Sun Belt Tournament Preview – Semifinals – From the Bird’s Nest
The top two seeds in the Sun Belt Tournament have received a bye to the semifinals. Here is my preview of #1 Georgia State and #2 UT Arlington.
#1 GEORGIA STATE (22-9, 13-5) Coach: Ron Hunter (8th season)
Top Scorers: D'Marcus Simonds 18.9, Devin Mitchell 12.8, Malik Benlevi 11.9, Jeff Thomas 11.7, Kane Williams 11.4
Top Rebounder: Benlevi 5.5
Leading assists: Siimonds 3.7
STRENGTHS: Savvy, veteran team that's been playing together for a long time. Senior laden club that has been through the wars and has shown they can win. D'Marcus Simonds is a three time all-conference player who is at his best slashing to the basket and he's tough to contain. Benlevi, Mitchell, Thomas and Williams are all excellent three point shooters. They are a disruptive team that leads the league in blocked shots and turnover margin. They basically run a five guard offense and they can be difficult to guard as a result. You want to try to get transition on them because that matchup zone is hard to score against in the half court.
WEAKNESSES: They don't rebound the ball well at all, which is the downside of playing five guards. They are a poor free throw shooting team. If you play good transition defense on the primary and secondary break, they are a lot less effective behind the arc. As good as Simonds is, he gets out of control and sometimes takes bad shots, especially from the perimeter, where he isn't a great shooter. He had more turnovers than assists this year. Teams that can pass from the high post can cause them problems.
OUTLOOK: This team is good, but don't confuse them with a couple of past Georgia State teams. There are plenty of flaws on this team, most of which get covered by great three point shooting. It's not easy to get them to have a bad night from beyond the arc, but if you can do it, you've got a shot. Getting back in transition defense is key to beating this team. They are much better shooting it in rhythm. But writing about it is much easier than accomplishing it. If there's a favorite in a wide open field, it's these guys. They've been there. Done that.
UT ARLINGTON MAVERICKS (16-15, 12-6) Coach: Chris Ogden (1st season)
Leading scorers: Brian Warren 15.3, Edric Dennis 14.6
Leading rebounder: Andres Ibarguen 6.7
Leading assists: Warren, 3.7
STRENGTHS: A deep, balanced team that comes at you in waves, especially on the defensive end. This team really plays hard...all the time. Defensively, they make it hard for you to get a good shot. Warren and Ti-Andre Jackson Young can shoot it from the outside. They do a great job of team rebounding and lead in rebound margin in conference games. They take care of the basketball and don't turn it over a lot. Warren and Dennis are an excellent tandem in the backcourt. In league games, they've shot free throws very well.
WEAKNESSES: This isn't a very good shooting team from a percentage standpoint. They've really only got two threats from the outside. They don't turn it over a lot, but they don't force many either. Of their top four shooters, volume wise, only two shoot over 40 percent from the field in league games. Teams that succeed in forcing tempo can hurt them.
OUTLOOK: Well, look who's here. UTA wasn't expected to be a factor in Ogden's first season, yet the Mavs have a bye all the way to the semifinals. Ogden has this team buying into the system and they take pride in defending the hell out of the basketball. They have their flaws and they've been exposed a few times. But if you're going to beat them, you'd better get transition buckets because they are really tough in the half court. There's nothing that jumps out at you and you watch them and think you have them beat. Then you look at the scoreboard. It's hard not to like this team. Pick against them at your own risk.