Put another quarter in the jukebox , we need more dancing music. The NCAA Tournament AKA The Big Dance, is rolling on in the round of Sweet Sixteen. While there are lots of plots and subplots that remain, including Kentucky’s tantalizing quest for perfection, I can’t help feeling that we have already seen the best story of this years tournament.
One Shining Moment is the name of the song that annually signifies the end of the tournament. The good folks at CBS Sports have made it a much anticipated tradition to present 3 minutes of the sites and sounds of March Madness accompanied by the immortal vocal talents of Luther Vandross. It is one of the magical sports moments of the year. I’m a sucker for it and will endure even a bad final game to see what I consider to be a consistently excellent bit of television work.
I cannot tell you who will be seen in the final 30 seconds of this years musical tribute, but I can tell you who and what will be seen in the first 30 seconds.We will see Georgia State’s R.J.Hunter’s buzzer-beater that sent the Panthers to a dramatic tournament victory over Baylor, and sent his Father-Coach Ron Hunter tumbling out of his chair. We will see father and son embrace, and see the tears that were shed by a coach who was overcome with emotion when he spoke of his prize pupil.
It may take 3 weeks to determine a champion, but it only took the Georgia State Panthers 4 days to steal the show. The impact on the Downtown Atlanta campus and it’s men’s basketball program could be both immediate and long term.
Let’s start with Coach Hunter, who had to have been an emotional wreck after last weekend in Jacksonville.Now a national celebrity, this week Hunter will be guest studio analyst with Ernie Johnson and the Turner Sports crew for their NCAA Tournament coverage. How convenient, GSU and the Turner studios are about 10 minutes apart. Next week it will get even better when Hunter and his scooter roll in to Indianapolis for the Final Four. What a homecoming it will be for the coach who previously worked there at IUPUI. The Final Four is also the coaches convention, a place where colleges come to fill their coaching vacancies. If Ron Hunter ever had thoughts of working a high paying gig at a big time program he may be about to get his chance.
The deciding factor for Hunter could hinge on R.J.’s decision to stay for his senior year at GSU, or take his long range shooting skills to the NBA. Projections for the younger Hunter range from first round selection , to solid second rounder, to being passed over in the draft all together. If R.J. goes, Hunter may seek greener pastures. If R.J. stays for his senior season, Hunter stays and recruiting gets easier thanks to all the extra publicity the Georgia State program has received. You would be hard pressed to find a recruit who wouldn’t at least take a phone call from the coach who fell off his stool at the NCAA Tournament.
The tournament run should also allow the Georgia State basketball program and GSU Athletics to do some new things, like taking the product to the Atlanta community. A game against another NCAA Tournament team like St John’s, Texas, or a traditional regional basketball power like Memphis would play well at Philips Arena.
Ron Hunter mentioned a culture change at Georgia State. Not just in the way the school and it’s athletic department is viewed by others, but how those on the inside at GSU see themselves. One thing is for sure, the folks on Decatur Street are going to need a bigger mirror. The approved merger with Georgia Perimeter is expected to bring enrollment to over 50,0000 students. The larger number should help with GSU’s long range goal to take over Turner Field when the Braves depart. In fact, the added manpower could come in handy to help Cobb County’s Team pack up for the drive up I-75 to the land of the Big Chicken.
Yes, it’s a true growing up moment for Georgia State and it’s time for the Administration, Faculty, Students, Alumni, and Supporters to start acting like it. A repeat performance next season is not promised. It’s truly Georgia State’s One Shining Moment, but sometimes One Shining Moment is all you need.