Georgia Tech Men’s Basketball vs Georgia State Panthers Game Preview

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 9: A general view of McCamish Pivilion during the game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on January 9, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 9: A general view of McCamish Pivilion during the game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on January 9, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

For the first time since 2008, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Georgia State Panthers will meet on the hardwood as they both open their 2020-21 season.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (17-14, 11-9) vs Georgia State Panthers (19-13, 12-8)
Georgia Tech -7 / Over-Under: 142.5
McCamish Pavillion, Atlanta, GA

Head Coach: Rob Lanier (2nd season, 19-13)
2019-20 Record: 19-13 (12-8)
Conference: Sun Belt
Points Per Game: 78.1
Points Allowed Per Game: 72.2
Ken Pomroy Rating: 108

Returning Leading Scorers:

  1. G Kane Williams (SR) (14.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.4 ast)
  2. G Justin Roberts (SR) (13.2 ppg, 3.5 reb, 3.6 ast)
  3. G Nelson Phillips (SO) (8.1 pts, 3.8 reb, 0.8 ast)

Last Season:

The Georgia State Panthers are coming off a strong first season in the tenure of Rob Lanier as they finished last season with a 19-13 record. While it was a slight drop off from where they have been in recent time, collecting five 20+ win seasons over seven seasons under then head coach Ron Hunter, it was still very much a successful season.

For Lanier, it was his first season as a head coach in college basketball again since the 2004-05 season when he went 6-24 with Siena of the MAAC. From 2005 to 2019, he spent time as an assistant with Virginia, Florida, Texas, and Tennessee.

The Panthers started off last season on a strong foot, going 10-4 over their first 14 games but didn’t have quite the same success once they entered the heart of their conference play going 9-9.

The Numbers:


On paper, Georgia State on the offensive side of the court was among the best in the country last year at 78.1 points per game. However, their offensive efficiency last season was 1.015 which ranked 120th in the country. Their points per game were mostly a product of the number of possessions they received on a per-game basis with 76 which ranked 21st in the country. For comparison, the Jackets had 72.7 which ranked 88th in the country. The Panthers shot 43.8% as a team and while they were inconsistent inside the perimeter at 48.5% (232nd in the country) they were a great three-point shooting team at 36.2% which ranked 43rd in the country last season. They’re solid at taking advantage of free throws as well, converting on 74% of their attempts last season.


Georgia State struggled last season defensively, allowing 72.2 points per game which were among the highest in the country. That being said, when you look at opposing shooting stats, it’s easy to see that the reason the Panthers allowed so many points last season was actually because of their turnover rate (14.1 per game). Opposing teams shot just 40.3% from the field including 46.9% from inside the perimeter. They held opponents to just a 28.4% shooting percentage beyond the arch which was sixth-best in the nation last season. They also got a bit lucky that opponents struggled to take advantage of free throws consistently with opponents having a 72.4% free-throw percentage. The Panthers forced 7.8 steals per game and 4.2 blocks per game, creating plenty of extra possessions for themselves.

Players to Know:

G Kane Williams:  That being said, the Jackets do have a pair of scorers returning that will keep opposing defenses on their toes. Senior guard Kane Williams is the first name to know, Williams as noted above averaged 14.8 points per game last season whit shooting 40.5% from the floor. A volume shooter, he averaged nearly 11 shots per game last season, so his scoring totals are more of a product of high-shot volume rather than efficiency, much like the entire Georgia State offense. Williams’s true shooting percentage was only 53.7% which is quality but isn’t a great number considering the number of shots he does take, you’d like to generally see that around 55% and higher.

That being said, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Williams is much more than a shooter, he has a strong ability to spread the ball around the floor and gives his teammates plenty of opportunities. He’s also not afraid to get into the paint and grab rebounds, he’s an all-around good player and is someone who can take over games, he had five performances of 20+ points last season. Williams will be the most dangerous player on paper for Georgia State entering the game.

G Justin Roberts: A transfer from DePaul, Roberts played his first season with the Panthers last season averaging 13.2 points per game. Roberts was a slightly more efficient shooter than Williams but not by much, posting a 41.7% shooting percentage and a true shooting percentage of 54.7%. The one place he has a chance to hurt the Yellow Jackets more so than Williams is from beyond the arch where he shot 40.4% from last season. Last season, he had five games of 20+ points and 23 games where he scored double-digits.

G Nelson Phillips: Phillips is a player to not overlook, he only averaged 6.5 points per game last season but he shot well from the floor last season in his 30 games. He shot 47.1% from the field in general including 41.1% from beyond the arch. With a true shooting percentage of 58.8%, Phillips is one of the Panthers’ most efficient players returning from last season. With two guards from last season gone due to exhausted eligibility, Phillips will take on a bigger role for the Panthers in 2020-21 and it could be what he needs to have a breakout season.

How Georgia Tech matches up:

The Yellow Jackets are an interesting matchup for this Georgia State team and it should be quite the game on Wednesday night.

Georgia Tech offense vs Georgia State defense:

The Yellow Jackets haven’t always been the greatest team offensively so going up against a Georgia State Panthers team that caused opponents to struggle shooting quite a bit last year will be a good early-season test for the Jackets. The Jackets as a team shot 45.2% from the field last season and just 31.2% from three-point range. They also turned the ball over 16.2 times per game last season which plays into the Panther’s ability to create turnovers.

Georgia Tech defense vs Georgia State offense:

Under Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech has always been a good defensive team and can hold even the best teams in check for large portions of games. They’ll go up against a very good Georgia State offense on Wednesday as you could tell from above. Ultimately, what the game may come down to is how well Georgia Tech could stop Georgia State’s abilities to shoot from beyond the arch. While the Panthers were amongst the best three-point shooting teams in the nation last year, the Jackets were among the best in defending the three, allowing opponents to make just 28.5% of their shots. That was the seventh-best mark in the nation.

What to Watch For:

1. Improvement from the free-throw line: The Yellow Jackets consistently under Josh Pastner has struggled to shoot the ball from the free-throw line. If this team hopes to reach the NCAA Tournament as they have discussed coming into this season, improving at the free-throw line is a must. Against quality teams, the Jackets need to take advantage of free points and this Georgia State team is very much a quality team and one that can beat the Jackets if they make too many mistakes.

2. From beyond the arch: To be successful in college basketball today, you need to have some sign of life from beyond the arch. You don’t have to be a great three-point shooting team but you at least need to be able to have the ability to grab a few three-pointers in key parts of the game. The Jackets like with free throws have consistently struggled from beyond the arch under Pastner and that must change.

3. Turnovers: The Jackets last season were turnover machines, turning the ball over 16.1 times per game. Against teams like Georgia State, you can’t give them 16+ extra possessions per game no matter how good your defense is. The Jackets have always had a quality to good defensive play under Pastner but teams are going to take advantage of extra possessions especially at that volume. If the Jackets become turnover prone in this game, it could get away with them quickly.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 73 – Georgia State 69

I think the Yellow Jackets have a bit more talent throughout their roster here and while the Jackets don’t go deep into their bench, their rotational pieces may ultimately be the deciding factor in this game. Look for big games out of the Yellow Jackets two, star guards in Jose Alvarado and Michael Devoe but look for considerable production off the bench as well.