Thursday marks the unofficial beginning of the NCAA Tournament, and with so many Atlantans waking up to their alma mater not participating in the Big Dance thanks to disappointing seasons from UGA, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern, they might be looking for a school to throw their support behind.
There’s one team in Georgia that’s still dancing, and I think they deserve your support. Even if you can’t name one Georgia State player when this tournament ends, you’ll probably get more acquainted with head coach Ron Hunter, and the more you hear him talk, the more you’ll like him.
Hunter is a media darling of Atlanta sports, and he’ll certainly wear his heart on his sleeve. He hasn’t held back when talking about the university’s fourth trip to the Big Dance, even though the 15 seed’s first-round odds are extremely long to upset No. 2 seed Cincinnati, considered by many to be a dark horse to win it all.
On Monday, Hunter told the media:
“What college athletics should be about is what’s happening at Georgia State. Not all this FBI stuff or this other stuff. It’s about these guys right here that eat at McDonald’s. They told us today that Cincinnati gets to stay at the Hyatt. We (have to) stay at Comfort Inn. Cincinnati gets to eat at Ruth’s Chris. We (have to) eat at Wendy’s. But when it comes Friday at 2 o’clock, we’re going to be ready. We’re going to be ready to play, I can guarantee you that.”
In that one clip, you can see the giddiness he has to get back to the tournament for the first time since he famously sat injured on a blue rolling chair, coaching his team to a first-round upset of Baylor in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
How did he suffer the Achilles injury? Celebrating the team’s Sun Belt Conference championship and berth in the Big Dance, of course.
Admittedly, I haven’t watched one second of Georgia State Basketball this year. But when they take the court against the Bearcats Friday afternoon in Nashville, it’s going to be hard to pull against the Panthers, and especially hard to pull against one of the gems of college basketball’s coaching fraternity.Follow @Sean_Breslin