The regular season champions from the Sun Belt [17-1], Georgia State enters Tuesday night's first-round game of the NIT with a 25-8 record.
Third-year head coach Ron Hunter is 62-36 during his tenure at Georgia State, which includes one other postseason appearance [The CollegeInsider.com Tournament in 2012].
Led by the coach's son, R.J. Hunter, four Panther starters average double-digits in scoring. Ryan Harrow, an N.C. State transfer, and Manny Atkins, a Virginia Tech transfer, are among that group. Atkins is the lone senior starter.
The following is an edited portion of Brownell's press conference on Monday afternoon.
What do you know about Georgia State?
Brownell: Didn't know much about Georgia State, I knew that Ron has done a really good job there the last couple of years. They have a bunch of division one transfers, highly talented players. R.J. Hunter, the coach's son, I've known about him for a while because of coach Hunter being a Midwest guy. He was highly recruited by the Midwest schools, was in Indianapolis his senior year. They've got a couple of pro prospects on their roster with him and [Ryan] Harrow]. This is not your typical mid-major talent-wise team. They've got some highly talented, highly skilled basketball players. They're highly skilled. They don't turn the ball over much. They shoot it well. They play with, really, two point guards. It's a very skilled basketball team. When they put [Devonta] White, Hunter and Harrow out there together, they've won 22 of their last 24 games since they've done that. In all honesty, they were 17-1 in their league, probably should be playing in the NCAA Tournament. I've been on that road, too. You're a mid-major and lose the wrong game, and they lost it in overtime, so now they're in the NIT.
Is this going to be a smaller team that's going to make you think about some different combinations?
Brownell: Yeah, a little bit. There are some teams in our league that are smaller at times. We're not a big team. Jaron Blossomgame is not a typical 6-8, 230-pound high-major 4-man. He's 6-7, 215, so he looks similar to some of the guys that we play against. Curtis Washington is plenty big at 6-9, 240 with plenty of skill inside. They're not one of the big ACC frontlines, for sure, but there are some teams that play a little bit smaller. Manny Atkins is a highly skilled guy who started at Virginia Tech then came here, shoots the ball, drives it. Very perimeter-oriented with the way they play, because of their perimeter fire-power. So, that part of it, defending that, will be challenging.
What was the process after finding out who you're playing?
Brownell: As soon as the game was over, Lucas McKay, my video guy did a great job. He had a couple of videos, had really just about everybody, possible scenarios that we thought we might get in the NIT, have been projecting for the last couple of days. And, then, as soon as we found all of that out, we started calling people in the business that we know, to get some general information about their team, maybe some guys that have played them this year, so we've been on the phone with a couple of coaches that have played them, talked to them about them a little bit, as well as getting on the phone, so we've been watching film all night, all day [Monday], to try to formulate somewhat of a game plan. We'll have practice [Monday] afternoon. It's a quick-turnaround because the game is Tuesday, really just shoot-around on Tuesday. We'll meet again [Monday night], to go over video with the team, to show them some film of Georgia State. It's quick.
For y'all, as a staff, is it kind of similar to the scenario that you faced a couple of years ago when you had to do the game in Dayton?
Brownell: Yeah, it is, and everything works about the same way, too. We didn't know a lot about UAB at the time. You just, as fast as you can, get acclimated to that. I was getting calls from some guys that are in the tournament about other teams. Everybody is trying to find out as much information as they can about everybody they're playing. You just try and get a few things, then you've got to watch tape for six, seven, eight hours and break some things down, try to put together a plan for practice.
You never faced Hunter at IUPUI?
Do you know much about what he does?
Brownell: I know that he's gone to some zone here recently, in his last couple of years as a head coach. They play all zone: 2-3, 3-2, 1-3-1. They press some. They change the way their zone is all the time. It's a different style. It certainly is, a little bit like Miami, though Miami will play some man-to-man within the game, they almost don't play any. Generally, it's almost 40 minutes of zone.
For that couple of hours between the NCAA Tournament selection show and the NIT show, do you see N.C. State and kind of wonder what if?
Brownell: Certainly, a little bit, we've been wondering that for a couple of days, regardless. You know that you're a couple of games out, a couple of games go a different way, [and] maybe our name is called. Certainly, I think we were close enough to be in contention. We played some very good teams late, Duke and Pittsburgh, had chances to win the games and didn't get those done. I don't know if that would have been enough, but those certainly would have been right there. It's good for the league to get a sixth team in. I certainly think that our league is deserving of that. I said to a commentator one time in February, somebody was asking about the strength of our league. I say you look at some of the teams that are doing as well in our league: B.C., for example is having a bad year, but B.C. is talented enough to go to Syracuse and win. So, you still have to play reasonably well to beat these teams. There are a lot of places that have teams finishing in the bottom of their league that aren't good enough to go to a Syracuse and win a game. Georgia Tech, at the time, wasn't playing as well. They go to Syracuse and win. There are some teams -- Notre Dame beats Duke. There's a lot of talent. Just facing 18-straight games of ACC competition is challenging. You've got to play well. Wake Forest, they had all kinds of good home wins. They beat everybody in North Carolina, beat us. You've got to play well, a lot of good players at a lot of schools. At this level, in this league, that's a difference. It's not uncommon, nor should it be surprising to fans and media when somebody gets beat by a team that happens to not be doing as well in our league, because everybody has good players. It's really challenging.
Can that carryover when you get to this point? Now, suddenly, you may not run into some teams that are an ACC-caliber team in the first or second-round?
Brownell: To say that Georgia State isn't an ACC-caliber team, they've got a bunch of guys that I think ACC teams would love to have, that can really score. They're more skilled than some ACC teams we play. They're better shooters. They're better passers. Some of them aren't physically as big, but they're pretty good basketball players, so I don't think it's that at all. That's what people don't understand, how many more good teams are out there. Georgia State is an example of that, a very talented group, especially offensively. I think they're No.  in the country with fewest turnovers. They don't turn the ball over. They play with two point guards. They shoot. They share the ball. And their style defensively is so unique that it's hard to play against, especially in one-day prep.
Preparing on the fly
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