This first-round matchup will feature a 31-win Houston squad looking to bounce back from last season’s heartbreaking loss to Michigan and a Georgia State team looking to build on its tournament appearance from last season.
The two coaches, Houston’s Kelvin Sampson and Georgia State’s Ron Hunter, have transformed their respective programs and will look to keep the momentum going in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Date/Time: Friday, March 22, 7:20 PM ET
kenmpom.com projection: Houston def. Georgia State 77-65
Betting line: Houston -11.5 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
No. 3 seed Houston
Coach: Kelvin Sampson
Record: 31-3 (16-2)
Conference tournament finish: Runner-up
Player to Watch: Corey Davis Jr.
The Cougars have seemingly gone under the radar all season despite winning 31 games. Houston would’ve been a No. 1 seed according to NET, but the committee put them on the 3-line.
Davis Jr. is one of three guards on the team shooting 38 percent or better from behind the arc. He is averaging 16.7 points per game and is the leader of the 24th most efficient offense in the country. Houston combines that firepower with the 13th best defensive efficiency according to kenpom.com, giving the Cougars plenty of bite on both ends of the floor.
Houston beat tournament-bound teams LSU, Utah State, Oregon and Saint Louis in the non-conference slate before running through the AAC with relative ease. The Cougars beat Cincinnati twice, including a 16-point road win against the Bearcats, before losing in their third matchup of the season in the conference tournament final.
This is the fourth Houston team in school history to top 30 wins. Don’t be surprised if this experienced roster makes a deep run in the dance.
[RELATED: Print Your 2019 NCAA Tournament Bracket]
No. 14 seed Georgia State
Coach: Ron Hunter
Record: 24-9 (13-5)
Conference tournament finish: Won Sun Belt
Player to Watch: D’Marcus Simonds
People are familiar with the Panthers in March because of Ron Hunter, their head coach who famously fell off his stool when his son, R.J., hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Baylor in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Hunter had to coach in the NCAA tourney from a stool because he previously tore his Achilles celebrating the team’s conference tournament title.
This year’s Georgia State team doesn’t have R.J., but D’Marcus Simonds is the star. He’s averaging 18.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, but it’s not all on his shoulders.
Including Simonds, Georgia State has five players averaging double figures. The other four all shoot 40 percent or better from behind the arc, giving the Panthers plenty of firepower from the perimeter. Kenpom.com has Georgia State ranked 17th in the country in 3-point percentage.
If the Panthers get open looks from behind the arc, Houston’s defensive efficiency won’t matter. Georgia State has been in this situation before as the No. 14 seed facing the No. 3 seed. It also helps that Hunter has a star in Simonds and three seniors looking to make their mark in the dance.