ATLANTA — Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter is not allowed to fill out a NCAA Tournament bracket because of some rule somewhere that is designed to make their job just a little less fun.
He *is*, however, allowed to fill out other kinds of brackets.
So that got me thinking. What kind of bracket would a sophisticated, witty, and energetic individual like Ron Hunter want to fill out?
Best Oscar-winning films? That's pretentious.
Best NCAA Tournament winners in tourney history? Pretty boring, and I might get fired for putting yawn-inducing #content on television.
Best sitcom opening theme songs (yes, that's a real bracket I found. Come back to this tab after you've filled yours out)? Now we're getting somewhere, but I only have about a minute of real estate to work with in the newscast, and the winner of Friends vs. Cheers taking on the winner of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air vs. Malcolm in the Middle is at least a 5-minute discussion.
How about a subject near and dear to the coach's ethos (that word won in the "nouns that start with 'E'" bracket that I just filled out).
Now we're talking. In case you forgot, Ron Hunter compared his team's treatment to Cincinnati's before last year's NCAA Tournament appearance.
And I quote: “Cincinnati stays at the Hyatt and we stay at Comfort Inn. Cincinnati eats at Ruth's Chris (steak house). We got to eat at Wendy's.”
The Bearcats won. Georgia State came home and worked to get back to the dance this season.
Now that they're here, Hunter's idea of cuisine for his team is upgraded.
"We will get steaks this year," he vowed.
Maybe that's because Hunter himself is giving up fast food for the season. He can't just have a bus-full of players scarfing down Baconators and giant Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers (by the way, as a friend of mine recently pointed out, isn't it just a regular bacon cheeseburger at that point? I digress.) while he himself has to meal prep for the week and munch on a bag of almonds, washed down by a warm LaCroix.
Maybe it's because his team is deserving of the attention and the acclaim despite its mid-major status. Making it to the tournament in back-to-back seasons is way more difficult than finding a good meal when you're always on the road recruiting, and made a vow not to visit any place where you order your meal through a microphone.
Still, Hunter is a good sport, and certainly one of the best in the business. So he agreed to pick a champion in my little fast food experiment. And guess who he picked?
The only option for a coach in Atlanta: Chick-fil-A, y'all.
This is why Ron Hunter is the best college basketball coach in Georgia, and why his team is, too. He doesn't have to make a bold statement that stirs the pot and upsets everyone, like Long John Silver's, or a trendy pick that no one in Georgia really cares about, like In-N-Out.
He picks the quality chain. The one that's Atlanta-born but doesn't try to/have to tell you it's better than it is. I'm not trying to make a one-for-one comparison between Chick-fil-A and a college basketball program, because if I did, obviously Chick-fil-A would be a number one seed (not Duke) and would not be Georgia State.
All I'm saying is, Ron Hunter was #OnBrand with his pick. He's a smart man and a solid leader. The Panthers are in their third NCAA Tournament this decade for a reason.
The real GSU (sorry to the one Georgia Southern fan still reading. The others are sweating out Family Matters vs. Frasier in the regional round) already knocked off one three-seed in 2015 (Baylor, with a game-winner from Hunter's son RJ, in case you were floating on a plastic trash island in the pacific around that time), and will try to dispose of Houston in similar fashion this weekend.
Take that, NCAA. We got one of your coaches to fill out a bracket. And it doesn't break any rules. And honestly, if you've eaten Chick-fil-A and it didn't win your fast food bracket, please don't apply to Georgia State once Ron Hunter inevitably earns a promotion to a power-five program at some point in the future.
We don't want your ilk speaking on behalf of Georgia's only annual participant in this dance.
We want someone whose words of adoration for Georgia's fried-chicken establishment drip off the tongue, like that extra Chick-fil-A sauce we didn't need drips on our steering wheel (as we try to make a left-hand turn with a chicken nugget in one hand and a fry in the other. With the sauce cup strategically placed on the console, of course).
Go Panthers. Enjoy your steaks. Medium-rare, of course. It clearly wins out of the other final four options of medium, medium-well, and rare.
Well-done is on probation.
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