56. The Panthers closed the game on a 13-0 run including the game winning 3 pointer from R.J. Hunter. R.J.’s dad coach Ron Hunter had torn his Achilles’ tendon on Sunday celebrating the Panthers’ win over Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt Championship game. He coached against Baylor with a hard cast on his foot and coached from a wheeled stool. The video of him falling off the stool when R.J. hit the game winner quickly became a viral sensation and Georgia State has become the tournament darlings for many fans with busted brackets because of all the upsets.

Next up for the Panthers is a third round match-up against the #6 seed Xavier Musketeers Saturday in Jacksonville. The winner will face either the #2 seed Arizona or #10 seed Ohio State in the West regional semifinals next week in Los Angeles. Xavier and Georgia State are playing for the third time ever. Xavier swept a home and home with both games played in 1981.

Georgia State won both the Sun Belt regular season title and the conference tournament to clinch their third ever NCAA bid and first since 2001. The Panthers went 15-5 in conference during the regular season and then beat Georgia Southern 38-36 in the Sun Belt championship Sunday. Georgia state went 0-1 against Tournament teams in the regular season.

Xavier finished 6th in the Big East at 9-9. The Musketeers did advance to the Big East Championship game but were beaten 69-52 by Villanova in the Championship game Saturday. The Musketeers breezed to a 76-57 win over Ole Miss in the second round Thursday. Xavier is making their 25th NCAA appearance and has been a fixture in the tournament since the mid 80’s. Xavier made it all the way to the Elite 8 in 2004 and 2008. The Musketeers went 8-7 against NCAA Tournament teams this season.

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Georgia State has road losses to Iowa State, Colorado State, Old Dominion, Green Bay, Louisiana-Lafayette, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Arkansas-Little Rock, plus a home loss to Texas State. The Panthers have home wins over Green Bay, Southern Miss, UL-Monroe, UL-Lafayette, and Georgia Southern, along with road wins over Oakland, IUPUI, and UL-Monroe. The Panthers have won 9 pf the last 10 games including 5 straight. GSU is 16-17 ATS and the total is 12-14 this season. The Panthers were 9.5 point favorites against Baylor and the total was 125.5.

Xavier is coached by Chris Mack. The Musketeers have neutral site losses to UTEP and Long Beach State in the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton/Anaheim, and Villanova in the Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden, plus road losses at Auburn, DePaul, Butler, Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall, and St. John’s, along with home losses to Creighton, St. John’s, and Villanova. Xavier has home wins over Long Beach State, Stephen F. Austin, Murray State, Alabama, Florida-Gulf Coast, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Marquette, DePaul, Providence, and Butler, neutral site wins over San Diego in Fullerton, Butler and Georgetown in the Big East Tournament, plus road wins over Missouri, Georgetown, Marquette, Cincinnati, and Creighton. The Musketeers are 17-16-1 ATS and the total is 14-19 this season. Xavier was a 2 point favorite against Ole Miss and the total was 144.5.

Georgia State is outscoring teams 72-62 this season. The Panthers are #64 or better in both categories nationally. GSU is shooting 48.1% from the field and 33.3% from 3 point range. The Panthers are #17 nationally in field goal shooting. GSU is #49 nationally in free throw shooting at 72.8% from the line. Opponents are shooting 38.1% from the field and 32.2% from 3 point range. The Panthers are #9 nationally in field goal defense. GSU averages 32.8 rebounds per game and opponents average 30.2. The Panthers average 13.6 assists, 10.7 turnovers, 9.1 steals and 4.2 blocks per game. Opponents average 12.6 assists, 15.2 turnovers, 4.7 steals and 2.4 blocks per game.

Coach’s son R.J. Hunter averages 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 1 block per game. Guard Ryan Harrow averages 18.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He only played 6 minutes total in the Sun Belt Tournament after suffering a bruised hamstring. He is probable Saturday. Markus Crider averages 9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Kevin Ware averages 7.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 rebounds. College Basketball fans might remember Ware suffering a horrific broken leg a couple of seasons ago when he was playing for Louisville’s national championship team. Ware scored 18 of GSU’s 38 points in the Sun belt title game. Curtis Washington, T.J. Shipes, and Ryann Green will also get minutes in the rotation. Guard Jeff Thomas is ineligible for the season.

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Xavier is outscoring teams 74-68 this season. The Musketeers are #42 nationally in scoring. Xavier is shooting 47.3% from the field and 34.9% from 3 point range. The Musketeers are #29 nationally in field goal shooting. Xavier makes 72.5% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 43.8% from the field and 34.9% from 3 point range. Xavier averages 34.9 rebounds per game and opponents average 28.5 per game. Xavier averages 16.4 assists, 12.1 turnovers, 6.1 steals and 2.9 blocks per game. Opponents average 13 assists, 12.9 turnovers, 6.5 steals and 3.7 blocks per game.

Matt Stainbrook averages 12 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Trevon Bluiett averages 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2   assists per game. Myles Davis averages 10.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Jalen Reynolds averages 9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Remy Abell averages 8.6 points, 2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Dee Davis averages 8.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Three other players average at least 10 minutes a game. J.P. Macura is probable with an ankle injury.

Georgia State is 4-1 ATS in Saturday games, 7-3 after a cover and overall, 9-4 after a straight up win, and 6-15 in non-conference games.

Xavier is 19-6-2 ATS in NCAA Tournament games, 3-1-1 after a straight up win, 5-2-1 against teams with winning records, and 1-4 in Saturday games.

At this point, Georgia State is playing with house money. They really have nothing to lose and will play with confidence. The Panthers trailed by 12 points to Baylor with just over 2 minutes to go before the magical comeback. I think Xavier wins but it will be a hard fought game.

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