March basketball is upon us.
But in Georgia, the mayhem doesn't bring the same level of excitement as it once did.
In large part, that's because the Georgia Bulldogs haven't lived up to expectations despite a talented roster. The Bulldogs have only played in two NCAA Tournaments since 2009 and haven't reached the 2nd round in either of those appearances.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech continues to struggle to reach the pinnacle of the ACC where the typical few rule. The Yellow Jackets took a step back this season after making a run in the NIT Tournament last year. They faced a letdown after their deep run all the way to the finals.
Who's left for the state to turn to? None other than Georgia State, who owns the best record in the state among the three schools in the last seven years by a sizable margin. The Panthers' record can't be directly compared to those who play in the SEC and ACC, but it's still impressive.
Regardless, they want you to know what they think.
"I feel like we’re the best team in the state," Jordan Session said. "Easily."
Does sophomore D'Marcus Simonds agree?
"Absolutely. No question. You know players from other teams are going to see this but they might be a little upset," Simonds said.
Okay, this is just a little mid-major trash talk from the players. Coach Ron Hunter is reeling it in, right?
"Numbers don’t lie," Hunter said, agreeing with his players. "Absolutely."
Numbers don't lie, and neither do Georgia State's chances of going dancing as they enter the Sun Belt tournament as the No. 2 seed. Three years ago, they won the tournament held in New Orleans and became the darlings of the NCAA tournament when R.J. Hunter hit a game-winning three to upset No. 3 Baylor and move on to the Round of 32.
Georgia State and Mercer are the only teams from Georgia to win a game in the tournament since 2009.
"It’s no knock against anyone else. We pride ourselves because, A, our team is built with local guys," Hunter said. "B, the result is how many games you win.
"Were proud we have a culture of winning. And that’s what we wanted to establish here. And that’s what we have at Georgia State. Georgia State’s about winning."
Georgia State has won at least 20 games four of the last five seasons. They took a step back in 2015 with R.J. going on to the NBA and the next round of guys a little too confident that they could fill that team's shoes instantly.
"We came in too cocky," Williams said. "I feel like it humbled us."
The next year, they turned things around. The presence of Simonds helped. As a freshman, he came in and began scoring at a prolific rate. While they fell short in the Sun Belt tournament last season, Simonds continued to chase R.J's records.
He's 20 points shy of R.J.'s school-record of 688 points in a season. Hunter won the conference Player of the Year twice, something Simonds has plenty of time to replicate. He averages 21.5 points per game this season.
"R.J. knows we’re coming for him. That’s all I got to say about that," Simonds said.
He's chasing after the records, but also the glory of taking Georgia State back to the dance and creating memories that will overshadow R.J.'s shot and Hunter falling off his stool in absolute euphoria.
That'll be hard to beat.
"This group is more than capable. We just got to be really good for three straight days. If we do that, we got a team that we feel like can win games in the NCAA tournament," Hunter said.
This group of Georgia kids, laughing and goofing off with their coach, has the best chance of adding some excitement back in March, at least for those of us in the Peach State.
Are they the best in the state? They believe they are.
That kind of confidence can do wonders.