What You Need to Know:
* No. 15-seed Georgia State will open the NCAA Tournament on Friday facing No. 2-seed Cincinnati in Nashville, Tenn., at 2 p.m. ET.
* The Panthers are led by Sun Belt Player of the Year and tournament MVP D'Marcus Simonds who is among the top 25 scorers in the country.
* Georgia State is making its second appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years. In each of the last two appearances, the Panthers have won a first-round contest.
ATLANTA-Georgia State will return to the NCAA tournament for the second time in four years and make its fourth appearance all-time on Friday facing No.2-seed Cincinnati at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., at 2 p.m. ET live on TBS. In each of Georgia State’s last two appearances in the Big Dance, the Panthers have advanced beyond the first round.
Georgia State (24-10) won the Sun Belt Conference tournament last Sunday to advance to the tournament after finishing runner-up in the league for a second-straight season. The Panthers have finished in the top two of the Sun Belt standings in four of the last five years.
Friday’s contest can be heard live on 680 The Fan/93.7 FM with Dave Cohen, now in his 35th year as the Voice of the Panthers, and 680 The Fan’s Brandon Leak calling the action. The game will air live on the TBS with Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas and Jamie Erdahl calling the action. Live statistics and live audio will be available at GeorgiaStateSports.com and on most mobile devices.
The Panthers last qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2015 when Georgia State became the Cinderella of the Dance. Trailing No. 3-seed Baylor by 12 points with 2:53 to play, the Panthers ended the game on a 13-0 run capped with a 30-footer from R.J. Hunter with 2.6 seconds to play. The shot sent head coach Ron Hunter falling off a stool and the rest became history.
Prior to that appearance under former head coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell, Georgia State scored a 50-49 win over No. 6 Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2001 in Boise, Idaho. Ironically in each of those two wins, the Panthers trailed by double figures late in the game.
Cincinnati (30-4) enters play on a seven-game winning streak after earning the American Athletic Conference championship on Sunday against Houston. The Bearcats are the No. 2-ranked defense in the country, however, Georgia State ranks just a few spots back at No. 6 in field goal percentage defense.
Georgia State’s 24 wins are the fourth-most in school history. The Panthers have made a school-record 315 3-pointers this year, just three shy of the Sun Belt Conference record. Georgia State’s 3-point field goal percentage (38.8) is also the best mark in school history.
“This is what every college coach and student-athlete plays for,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “Our guys are extremely excited to be going to the NCAA Tournament, but they are not content to just be there. We want to go up to Nashville, play our best basketball and see what happens. We have a confident group that knows they are capable of playing with anyone.”
Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds earned Sun Belt Player of the Year honors last week along with All-Sun Belt First Team honors just a year after garnering the league’s freshman of the year award. Simonds enters Friday averaging 21.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He is ranked No. 24 in the country in scoring and is one of just eight players ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA in scoring to make the Big Dance. He has already shattered R.J. Hunter’s single-season school record of 688 points and Ryan Harrow’s single-season school record for made field goals. Despite being just a sophomore, he currently stands No. 15 on the career scoring list with 1,106 points.
Georgia State enters the tournament ranked 31st in the NCAA in 3-pointers made (315), 32nd in 3-point field goal percentage (38.8), 23rd in turnover margin (3.1), 30th in total blocks (155) and 30th in totals steals (250).
Junior Devin Mitchell, who earned All-Sun Belt Third Team honors is second on the team averaging 12.2 points per game, having knocked down 97 3-pointers, second-most in a single-season in school history. He enters the tournament just three 3-pointers shy of R.J. Hunter’s school record of 100 treys. He has three games this year with seven or more 3-pointers.
Junior Jeff Thomas is averaging 10.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He has made 143 3-pointers in his career, eighth-most in program history. He and Mitchell are both among the top 10 in school history in 3-pointers made and 3-point field goal percentage.
