We have no idea why Georgia State couldn’t work things out with former coach Ron Hunter, but they may regret it.
Most famous for falling off the stool when his son, Ron Junior, hit a clutch shot to knock Baylor out of the 2015 NCAA tournament, Hunter left for Tulane over a contract dispute.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the disagreement was over two things: Georgia State’s slipping academic performance and Hunter’s buyout. The university wanted to tie a bonus to a team-average GPA of 2.5 and Hunter balked.
So he’s at Tulane now. Over the last four years at GSU, Hunter’s teams finished with 14, 16, 20 and 24 wins.
Academics are a critical factor in his departure obviously but he’s maintained high level of success and his successor, Rob Lanier, does not yet have that sort of track record.
Making life more difficult is that four starters - last year’s top four scorers too - are no longer Panthers. Devin Mitchell, Malik Benlevi, Jeff Thomas and D’Marcus Simonds are all gone.
Simonds was the best talent. Hunter thought he was an NBA-level player but he went undrafted and we don’t think he’s currently with a team. He’s a major loss for GSU though.
So far the Panthers are 1-1 with a huge win over NAIA school Brewton-Parker (104-35) and a close loss to Charleston, 84-80.
Because of the ridiculous mismatch against Brewton-Parker, let’s look at the Charleston game instead. In that competitive and tight game against a school with a basketball heart, The Panthers lost, but just barely.
Justin Roberts (5-11 sophomore) had 22 and shot 7-9. Kane Williams (6-3 junior) had 13 but shot 4-18 to get it, and Josh Linder (6-8 junior) had 19 on 6-7 shooting from the floor and also had 12 boards.
Overall, the Panthers have more size than you might expect from, God help us for using the term, a mid-major, much less one rebuilding.
Jalen Thomas (freshman) is 6-10 and 235. Eliel Nsoseme (junior) is 6-9 and 225. Joe Jones (freshman) is 6-9 and 245. Chris Clerkley (senior) is 6-8 and 240. Josh Linder is 6-8 but just 210; however, he put on a show vs. Charleston.
Against Charleston, Jones, Roberts, Williams, Damon Wilson, and Corey Allen started.
The problem is it’s hard to know much because the team doesn't get much coverage. The school is in Atlanta, and Georgia and Georgia Tech suck up all the college coverage and then there are the pro teams. It’s a very difficult environment in which to draw attention.
While we don’t really know what to expect from Georgia State, we do note that the Panthers had 19 turnovers against Charleston and 15 against Brewton-Parker, a team they beat by 69.
For this Duke team, that stat is going to jump out. Expect Duke to try to do what the Blue Devils have done so far and push to turn the Panthers over and beat them in transition.
Offensively, Georgia State’s size gives Duke a good challenge inside. Not so much for Vernon Carey, who is a big guy himself, or Javin DeLaurier, who is a senior, but more for the other guys like Matthew Hurt, who is slim and has shied from contact at times, and Cassius Stanley, who needs to realize that he’s more talented than the vast majority of the guys he’ll be up against and that he can assert himself in close quarters. And of course, Wendell Moore too, who took a major leap against Central Arkansas. Building on that will be really good.
One small note, pun intended: Roberts, who is a smallish point guard, shot 7-9 against Charleston. He’s not chunking threes so either he got most of them on the break or he’s really, really quick.