College Sports

Georgia St. has busted NCAA Tournament brackets before and the Panthers can do it again

Analyzing the economic impact of the NCAA Tournament

The NCAA Tournament is upon us, but the madness of March goes beyond the court. The amount of money the TV industry, its advertisers and fans spend on the tournament are pretty crazy too.
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The NCAA Tournament is upon us, but the madness of March goes beyond the court. The amount of money the TV industry, its advertisers and fans spend on the tournament are pretty crazy too.

Everything about the Georgia State Panthers’ final-seconds win in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament was perfectly March.

There’s the small-school guard, who willed his mid-major roster into a close game with a power-conference foe through on-their-face stupid shots.

There’s the announcer who somehow hasn’t grasped that this was quite frankly the only way Georgia State was going to win, which made for a surprisingly memorable call.

“What are they doing?” the color commentator wonders aloud just before an NBA-range three-pointer at the buzzer gives the Panthers a miracle win.

Then there was the hero — R.J. Hunter, a future NBA guard and the son of the coach — and the moment. When his son hits the shot, coach Ron Hunter literally falls out of his chair.

Hunter is still there coaching in Atlanta, so every time he gets Georgia State into the Tournament, always as an underdog, it’s impossible not to think of this moment. For the first time since 2015, the Panthers may have what it takes to replicate it.

Georgia State, a No. 14 seed, will open the Tournament against the No. 3-seed Houston Cougars later this week, trying to win a Tourney game for the first time since the coach’s son sunk Baylor. There’s no Hunter kid leading the way, but D’Marcus Simonds is the next best thing.

Simonds is the best player the Panthers have had since Hunter and probably the second best player in the history of the program.

The star guard was an All-America honorable mention last year and repeated as a first-team all-Sun Belt Conference selection this season. Simonds trails only Hunter on Georgia State’s all-time scoring list, even though they went about reaching their marks in totally different ways.

Hunter, befitting his legendary game-winner, was always a sharpshooter. He averaged 2.6 threes per game throughout his career while shooting 35.4 percent from range, which made him a first-round pick in 2015.

Simonds shoots a ghastly 29.0 percent from long range considering attempts 6.0 a game. Still, the junior will probably get drafted either this year or next because of an evil handle and incredible finishing ability. I mean, just look at this from the Panthers’ 73-64 win against the UT Arlington Mavericks in the Sun Belt championship Sunday:

This season, Simonds shot a more-than-respectable 49.7 percent on two-pointers, but last year he was unreal, shooting 51.4 percent on a bonkers 13.1 attempts per game.

There’s a good chance Simonds is the best player on the floor against Houston, just like R.J. Hunter was four years ago against the Bears.

If all goes according to plan for the Panthers, Simonds might be a name we’ll all be talking about until the next time Georgia State gets to play Cinderella.

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