Junior Malik Benlevi and senior Jordan Session round out the normal starters. Benlevi is averaging 9.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, while Session adds 7.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest. Benlevi, along with Simonds have each recorded five double-doubles this season, while Session has garnered three.
Georgia State’s sixth-man, Isaiah Williams, earned Sun Belt All-Tournament honors last week. The senior is averaging 7.3 points per game and shooting a team-best 88.0 percent from the free throw line.
With a win on Friday, Georgia State would advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday and face the winner of No. 7 Nevada/No. 10 Texas.
• No. 15-seed Georgia State will make its fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and second in four years (2015).
• The Panthers are 2-3 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and have won a game in each of the last two appearances.
• In 2015, No. 14-seed Georgia State shocked No. 3-seed Baylor 57-56 by scoring the final 13 points of the game, capped by an R.J. Hunter 30-foot 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds to play.
• GSU also won its first game of the 2001 NCAA Tournament as a No. 11-seed by topping No. 6-seed Wisconsin 50-49.
• In both NCAA Tournament wins, Georgia State trailed by double figures at one point in the game.
• Georgia State and Cincinnati will be meeting for the first time ever. The two are among the top 6 teams in the country in field goal defense (Cincinnati - No. 2, 37.0; Georgia State - No. 6, 39.3).
• Georgia State is 2-0 all-time against teams from the AAC including a win over Tulane earlier this year.
• Senior Jordan Session will become the first Panther in program history to play in two different NCAA Tournaments.
• D’Marcus Simonds was named Sun Belt Player of the Year, All-Sun Belt First Team and the Sun Belt Tournament MVP, just a year after earning the league’s freshman of the year award.
• Simonds is ranked No. 24 in the NCAA in scoring and one of just eight players in the top 25 in scoring in the country to make the NCAA Tournament.
• Junior Devin Mitchell earned All-Sun Belt Third Team honors and has made 97 3-pointers, second-most in school history.
• D’Marcus Simonds eclipsed R.J. Hunter’s school record of 688 points during the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
• Earlier this year Simonds became the 20th Panther in program history to score 1,000 career points. He accomplished the feat in just 58 games, tied for the fifth-quickest in program history. He is currently ranked No. 15 on the all-time list.
• Simonds recorded his 223rd field goal of the year on Feb. 22, to break the record held by Ryan Harrow.
• Simonds had his school-record streak of 49-straight games scoring in double figures coming to an end last Saturday against GS.
• Simonds is averaging 21.1 points per game which
• Georgia State’s 24-10 start is the fourth-best 34-game start in program history.
• GSU’s 24 wins are the fourth-most in school history. It marks the 4th time in the last five seasons reaching 20-plus wins.
• With GSU’s 24 wins, Ron Hunter has led the Panthers to 5-of-the-8 most successful seasons in program history, including a pair of 25-win seasons. He has won 20 or more games five times in seven seasons at GSU.
• Jordan Session has now played in 126 games, tied for second-most in school history. He has also been a part of 84 wins, second-most for any player in program history.
• Jeff Thomas has made 143 3-pointers in his career, ranked No. 8 on GSU’s all-time list for treys.
• Georgia State’s 3-point field goal percentage (38.6) is currently the best mark in school history, while the 315 3-pointers made broke the school record of 276 set during the 2000-01 season. The Panthers are just three 3-pointers shy of setting the Sun Belt Conference record for 3-pointers (Coastal Carolina, 2016-17, 318).
• Georgia State is one of just 13 schools in the country to win a bowl game and advance to the NCAA Tournament. Only three schools (GSU, Marshall and New Mexico State) are non-Power 5 programs.
• Eight times in NCAA Tournament history as a No. 15-seed beat a No. 2 seed, most recently in 2016 when Middle Tennessee topped Michigan State. It has happened four times since 2012.
• Since the start of the 2013-14 season, GSU has won 110 games, the most of any NCAA D1 program in the state of Georgia.