A rare foray to the homecourt of an opponent from a minor conference is not coming by accident for the Tulane men’s basketball team.
The Green Wave, which plays at Georgia State on Sunday at 11 a.m., last traveled for a game like that against Loyola-Chicago of the Horizon League in 2014, but coach Mike Dunleavy pointed to associate head coach Doug Stewart’s knowledge of the RPI as the primary reason.
Road wins count for more in the formula, and this is an opportunity for Tulane (5-0) to get one at the urban Atlanta school.
“That’s all on Doug Stewart,” Dunleavy said. “He understands the RPI and how you need to do it. I’m trying to learn. Obviously if it was me I’d play every good team in the country, but it doesn’t do your conference any good and sometimes doesn’t do you any good.”
Georgia State, which upset No. 3 seed Baylor in a memorable NCAA tournament game in 2015, was picked second in the Sun Belt Conference preseason coaches poll and is coming off a 20-win season. Despite a 15-point loss to Prairie View in a Las Vegas tournament on Wednesday, the Panthers present the first real test for Tulane. The Panthers led at Ole Miss by eight at halftime before losing 77-72 earlier this year. Versatile 6-foot-3 guard D’Marcus Simonds is averaging 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
“I think our team can play anywhere,” Dunleavy said. “I don’t care who it is honestly. They are a tough team, but our game can travel. If we defend, hit the boards and take care of the ball, we’re going to be in the game. We can figure out ways to win down the stretch.”
They could start by continuing to get the ball to forward Melvin Frazier, who has been spectacular through five games. No one in the country sports better all-around numbers than he has put up. He averages 22.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.6 steals while hitting 71.7 percent of his shots overall and 55.6 percent of his 3-pointers, all within the flow of the offense.
His consistent point totals have been 19, 25, 23, 23 and 20.
“We’ve just been working hard in the gym with coach running us, and that’s what we do on the floor,” Frazier said. “We’re running and trying to get points the way we do in practice.”
With a win Sunday, Tulane would match its victory total for all of 2016-17.
“Even though last year (the record) was 6-25, we were on a steady rise,” Dunleavy said. “We got better all the time throughout the season. I felt like our last 10 games of the season that we could be in any game with anybody. There was a carry-over.”
Georgia State is merely the appetizer for three straight Sundays on the road that will tell Dunleavy much more about his team. Tulane, whose first five opponents have an average RPI of 189, plays at No. 9 North Carolina on Dec. 3 and faces 2017 NCAA tournament participant Florida State in Tampa, Florida on Dec. 10.
“We’re not totally shying away from the big boys,” Dunleavy said. “We’ve got to have somebody to measure what we do against, and I like that.”