Twitter is a great thing for sportswriters. There is no better way to get information out quickly. For fantasy sports, Twitter has been very effective. However, if a person doesn't want a piece of information - say, a score of a basketball game - then Twitter should be ignored. I did my best yesterday to keep myself unawares of the Georgia State-Troy score, but my best efforts were not good enough. I went to Twitter to put in some Twitter-reviews (twitews?) for movies that I watched during a sick day on Friday [feel free to give me a follow @PerryMissner], and happened to see a note from a leading college basketball blogger (some may say savant) that the Panthers fell from the ranks of the unbeaten conference teams. I didn't see the score or any of the details, so I wondered what happened to Georgia State against the somewhat lousy Trojans. Despite knowing the final outcome, I decided to watch the game.
After watching Tier 1 basketball for most of the season, the first thing that I noticed when taking a gander at Sun Belt basketball is how small the players looked. Maybe it was due to the camera angle, which changes from stadium to stadium. The two biggest differences between Tier 1 and mid-major basketball are the size of the players and the quickness of the guards (one could say the same of the difference between college and pro basketball, although guards in the NBA tend to be on the huge side).
As we joined the game in progress (a frequently noted pet peeve of mine - I guess I could watch the games on ESPN3, but that would take away my DVR advantage in which I can speed through the commercials and free throws), Troy held a six-point lead midway through the first half. It was clear pretty early that the Panthers had the two standout players: former North Carolina State and Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter, the coach's son. Harrow was able to use his Tier 1 quickness to speed through the Trojan defense, while Hunter caught fire from beyond the arc in the second half. The two guards combined for 41 points to provide the Panthers' with half of their points. It wasn't so much the backcourt that hurt GSU.
The unheralded Trojans were able to hit a surprising 44.4 percent of their 3-pointers (12-of-27) and good success in scrapping for offensive boards. The team had 13 reloads and their aggressive play in the post put the top Panther forwards, Manny Atkins, who fouled out, and Curtis Washington accrued four fouls and played just 22 minutes. The Panthers had to rely on sophomore Marcus Crider, who averages 15.9 minutes to play 25. The 6-6 Crider did snag eight boards, but scored just four points. Meanwhile, Jeff Mullahey had a season-high 27 points (eight points more than his previous high), and forward Tevin Calhoun added 20 points and 11 rebounds, also both season highs.
So what can we read into this game? Do we knock Georgia State down a peg because they finally lost a conference game? Or, do we just call it one of those games in which pretty much everything went right for the Trojans? I'd lean toward the latter, while the polls see any loss as unforgivable. Georgia State is still the best team in the Sun Belt and will likely bounce back in a three-game home stand over the next two weeks. The loss uncovered their shallow frontcourt, but they have enough talent in Harrow and Hunter to win nearly all of their Sun Belt games and perhaps make their way to a double-digit seed in the NCAA tournament, where they have not appeared since 2001 (when they knocked off Wisconsin in the first round).