Is tonight the most important game of the year for Georgia State?

Before we get into tonight’s game, I would like to ask you a few questions:

As we hit the halfway point in the CAA season, who is Georgia State’s MVP? Who needs to step up? After tonight, what is the toughest remaining game and why? What is the team’s strength? What is its weakness? Who is the coach of the year in the CAA? The MVP? What is the key to the race?

I’m compiling info for a story running Saturday. Post comments below, or email me at droberson@ajc.com.

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Tonight’s game at Drexel is arguably the most important of the year for Georgia State’s basketball team.

‘Why?’ you may ask. ‘The Panthers (14-6, 6-3) have already beaten the Dragons (15-5, 7-2) handily once this season.’

While it is true Georgia State beat Drexel by 14 points at the Sports Arena on Jan. 2, the Dragons haven’t lost since.

As a matter of fact, it was their only loss in their past 14 games.

Three of their past 14 wins have come by double-digits, including a 71-53 beatdown of the same Northeastern team that defeated the Panthers last week.

As important as a victory would be for the Panthers in the Colonial Athletic Association race, coming out on the good side would be a needed boost of confidence.

Hunter has said many teams that he didn’t inherit a bad team, he inherited a team that didn’t know how to win.

Well, the Panthers are very good at home, a perfect 10-0. They have lost their last three on the road, to George Mason, Northeastern and Delaware. Each of those games came down to the final seconds, providing some fodder that Georgia State is the best team in the CAA.

But you can’t be considered the best team until you can beat a hot team on their floor.

Doing so tonight, against the best defensive team in the CAA (54.8 ppg), may provide the Panthers a jolt of confidence they can use on Saturday when they host VCU, and carry them all the way through the CAA tournament in Richmond in early March.

The Dragons feature four players who have hit at least 20 3-pointers this season. Defending the 3-point line has been a short-term sore spot for Georgia State in the past three games. The Huskies and Blue Hens combined to hit 24 3-pointers. It appeared that James Madison was going to have a hot hand when it hit three quick 3-pointers on Monday. Curiously, each was from the same spot on the floor: its left wing or the right side of Georgia State’s defense, right in a crease in the 1-3-1 zone. But then Georgia State’s defense tightened up and JMU went cold.

To win the Panthers will need to get more from James Fields and Josh Micheaux. Hunter said last week that he took Micheaux out of the starting lineup against Delaware, and inserted Brandon McGee, because defenses simply sagged back whenever Fields or Micheaux had the ball, daring them to shoot, while clogging the free-throw lane.

Fields and Micheaux let fly in the win over James Madison. The duo combined to score 12 points in a key run, with Micheaux hitting a 3-pointer. I would guess that even if Micheaux isn’t feeling a hot hand, Hunter would still like to see him shoot just to make the defense come out a little bit, which would give Eric Buckner some more room to move inside.

Speaking of Buckner, he bounced back against the Dukes in a big way. I was curious to see how he would play after what happened against Delaware. For those who don’t read regularly (shame on you, if you don’t :) ), Buckner missed a free throw at the end of regulation that would have won the game. He also missed a layup — miss isn’t the right word, the ball went in and just came out, I’m told — that would have won the game in overtime. This came after he missed free throws in the final minute at Northeastern that might have changed that outcome.

Instead of turning inward, Buckner showed his senior experience by hitting 7 of 8 free throws against the Dukes, blocking six shots and scoring 13 points.

So, what do you think about tonight’s game?

Do you agree or disagree that it’s the biggest game of the year. Let me hear from you. Traffic has been light since the losing streak.

Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu

31 comments Add your comment

Sluggo

January 25th, 2012
9:47 am

Absolutely it’s our most important game because it’s the next game. Nothing better than stopping Drexel’s winning streak. Let’s go Panthers!

DowntownSmackdown

January 25th, 2012
10:11 am

Most important game of the year for GSU?

St. Francis.

