Georgia State’s Ron Hunter said putting together the coming season’s basketball schedule was the most difficult in all of his years of coaching.
He said part of the trouble was related to the predictions for this season’s team, boosted by Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow and the return of four starters, which include possibly making the NCAA tournament. Hunter also said he wanted to be careful which teams his team played and where they played.
The result is an interesting schedule that was unveiled Wednesday. The Panthers will play five teams that won at least 20 games last season.
Georgia State (15-16 last season) will open against Southern Poly at home on Nov. 9 before going to Vanderbilt on Nov. 12.
That will be followed by the Panthers’ first appearance in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament. The Panthers haven’t been assigned to a group, but Duke, Alabama, Rutgers and Arizona are the hosts. The tournament begins Nov. 18, and Hunter implied that he thinks his team will play in Alabama’s bracket.
Hunter said he wanted to play in the preseason NIT because he wanted to play in the “hardest possible event that I could.” Georgia State has the chance to host in the tournament’s second round.
The Panthers are guaranteed to play four games in the tournament.
Things don’t get easier after the NIT. Georgia State will play at Florida International on Nov. 30, one of five Conference USA teams on the schedule. The other Conference USA opponents include at Southern Miss (Dec. 7), Old Dominion at the GSU Sports Arena (Dec. 14), at Texas-San Antonio (Dec. 22) and at East Carolina (Dec. 29).
Hunter said he targeted Conference USA teams because he feels like they are the next level up from the Sun Belt, GSU’s new league. Conference USA was ranked No. 11 in CBS Sports.com rankings last season. The Sun Belt was No. 15.
“It will tell me where we will really be,” he said. “If we can do well against Conference USA, then I think we will do extremely well in our league.”
The Panthers also will play host to Georgia Southern on Dec. 20. Other state teams the Panthers will play include exhibition games against Shorter (Oct. 28) and Fort Valley State (Nov. 4). Georgia State will host Young Harris on Dec. 4 in a regular-season game.
Georgia State will begin Sun Belt play against Troy at home Jan. 2. They will host nine Sun Belt games, culminating with Western Kentucky on March 8.
Hunter said he likes that games will be played mostly on Thursdays and Saturdays, which he is familiar with from his previous job coaching IUPUI in the Summit League.
“I’m more prepared for this than I was in the Colonial (Athletic Association), whose scheduling was all over the map,” Hunter said. “(Scheduling) is not all about the games, it’s about travel schedule and league schedules. I feel more comfortable with this than anything else.”
The longest conference road trip is three games in a six-day span, featuring two games in Texas and one in Arkansas spanning the end of February and the beginning of March.
The Sun Belt tournament will begin March 13 in New Orleans.
“I wanted more of a balanced schedule,” Hunter said. “I don’t know if we got to that point, but I’m happy with it.”
GEORGIA STATE MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Oct. 28 vs. Shorter, 7 p.m. (exhibition)
Nov. 4 vs. Fort Valley State, 7 p.m. (exhibition)
Nov. 9 vs. Southern Poly, 1 p.m.
Nov. 12 at Vanderbilt, TBA
Nov. 18/19 first round, TBA
Nov. 19/20 second round, TBA
Nov. 25/27 semifinals, TBA
Nov. 26/29 championship TBA
Nov. 30 at Florida International, TBA
Dec. 4 vs. Young Harris, 7 p.m.
Dec. 7 at Southern Miss, TBA
Dec. 14 vs. Old Dominion, 2 p.m.
Dec. 20 vs. Georgia Southern, 7 p.m.
Dec. 22 at Texas-San Antonio, 1 p.m.
Dec. 29 at East Carolina, 1 p.m.
Jan. 2 vs. Troy*, TBA
Jan. 4 at South Alabama*, TBA
Jan. 9 at Western Kentucky*, TBA
Jan. 16 vs. Arkansas State*, 7 p.m.
Jan. 18 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock*, 2:30 p.m.
Jan. 23 at Louisiana-Lafayette*, TBA
Jan. 25 at Louisiana-Monroe*, TBA
Jan. 30 vs. South Alabama*, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 vs. Texas-Arlington*, 2:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 at Arkansas-Little Rock*, TBA
Feb. 13 vs. Texas State*, 7 p.m.
Feb. 15 at Troy*, TBA
Feb. 20 vs. Louisiana-Monroe*, 7 p.m.
Feb. 22 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette*, 2:30 p.m.
Feb. 27 at Texas-Arlington*, TBA
March 1 at Texas State*, TBA
March 4 at Arkansas State*, TBA
March 8 vs. Western Kentucky*, 2:30 p.m.
March 13-16 at Sun Belt Conference tournament (New Orleans)
* Sun Belt game
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