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The 2015 Atlanta Hawks are 2014 Georgia State men’s basketball

We are traditionally a basketball school in terms of our own athletics teams here at Georgia State. But, for the most part, the men’s basketball team has not lived up to the lofty expectations put on them at the beginning of the year. Some of that is the team’s fault and some of it is not.

Meanwhile, another well-known Atlanta hoops squad has not only lived up to expectations, they have surpassed. Those would be the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks — you may have heard of them.

The Hawks, at 35-8 this season, have been the story of Atlanta sports this year. It is not necessarily a team with any superstars that stand out like LeBron James in Cleveland or Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. But all they do nowadays is win.

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Somewhat like our men’s team did a lot of in 2014.

Again, as the basketball school that we are, we are anything but fair-weather when it comes to our Panthers taking the court. But the outstanding play of the Hawks has become a major story both inside and outside metro-Atlanta, a city where sports has not always been the source of happy headlines.

A basketball team coming out of nowhere to play great as a team to steal the hearts of a fanbase and a city. Sound familiar? Maybe this year’s Hawks team was inspired by last year’s Panthers.

Georgia State is not a school that consistently garners national headlines for sports given that we are in one of the non-Power Five conferences. The 25-9 season along with a 17-1 mark in the Sun Belt that the men’s team was able to pull off in 2013-14 had students, fans, and alumni buzzing with excitement.

This was so much that the media, even outside of those that are neck-deep in covering the basketball team began to take notice. Last season, Panthers head coach Ron Hunter did numerous interviews with local media, including with WZGC-FM 92.9 The Game.

Ultimately, the ending was not good for the team last year as they barely lost in the conference championship game, but last season was a special season as the team received both local and national attention for its captivating play.

One can say that this year’s Hawks team has parallels to last year’s Georgia State men’s basketball team. Of course, one is an NCAA team and the other competes at the highest level of professional basketball. Let’s get that out of the way.

But, we would know the parallels between this year’s Atlanta Hawks team and last year’s Georgia State men’s basketball team given how closely we follow both teams.

Last season, Georgia State was one of these teams that flew under the college basketball radar only to make major waves within the NCAA. In the NBA, everyone and their mothers picked the Cavaliers to win the Eastern Conference.

Now, the local and national media is buzzing with Hawks banter and are now being pegged as the team that is being picked to potentially win the East and maybe bring an NBA championship to a title-starved city.

On the Georgia State side of things, this year, they are still a good team, but not the worldbeaters they were (and still are) supposed to be.

What the Hawks have done is definitely noteworthy and has made anyone who is a fan of Atlanta basketball proud. What was at first a story of a good basketball team is now a story of a great basketball team that has reinvigorated interest in a team whose recent memory has been littered with first-round exits from the NBA playoffs.

The primary thing that still has some people a bit skeptical is the history of Atlanta sports. We live in a city that is much maligned by the national media for having fair-weather fans, but we also live in a city that is honeycombed with sports disappointments.

As the Hawks win more games, they also won more believers, as our men’s team did last season. They are under more of a consistent national microscope given they are an NBA team, but they are now in the NBA where Georgia State should be in the Sun Belt this season.

There is still plenty of time for the Panthers to turn it around, and perhaps they will begin to live up to expectations. But as of now, at least everyone in basketball circles is still talking about “us.”

For the Hawks sake, let’s hope their result does not end the same way the Panthers’ did last season. Georgia State men’s basketball could probably use some inspiration from the Hawks right now.

Then, perhaps we could have two teams from our hometown that become the talk of the university, the city, and the country.

Georgia State, Atlanta, don’t you like the sound of that?

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