Georgia State’s potential path to NCAA tournament starts at Duke

The RPI, a mathematical formula used to rank basketball teams according to a variety of factors, isn’t Georgia State coach Ron Hunter’s favorite topic of conversation.

“The RPI are for fans and media,” he said dismissively.

While partially true, a bad RPI near Selection Sunday can make a team RIP when the invitations to the NCAA tournament are issued.

The RPI is important for Hunter and the Panthers this year because they aren’t eligible to play in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, whose winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAAs.

The only way Hunter’s team can make it is by receiving an at-large bid. One of the proven ways to earn an at-large bid is by being relevant on Selection Sunday. A way to be relevant on Selection Sunday is by finishing with a high RPI, especially when you don’t play in one of the power conferences.

Georgia State’s schedule, which starts with Friday’s season-opener at Duke, seems strong enough that that if the Panthers can win a lot of their games, they may warrant consideration as an at-large team, according to ESPN college basketball reporter Eamonn Brennan.

“They are set up relatively well in terms of their opponents,” he said.

Hunter composes his non-conference schedule according to how difficult he thinks the conference schedule will be. This year’s non-conference schedule is tough, which could help the team’s chances at making the NCAA tournament, if it can make it through without too many blemishes.

After Duke, which Brennan describes as “high reward, no risk” game, Georgia State will play several teams that should provide an RPI boost, if the Panthers can either play well or beat them. That includes Southern Miss (finished No. 21 last year in collegerpi.com), BYU (No. 45), and others like East Carolina (No. 164, but plays in Conference USA). Georgia State, which went 22-12, finished No. 140 last year.

Wins, especially against Duke (RPI rank of 5 last year), would obviously boost Georgia State. Wins are needed because the CAA, which has been weakened by the defection of Virginia Commonwealth to the Atlantic 10, could potentially drag down the Panthers’ RPI, according to former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, who is now an analyst for ESPN. The Rams finished No. 38 last year. Drexel (No. 66) is the highest-rated returning team. Playing 18 conference games against teams that may not be as strong as the Southern Miss’s and BYU’s will likely make the hope of the NCAA tournament that much fainter.

“I think it’s going to be really difficult,” Greenberg said of Georgia State’s chances to get in as an at-large. “The loss of VCU takes away two low RPI games which would enhance their resume if they won those games.”

If the Panthers hope to make it to the NCAA tournament for just the third time, they likely need to try to finish with an RPI in the 40s, according to Brennan. But even an RPI in the 40s doesn’t mean an automatic invitation. Last year, three teams with RPIs in the 50s were at-large selections in last year’s tournament: No. 52 South Florida, No. 53 Virginia, and No. 57 West Virginia. But there were teams with similar RPIs who weren’t selected: No. 44 Marshall, No. 51 Oral Roberts and No. 54 Central Florida.

That’s part of the reason why Hunter doesn’t pay too much attention to the rating.

“You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure, ‘I got to get this game to get this.’ At the end of the day it’s very difficult for the mid-majors, period,” Hunter said. “We know that.”

But Hunter knows the burden can be lifted if he can make sure his team is being talked about on Selection Sunday. His goal, as he has said many times, is to become the best mid-major program in the country.

The process began last year with the team winning the second-most games in program history.

It can continue this year if the Panthers can upset Duke, or BYU, or both, which may vault them into “bubble team” status in a few months.

So don’t talk to Hunter about RPI.

“What I want to make sure is that Georgia State is being discussed in March,” he said. “Then, when it comes to when you have the high RPI, you are part of the discussion and part of getting in. Talking about we have to do, x-y-z, to get in, we are too young in the program. Relevancy is more important to me than any RPI.”

Non-conference schedule

Date Team 2011-12 RPI

11/9 at Duke 5

11/13 at BYU 45

11/19 Monmouth 236

11/20 Tennessee State 107

11/21 South Alabama 169

11/26 East Carolina 164

11/30 Louisiana Tech 160

12/02 at Liberty 284

12/8 Southern Poly NA

12/15 at Troy 260

12/18 Southern Miss 21

12/22 at Rhode Island 257

12/29 at Georgia Southern 203

Other headlines

Part II of the Q&A with Georgia State men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter

Part I in a two-part Q&A with Georgia State basketball coach Ron Hunter

Albert Wilson honored by the CAA; Bell suffers concussion

Albert Wilson will decide his future after the season

Georgia State loses to ODU in Curry’s last home game

– Doug Roberson, AJC and AJC.com. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu

9 comments Add your comment

Panama

November 9th, 2012
9:41 am

I’m rather bored of this sport. When does [ENTER SPORT TO WHICH GSU HAS A CHANCE TO COMPETE WHILE NOT EMBARRASSING THEMSELVES AND CONFERENCE IN ATTENDANCE NUMBERS] start?

RidgeRunner

November 9th, 2012
9:56 am

Tonight we have been waiting for since football went South. Tune in to ESPNU @ 7 and watch the Panthers go. Go Blue.

cajdawg

November 9th, 2012
10:34 am

Why isn’t GSU eligible to play in the Colonial tournament?

[...] Georgia State’s potential path to NCAA tournament starts at Duke [...]

Doug Roberson

November 9th, 2012
11:24 am

Because they are moving to the Sun Belt Conference, CAA bylaws preclude them from competing in its championships

RidgeRunner

November 9th, 2012
1:07 pm

Doug you are wrong. The CAA bylaws required that the surviving teams set a end date for playing in conference championships and they set it 6/30/12 instead of 2013.

Orlando Panther

November 9th, 2012
2:06 pm

Ridge, that means that they are not allowed to compete in any after the date of 6/30/12, which means we cannot compete in any of them. If it were 2013, then we could compete

[...] Georgia State’s potential path to NCAA tournament starts at Duke [...]

RidgeRunner

November 10th, 2012
2:15 pm

Orlando Panther, that was what I was implying. Doug said that the by laws preclude them from playing which is different from the board selecting date.