Steven Regal

January 25th, 2012
10:12 am

Go Panthers!
Go proof reading!

RidgeRunner

January 25th, 2012
10:14 am

Actually we have 2 important games in a row against 2 of the 3 toughest teams in the CAA. At the beginning of Jan it was all three of them with us winning 2. Winning at Drexel will be difficult and I believe a close loss there with a win on Sat will send a message that we will be difficult in Richmond. While Richmond is technically a neutral court, there will be thousands of fans from local VCU fans but few fans from Drexel whose base is hundreds of miles North.

Of course a win tonight would be fantastic but a close loss I believe will not be bad when coupled with a win Sat.

RidgeRunner

January 25th, 2012
10:15 am

Wrong sport Slackerdown.

Georgia State Alumni in GSU Statesboro

January 25th, 2012
10:24 am

I am here in Statesboro rooting for GSU Panthers.

GSU, let do it!!

GSU_MEX_ALUM

January 25th, 2012
10:25 am

Hoping our team shows up and starts having some fun like earlier in the season!

FT is going to have to really improve to beat teams when it’s a close game.

Go Panthers! Go GSU!

Panthersville.com

January 25th, 2012
10:50 am

Most important game of the year will be the CAA tourney final ;)

Anderson

January 25th, 2012
11:57 am

It’s a big game and week for the GSU basketball team. I think if they can win tonight (@ Drexel) and Saturday vs VCU (@ home) it will re-invigorate the team and the fan base.

As disappointing as their 3 CAA losses have been I have to remind myself that they were all on the road and by a total of 9 points (3 points each). This team may or may not win the CAA title (regular season and/or conference) but they have proven that they can compete with the top tier teams in the league.

Go Panthers!!

Panther

January 25th, 2012
12:09 pm

I’d argue every game is the most important game, but tonight certainly is a big one. I’m not sure how it’ll then out but I know we’ll give them hell and a good run for their money.

Panther

January 25th, 2012
12:20 pm

Also I’m positive Hunter deserves to be CAA coach of the year

[...] One line from Doug Roberson set the challenge for me: But you can’t be considered the best team until you can beat a hot team on their floor. It should be a classic rock fight, as Georgia State allows 0.80 points per possession, and Drexel just 0.88. [...]

STATEment

January 25th, 2012
1:34 pm

Must have in my opinion. We need a quality road win and to stay in the race at the top of the conference 7-3 is light years away from 6-4. We win this and then we have VCU and ODU at home as the biggest games left. I hope our heads are on straight and the seniors buckle down and get the W. I get nervous going on the road.

RidgeRunner

January 25th, 2012
1:45 pm

Every Now…. and STATEment have valid arguments. Sneak in take home a win.

GSUAlumBaseball81

January 25th, 2012
1:48 pm

Come on GSU Panthers!!! YOU CAN DO IT! Make those FREE THROWS and beat Drexel!!!

Big Blue Fan

January 25th, 2012
1:49 pm

I think the four remaining home CAA games are most important. To finish the CAA season unbeaten at home would give the team a huge surge of confidence to take to the neutral court of a conference tournament. Road wins are icing on the cake and would help in the race for a top four first-day bye. I say the VCU and ODU home games coming up are more important than a second win over Drexel.

Hogans Word

January 25th, 2012
2:00 pm

Most exiting team in Atlanta right now hands down! Hawks and the NBA in general are boring until the 2nd round of the playoffs. Yellow Jackets… where did they go? Are they playing this year? Did they move to Winnipeg too? I saw their arena was being looted for scrap metal and the cops aren’t even doing anything. Guess they are to busy worrying about muggings in that area. And rightly so.

Anyway if GSU can get to the tourney and show a respectable performance that would be one way to rebound from a mislabel 2011 in ATL sports and hopefully act as a leading example for the other teams in this fair city to step up their game in 2012. GO PANTHERS!

