Sun Belt Preview – Quarterfinals – From the Bird’s Nest
Today, we feature the two teams that have a bye to the quarterfinals: #3 seed Georgia Southern and #4 seed Texas State. Both teams have a bye until Friday.
#3 GEORGIA SOUTHERN (20-11, 10-6) Coach: Mark Byington (6th season)
Leading scorers: Tookie Brown (17.9), Quan Jackson (14.8), Isaiah Crawley (11.5)
Leading rebounder: Montae Glenn (7.4)
Leading assists: Brown (4.8)
Record vs ULM (1-1) W 79-78 (H), L 79-88 (A), vs. CCU W 79-74 (A)
STRENGTHS: There's no denying Tookie Brown is one of the best players in league history. He's fourth all time in scoring and is a four time first team All-Sun Belt player, culminating in the POY award this year. Brown is at his best when he's driving to the basket, but he's capable beyond the arc as well. This team shoots an excellent percentage inside the arc. Unlike some previous Eagles' teams, they rebound the ball well. Quan Jackson can be a matchup problem at the "3" because of his size. They're quick defensively, which creates transition opportunities.
WEAKNESSES: Overall, this is not a good three point shooting team, although they've shot it a bit better in conference play. They've been inconsistent at the "2" guard. They don't have much behind Brown at the point and if Tookie gets in foul trouble the Eagles are in trouble. This isn't a very deep team and their assist/turnover ratio is poor. Brown and Jackson are good free throw shooters, but the rest of the team is hit and miss. Because they don't make a lot of threes, teams that shoot it well from the perimeter give them problems.
OUTLOOK: You can hurt this team if you upset their tempo, because they get so much done in transition. This team plays smart because Brown won't have it any other way. They have a tough matchup in the quarterfinals because both ULM and Coastal are very capable of getting double digit three point shots, which means GS has to find a way to make up for the disparity. Having a bye to the quarters is a plus, especially if ULM is the opponent. Georgia Southern could win the whole thing. But to do that, Jones and/or Wishart have to step up in a big way.
#4 TEXAS STATE (23-8, 12-6) Head Coach: Danny Kaspar (6th season)
Leading scorers: Nijal Pearson (17.1), Tre' Nottingham (13.6)
Leading rebounders: Alex Peacock (6.2), Pearson (5.0)
Leading Assists: Jaylen Shead (4.9)
vs. Louisiana W 64-62 (H), vs. South Alabama L 63-77 (A)
STRENGTHS: Nijal Pearson does a lot of things well. He's more of a scorer than a shooter, but can certainly fill it from the outside. He's also a solid rebounder and a good passer. Nottingham gives them another outside shooting threat, something that's been missing in previous teams. They are an excellent rebounding team and do it by committee. But the reason they won 23 games is the play of Jaylen Shead. He's the best pure point guard Danny Kaspar has had since he's been at Texas State. Kaspar's teams have always been noted for playing solid defense and this team is no exception. Unlike other Kaspar teams, this club has no problem playing in the 70's. There's plenty of quality depth, especially inside.
WEAKNESSES: Overall, they aren't great shooters, with possible exception of Pearson. They haven't shot it consistently beyond the arc in conference play. This is not a good free throw shooting team with exception of Nottingham. Shead can be foul prone and Texas State really struggles if he isn't in the lineup.
OUTLOOK: The Bobcats had it in front of them, but lost three of their last five games, including their final two. The biggest problem is they struggled to score the basketball, something that wasn't really a problem during most of the season. They play great defense and they rebound very well, but you still have to put the ball in the basket. Kaspar is an outstanding coach and he'll have a good gameplan for either Louisiana or South Alabama. But he can't shoot the ball. Texas State has to have their three guards all playing well at the same time. If that happens, they can win it all. If not, it could be short visit, because the Jags and Cajuns match up well with the Bobcats.