Tag: RJ Hunter


Preseason NIT bracket finally released; Duke-Arizona final please?


The NCAA has finally released the bracket for the Preseason NIT, the last remaining early season tournament that is truly a 16 team tournament. Where as most events guarantee the pod host — one of the four high-profile teams in the event — a spot in the semifinals, the programs partaking in the NIT have to earn their way to Madison Square Garden.

First and foremost, here is the bracket:


The matchup that everyone will be rooting for is a final between Duke and Arizona on the Friday after Thanksgiving, a game that would pit two teams that could sneak into the preseason top five.

It’s no guarantee, however. Arizona will be locking horns with a Rhode Island team that should be much improved this season and is dangerous enough that they could spring an early-season upset of the Wildcats, especially if it takes some time for Aaron Gordon to adjust to the college level.

Duke should be able to make their way out of their pod, where they will likely faceoff with Alabama in the semifinals. The Crimson Tide lost some talent this offseason, with Trevor Lacey and Devonta Pollard no longer a part of the program, but with Trever Releford leading a veteran back court, Anthony Grant’s club shouldn’t be a pushover.

But they may also get knocked off before they can even reach MSG, as Georgia State is a team to keep an eye on this season in the Sun Belt. RJ Hunter averaged 17.5 points as a freshman, and in addition to returning their two other double-figure scorers, the Panthers will also add Ryan Harrow to their mix. He’s eligible immediately. 

Rutgers wasn’t given any favors by the NCAA in their bracket. The Scarlet Knights are going to have a tough season in their first year post-Mike Rice, and they get a good Canisius team, a talented Drexel team and Elon, who should contend for the SoCon title. 

Georgia State’s RJ Hunter is a mid-major name you’ll want to remember

R.J. Hunter (AP photo)
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One of my favorite parts about mid-major basketball is learning about the diamond in the rough, watching the kid that wasn’t good enough to deserve a high-major scholarship grow into a lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

Whether they are stars that led their team to deep NCAA tournament runs — Stephen Curry, CJ McCollum, Gordon Hayward, Kenneth Faried — or simply athletic marvels that worked harder than anyone else despite playing outside the bright lights of national TV — Paul George, Damian Lillard — doesn’t matter. These are the guys that we get attached to, simply because they actually end up hanging around the collegiate ranks for a few years before heading to the pros.

There isn’t a surefire NBA player in the mid-major ranks this season, but over the weekend, ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman pumped out a solid list of 20 guys that could end up cashing NBA paychecks down the road.

Some of the names you should know — Cleanthony Early helped lead Wichita State to last year’s Final Four, Sim Bhullar is the 7-foot-5 kid from New Mexico State that did this — and others should sound familiar — Allan Chaney began his career at Florida and Jerrelle Benimon spent two seasons at Georgetown — but the bottom-line is that those 20 names are the small school studs to keep an eye on this year.

But I have one more name for you: RJ Hunter, a rising sophomore at Georgia State.

RJ is the son of Ron Hunter, the head coach of the Panthers, which helps explain how the 6-foot-5 wing from Indiana ended up in Atlanta for college.

Hunter averaged 17.0 points and shot 36.5% from three as a freshman, helping the Panthers end their run in the CAA with a 10-win season. He’s tough as well, notching 5.1 rebounds despite carrying just 175 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame. As Georgia State moves on to become a member of the Sun Belt in 2013-2014, there are some things that Hunter can improve on, most notably his consistency. Hunter went for more than 25 points six times last season, including a 38 point outburst against Old Dominion, but also finished the year with six games in single digits.

That consistency will come with time, however. He was just a freshman, after all.

Which is why he’s a player you’ll want to keep an eye on during the upcoming season.