Midwest Region First Round Prediction & Free Pick: #3 Houston vs. #14 Georgia State

Date | AuthorAllen Moody

Last Updated: 2019-03-21

The Georgia State Panthers and Houston Cougars kick-off Friday night action at the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when the No. 3 Cougars and No. 14 Panthers do battle. Georgia State advanced to the tournament after winning the Sun Belt Conference tournament and the Cougars received an at-large bid after falling to Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference Tournament.

Houston opened as 13-point favorites and the line dropped to 12 despite the Cougars drawing roughly three-quarters of the wagers. The total has dropped from 142 to 141.5 on a good mixture of two-way betting.

Houston should have a slight majority of fans, as Tulsa is 7.5 hours away compared to being 11.5 hours from Atlanta, and there should be a decent amount of Houston alumni who live even closer.

Georgia State: The Panthers are 24-9 on the season and are a decent offensive team, scoring 3.9 more points than their opponents allowed, while being a little better than average on the defensive side, keeping teams 1.4 points under their season averages. The Panthers aren’t the greatest team from the foul line, hitting 66.3% of their foul shots, but can hit from long range, making 38.5% of their 3-pointers during the year, which is their most effective weapon.

The Sun Belt isn’t quite it used to be, so Georgia State didn’t play the toughest of schedules and seldom saw teams in Ken Pomeroy’s top 100, having just five games against those teams and went 2-3 straight-up, with a victory at Alabama their biggest win of the season.

Houston: The Cougars’ defense gets all of the attention, but there was nothing wrong with Houston’s offense, as the team averaged 5.5 more points than their foes allowed and were better from the field and from 3-point range. But the Cougars played some tough defense, allowing teams 9.9 fewer points than they averaged and held opponents to 37.6% from the field and just 27.6% from 3-point range.

The AAC wasn’t the strongest conference around and the Cougars did play a few tough teams in preseason, earning wins over Oregon, LSU and Utah State and you can’t say they had any really bad losses, although that’s typically going to the case when you only lose three times. The win over LSU was the most impressive, but the Cougars had a few other wins over top 50 teams, something the Panthers can’t say.

Game: The Panthers don’t really play what you would play a fast, pace while the Cougars attempt a couple shots less than their foes allow. Houston can match Georgia State offensively, but the Panthers aren’t anywhere near Houston’s level when it comes to defense.

This one of those games that will likely come down to how well Georgia State does from downtown, as the Panthers average 25 3-pointers per game but are running into a Houston defense that defends extremely well, so something will give in this one.

Pick: Georgia State +12

The Panthers are one of those teams you really don’t look forward to playing, as their outside shooting can cause problems for anybody if they’re hitting. While the Cougars also shoot the 3-pointer well, Georgia State is a little better than average at defending the long-range shot.

Georgia State can turn a 16-point deficit into a 10-point gap with a couple of possessions and the strength of schedules both teams is surprisingly fairly close, so will take a shot with the underdog in this one in what could be a pretty decent game if the Panthers can get a few of their outside shots to fall.

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