[...] One line from Doug Roberson set the challenge for me: But you can’t be considered the best team until you can beat a hot team on their floor. It should be a classic rock fight, as Georgia State allows 0.80 points per possession, and Drexel just 0.88. [...]

GSUBB

January 25th, 2012
2:17 pm

Who is Georgia State’s MVP?
-James Fields

Who needs to step up?
McGee or Richardson

After tonight, what is the toughest remaining game and why?
VCU, played us close the first time, matches up well with what we do.

What is the team’s strength?
Defense

What is its weakness?
Half court offense

Who is the coach of the year in the CAA?
Coach Ron Hunter

The MVP?
Ryan Pearson

What is the key to the race?
Limit turnovers, improve free throw shooting, defend the perimeter

GSU 88

January 25th, 2012
2:24 pm

This is the second most important game next to VCU

GeorgiaState1913

January 25th, 2012
2:29 pm

We’ve already thrashed Drexel once this season. Hopefully we don’t let their fans get in our heads tonight. Other than the road factor we should be fine because we already know what to expect from this team. Although I will say this, if we don’t make our free throws (they are FREE, so MAKE THEM for God’s sake), this game could quickly end up like the NU or Delaware debacles. Go STATE!

Bobby Newport

January 25th, 2012
2:59 pm

Georgia State’s MVP: James Fields, without question

Who needs to step up: I’ll say Jihad Ali. He’s played well all season but only hit double digits in points once in the last four games and needed 2OT to do it. When he’s scoring, GSU is winning

After tonight, what is the toughest remaining game and why? ODU, because we never beat them and rarely even keep it competitive

What is the team’s strength? Press defense never keeps them out of a game

What is its weakness? Free throws

Who is the coach of the year in the CAA? Shoeless Ron

The MVP? Ryan Pearson, though the best player I’ve seen in person was Rendleman from UNC-W

What is the key to the race? Moving the CAA Tournament to Atlanta

DowntownSmackdown

January 25th, 2012
3:21 pm

Coach of the Year in the CAA: Bill Curry

Panama

January 25th, 2012
3:24 pm

These two games are likely the last chance to affect our RPI and CAA Tournament seeding measurably. It’s Gut Check Time.

English

January 25th, 2012
4:04 pm

Georgia State’s MVP: It’s easy to say James Fields but I’m afraid that without Buckner making his presence felt in the middle on defense we’re back to the bottom of the CAA. Sorry Field. I go with Buck.

Who needs to step up: Jihad Ali, he needs to keep the defense honest by stretching their team to defend him against the 3.

After tonight, what is the toughest remaining game and why? VCU, because it’s always important to beat the team that everyone in the league views as it’s leagues representative.

What is the team’s strength? Press and pushing the ball up the court.

What is its weakness? Foul Shots

Who is the coach of the year in the CAA? CRH

The MVP? Rendleman from UNCW

GSTATE1

January 25th, 2012
4:11 pm

I think its obviously going to be a very tough game but I’m looking for the panthers to pull off a big one tonight. I think our panthers are learning to win ball games and have been in quite a few close ones this year and that will play to our favor…

zgoldAtl

January 25th, 2012
4:24 pm

Think the Panthers will pull off a tough one tonight

GSU

January 25th, 2012
9:55 pm

Way to choke Panthers.

GSUAlumBaseball81

January 25th, 2012
10:02 pm

Not a good night for the Panthers. What the heck! Cannot figure out what we were trying to do but miss shots, no pick and rolls, please play Vincent and Buckner at the same time. What do we have to lose. And finally who can shoot a three point shot? We cannot make FT’s, as usual, or even a lay up this night. Next VCU at the Sports Arena. Come on Panthers you can do it!!! The Buck can block a shot though………. Pounce-em………… Saturday………

GSUAlumBaseball81

January 25th, 2012
10:03 pm

Got to love the blocks on this BLOG, Better than GA TECH, UGA & GSU basketball defenses!!!!!!!!

RidgeRunner

January 25th, 2012
10:19 pm

Drexel was up for it, we were not.