Panthers to Open Season against Blue Devils

With the recent CAA decision to not allow GSU teams to compete for championships in the coming school year, Coach Ron Hunter has taken his defiant, win-against-all-odds attitude up a notch by scheduling the Duke Blue Devils as the season's opening game.

The AJC’s Doug Roberson is reporting that Georgia State will open the season with back-to-back road games at Duke and %%MATCH_3%%, the later as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.  This news comes just one day after the hopes for post-season play in 2012-2013 for the Basketball team (along with all the other Georgia State teams) were dealt a significant blow.

Yesterday, after a week-long delay for unexplained reasons, the CAA announced that GSU and Old Dominion University (ODU) teams would not be allowed to compete for CAA championships during the upcoming school year.  Both schools had previously announced that they are leaving the CAA for conferences that compete in football at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level – Georgia State to the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) and ODU to Conference USA.  The CAA bylaws state that schools that have announced that they are leaving the conference will be ineligible for championship after a date set by a vote of the remaining schools.  GSU and ODU had requested that that date be June 30, 2013, however the CAA presidents unanimously voted that it be set as July 1, 2012.

While there is still some speculation that the Panthers could join the Sun Belt conference earlier than planned and play a Sun Belt Conference schedule in non-football sports this year, the chances of that happening seem to be dimming as each day passes, especially for fall sports whose schedules have already been determined.  Accordingly, ESPN is reporting that Hunter has told his team that “From this point forward, we’re an independent basketball team.” 

While Coach Hunter’s high-energy style would seem to need no further motivation, he also told ESPN that he is “going to coach with a chip on my shoulder all year”.  As much as this season’s CAA schedule was already sure to be interesting given that it is GSU’s last year in the CAA, and given that last season ended with CAA referees kicking both Hunter and a GSU cheerleader out of a non-conference post-season tournament game, this move by the CAA, and Hunter’s response to it will surely make every CAA game a “must see” proposition.

However, before any of those CAA games happen, the Panthers will face their toughest tests of the year against Duke and BYU.  Both schools should help boost the Panther’s RPI, and accordingly their chances for post-season play as an at-large bid, regardless of the outcome.  While this is certainly a good thing given the CAA decision, Hunter told the AJC the two were unrelated. “I would have played Duke regardless” he said, “I wanted the first two games to be in two of the hardest places in the country.”

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