College basketball is back! Well, it came back last week but the first full week of the season brings the first write-up here. And what a great stretch of hoops it’s about to be. The 24 hours of college basketball begins Monday at 11 PM when SMU plays at Gonzaga. But don’t overlook a game that figures to be as good of an appetizer as there is.
At 9 PM Georgia State takes on Iowa State at the Hilton Coliseum. And after leading the Sun Belt for the entire season last year before missing out on the NCAA Tournament with a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the conference championship, the Panthers have the motivation they need to try and pile up early, big wins. A victory on the road against the 16th-ranked Cyclones would go a long way on an NCAA Tournament resume. Both teams enter this game 1-0 and the Panthers are getting double-digits in one of the country’s toughest places to play.
This game features two of the best backcourts in the country. Iowa State refills their guard rotation after departures of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim with UNLV transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones. Dejean-Jones is a super talented guard who doesn’t shy away from shooting the ball. He’s a shot-maker, but was always criticized for not being enough of a playmaker for the Rebels. In a lineup filled with star power, Dejean-Jones will have to share the rock more. And he did plenty of everything in ISU’s opening night win with 20 points, 11 boards and four assists.
GSU might be out of the Sun Belt, but it too legitimately boasts one of the nation’s best backcourts. Ryan Harrow, for former Kentucky Wildcat, enters his senior season and third with the Panthers. He’s coming off of a season where he averaged 25 a game. And he probably could have scored more if not for his backcourt mate RJ Hunter. Hunter, the son of Head Coach Ron Hunter, also put up over 20 a game for GSU last season. And he’s begun to gain the national following of a player who will likely be a first round pick in next year’s NBA Draft. Hunter reminds me of a more athletic Richard Hamilton the way he moves without the ball and comes off screens to free himself for mid-range jumpers. The ‘Clones will have their hands full trying to stop Harrow and Hunter, who welcome Kevin Ware to the floor this season.
But, as with most ever big game GSU will play, their most important player might be forward Curtis Washington. The 6’10” forward has to do what Gregory Echenique always did with Creighton a few years back. The Panthers are small, but can really score the ball. Washington takes on as much responsibility as any big in the country in defending and rebounding against opponents’ front lines. If Washington is active against Dustin Hogue and limits his impact on the backboard, Georgia State has a chance to really give the Cyclones a scare.
Free Pick: Georgia State +10
2014 NCAAB: 0-0 0.00