What You Need to Know:
* No. 2-seed Georgia State will open the Sun Belt Championship on Friday facing No. 7-seed Troy at 6 p.m. ET at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
* The Panthers are one of the top two seeds in the championship for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
* Sophomore D'Marcus Simonds was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year on Monday.


ATLANTA-Looking to win a second Sun Belt tournament championship in four seasons, No. 2-seed Georgia State will open the conference championship on Friday night at 6 p.m. ET facing No. 7-seed Troy at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.

Georgia State (21-10, 12-6 Sun Belt) earned the No. 2-seed for a second-straight season and is a top-two seed in the conference tournament for the fourth time in the last five years. The Panthers have been a No. 2 seed three times in program history.

The Panthers will face No. 7-seed Troy (16-16, 9-9 Sun Belt) which advanced to the quarterfinals with a win over South Alabama on Wednesday. It will mark the second-straight year the two teams meet in the tournament and the second time in just the last eight days.

Georgia State’s 21 wins are the fifth-most in school history. The Panthers have made 291 3-pointers this year, the most in program history, while the Georgia State’s 3-point field goal percentage (38.6) is the best mark in school history.

Friday’s contest can be heard live on 1340 The Fan 3/103.7 FM, WXJO-AM 1120/104.5 FM, WGTJ-AM 1330/97.9 FM and will be joined in progress 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 also air live on the WatchESPN platform with Matt Stewart and Bob Donewald calling the action. Live statistics and live audio will be available at GeorgiaStateSports.com and on most mobile devices.

“We have had a great week of practice and are ready to try and win another championship,” head coach Ron Hunter said. “Our team has worked for a year to get back to this moment and they are locked in and ready. This is what we have played for all season and we are excited that March Madness is upon us.”

Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds earned Sun Belt Player of the Year honors on Monday 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 21.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He has scored in double-figures in 48-straight games and is ranked No. 19 in the country in scoring. He is just 20 points shy of R.J. Hunter’s single-season school record of 688 points after establishing a new school record with his 223rd made field goal earlier this year. Despite being just a sophomore, he currently stands No. 17 on the career scoring list with 1,056 points.

Georgia State enters the championship ranked first in the league in field goal percentage defense (39.8), turnover margin (+3.4) and blocked shots (4.8), along with second in scoring defense (68.0) and steals (7.3). The Panthers’ scoring defense is ranked No. 65 in the NCAA, while the field goal percentage defense is No. 10.

However, the Panthers’ offense is equally good. Georgia State is first in the Sun Belt in 3-point field goal percentage (38.6) and 3-point field goals made per game (9.4), along with second in field goal percentage (46.1).

Junior Devin Mitchell, who earned All-Sun Belt Third Team honors on Monday is second on the team averaging 12.5 points per game, having knocked down 89 3-pointers, fourth-most in a single-season in school history. He enters the championship just 11 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 10.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He has made 139 3-pointers in his career, eighth-most in program history.

Junior Malik Benlevi and senior Jordan Session round out the normal starters. Benlevi is averaging 9.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, while Session adds 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest. Benlevi, along with Simonds have each recorded five double-doubles this season, while Session has garnered three.

Notes:

  • D’Marcus Simonds has made 250 total field goals this year which ranks No. 6 in the country.
  • Senior Jordan Session has played in 124 career games, tied for third-most in program history. He has also been a part of 82 wins, the fourth-best four-year stretch in program history.
  • Georgia State has posted a winning record in five consecutive seasons, tied for the longest stretch in program history.
  • Georgia State is 4-3 all-time as a No. 2-seed in conference tournaments.

With a win on Friday night, Georgia State will advance to face the winner of No. 2 Georgia Southern and No. 6 UL Monroe on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET live on WatchESPN from Lakefront Arena.

Quick Notes:

• Georgia State will enter the Sun Belt Conference Championship as the No. 2 seed. It marks the fourth time in the last five years that GSU is either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the tournament.

• The Panthers are 4-3 as a No. 2 seed in conference tournaments. GSU was also a No. 2 seed last year and reached the tournament semifinals.

• GSU finished the regular season last weekend against the two Alabama schools, falling to Troy, while topping USA 90-75.

• Georgia State is 26-32 all-time in conference tournaments, winning titles in 2015 (1-seed), 2001 (1-seed) and 1991 (5-seed).

• D’Marcus Simonds was named Sun Belt Player of the Year and to the All-Sun Belt First Team on Monday, just a year after earning the league’s freshman of the year award. 

• Junior Devin Mitchell earned All-Sun Belt Third Team honors on Monday, the first postseason recognition of his career.

• Simonds scored 21 points against South Alabama on Saturday and enters play just 20 points shy of R.J. Hunter’s school record of 688 points scored in a single season.

• 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. 17 on the all-time list just three points shy of Jimmy Jacobs for No. 16.

• Simonds recorded his 223rd field goal of the year on Feb. 22, to break the record held by Ryan Harrow.

• Simonds has scored in double figures in 48-straight games dating back to last season and has four 30-plus performances this year.

• Simonds is averaging 21.5 points per game which is currently the best single-season scoring average in school history. He is currently ranked among No. 19 in the NCAA in scoring.

• Georgia State’s 21-10 start is tied for the fourth-best 30-game start in program history.

• GSU’s 21 wins are the 5th-most in school history. It marks the 4th time in the last five seasons reaching the mark.

• The Panthers have won 65 Sun Belt games since returning to the league in 2013. No other program in the league has more than 62 wins (Louisiana) during that time.

• Georgia State enters play ranked No. 10 in field goal defense (39.8) in the NCAA, No. 31 in blocked shots per game (4.8), No. 65 in scoring defense (68.0) and No. 19 with a turnover margin of 3.4.

• With GSU’s 21 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 124 games, tied for third-most in school history. He has also been a part of 82 wins, the fourth-most for any player in program history.

• Mitchell has made 89 3-pointers this season, 4th-most in school history. He has three games this year with 7 or more treys.

Jeff Thomas has made 139 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 291 3-pointers made broke the school record of 276 set during the 2000-01 season.

• Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Panthers have won 107 games, the most of any NCAA Division 1 program in the state of Georgia.