Since the tournament expanded, nine teams seeded 13 or worse have made the Sweet 16. Each of those teams had to beat a team in the second round that no doubt saw the presence of such a poorly-rated team as the only thing between them and the second weekend as a gift. That's where Xavier finds itself right now.
Of course, Georgia State is no pushover. They're good enough to beat Baylor, for one, but they challenged themselves in the non-conference schedule and have managed to push themselves into the top 60 in the Pomeroy rankings. There are some perplexing losses on their resume, including three to teams below the KenPom 200 line.
Defensively, Georgia State relies on a swarming 2-2-1 full-court and three-quarter-court press to speed teams up and force turnovers. They force turnovers at the 34th best rate in the nation and steals at the 3rd best. They also boast the 34th best EFG% against, defending 3P% and 2P% fairly well. They do concede the arc in terms of suppressing attempts and are absolutely miserable on the defensive glass.
Good news: they can't shoot the three ball. They shoot 31.7% from deep as a team and only take 27.5% of their field goal attempts from there. They don't ever turn the ball over and are 21st in the nation in 2P%. They're a bad offensive rebounding team but execute from the line exceptionally well. This is not a team that is going to give away a lead late if they're allowed to get one.
|Kevin Ware||Point Guard||Dee Davis|
|6'2", 170||Measurements||6'0", 170|
|Ware is famous for the horrific injury he sustained in the 2012 Elite Eight with Louisville. This is his first year at GSU, and he has carved himself out a role as the Panthers go-to defensive stopper. Ware does not shoot often or well, but offense is not a major part his value. He is the leader of a defense intent on pressure and turning the opponent over.|
|Ryann Green||Shooting Guard||Remy Abell|
|6'1", 180||Measurements||6'4'", 195|
|Green's game is pretty close to that of Ware, save that he is a slightly worse ball handler and a slightly better shooter. One of these spots would typically be filled by Ryan Harrow, but he is questionable due to injury, so Green and Ware got the start last game. His 11 against Baylor was the first time Green had cracked double digits in his college career, so he has not been a consistent scoring threat for GSU this year.|
|R.J. Hunter||Forward||Trevon Bluiett|
|6'6", 190||Measurements||6'6", 215|
|Hunter is the guy everyone thinks about when they think about playing Georgia State. He is their leading scorer, and took almost 150 more three pointers than anyone else on the team. What he is not is a very efficient scorer. His best match on KenPom is Ole Miss's Stefan Moody, another volume scorer who X just shut down. Especially if harrow doesn't play: stopping Hunter means a long day for the Panthers on offense.|
|Markus Crider||Forward||James Farr|
|6'6", 200||Measurements||6'10", 247|
|Crider does the lion's share of the work on the defensive boards for Georgia State, which is equal parts impressive and troubling for the Panthers considering he is 6'6". His offensive game is predicated almost entirely inside the arc, where he can make a lot of things happen given a favorable matchup.|
|Curtis Washington||Center||Matt Stainbrook|
|6-10, 230||Measurements||6-10, 270|
|Washington is the only force of note in the starting 5 on the offensive glass for GSU, although he struggles on defensive rebounds for some reason or another. Washington is also 33rd in the nation in block rate and has a well developed post game, predicated mostly on his aggressiveness once he gets the ball down there. Washington only had 7 points against Baylor, but his 4 offensive rebounds were vital for Georgia State's advancement and serve notice that he needs checked there.|
Georgia State is not deep on the bench, featuring just 28% of their minutes from there this season. Ryan Harrow may wind up there and was good for 18.7/2.1/3.7 for the Panthers and was more efficient than Hunter at .504/.390/.717. The only other player getting double digit minutes off the bench is T.J. Shipes, who at 6'7" 225 fills in at both post positions. Shipes is not a priority offensively for GSU when he is out there, but hits the offensive boards hard and blocks his fair share of shots.
- Who guards RJ Hunter? Hunter is far too long for either of the Davises and even holds a two inch height advantage on Remy Abell. He's not a great three point shooter, but he's taken 245 shots from deep this year. One thing he isn't is as blazing fast as some matchups that Xavier has had recently. It's possible that Trevon Bluiett may get some of the time on him as well as Abell.
- Can Xavier take advantage on the glass? The Panthers are flat out horrible at keeping opponents off the offensive glass, allowing teams to grab 35% of their own misses. Xavier's defensive rebounding would lead you to believe that they would be good on the offensive glass, but they haven't been. Baylor managed to grab 46.2% of their misses, if Xavier does that this game will be the Musketeers for the taking.
- Will Xavier limit turnovers? Georgia St forces turnovers better than all but 13 other teams in the nation. They do that with a half court or 3/4 court press that harasses guards with a 2-2-1 lineup. Enter Matt Stainbrook. Xavier's center has an assist rate of over 20% and excels at passing the ball out of double teams. If he can get the ball mid court, he could eviscerate the Panthers. Dee Davis, dribbling, on the other hand...
- Slow the guards: Hunter hardly ever comes off the floor (91.8% of minutes available) and uses 28.5% of possessions. He's already one of the stories of the tournament and is both a volume scorer and relatively efficient with the ball. He's also 66th in the nation in steal percentage. Ryan Harrow is still say to say with a strained hamstring but uses the ball even more and more efficiently than Hunter. No one guarding either can afford a possession.
- Knock down shots: This seems self evident, but Georgia State struggles limiting looks once the press is broken. 42% of opponent's shots come from behind the arc against the Panthers, more than against all but 11 other teams in the nation. Xavier is going to get a ton of looks from deep. They need to make them.
- Play the packline: Georgia State neither excels at nor enjoys shooting three pointers. They make only 31.9% of the 27.5% of their shots they take from deep. Other than that, Hunter, Harrow, and Kevin Ware slash a lot while Markus Crider and Curtis Washington take up stations inside. Xavier won't have to chase down a lot of shooters, they just have to make sure they close down inside.