2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: No. 14 Mercer Bears vs. No. 3 Duke Blue Devils

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Mercer has the talent and experience to exploit a leaky Duke defense, but will they will be able contain Jabari Parker and the Blue Devils?

A starting five without a single NCAA appearance among them. If you're picturing a fiery team of young guns looking to start off on the right foot, then stop. Bob Hoffman's Bears might just be the polar opposite.

Led by an all senior starting five, Mercer is no stranger to big games or big moments. Over the last three seasons, they hold six high major wins and two Atlantic Sun Championship appearances.

"They've played a lot of really good teams in tough environments all over the country," head coach Bob Hoffman said. "I think these guys will be excited and fired up. They wont be fearful when they walk on the floor."

In one of those tough environments, Oxford, Mississippi, senior guard Langston Hall drained a three at the buzzer to give the Bears a win over Marshall Henderson's Rebels.

Hall is averaging 14.7 points per game this season, with 5.6 assists, good for 26th in the nation, to go along as well. He spearheads a unselfish Bears squad that ranks 5th in the nation in total assists. The senior guard's driving ability compliments his three point prowess (39.2%), which earned him the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year award. He doesn't back down in pressure situations and the NCAA Tournament isn't an exclusion.

So on the outside you have Langston Hall but down low the Bears possess someone not too shabby as well. The all time record holder for blocks in Mercer history, Daniel Coursey is a presence inside and leads a Bears front court that ranks top in the Atlantic Sun in rebounding margin. Forwards Jakob Gollon and Bud Thomas also help crash the boards for Mercer, and on the offensive end, aren't afraid to step out and extend their range.

Why Mercer Can Pull Of The Upset

Surging Anthony White Jr. is the key for the Bears. While Langston Hall draws all the attention, even he cannot carry this team to a NCAA win. White averaged 19 points per game in the A-Sun tournament and can provide another outside scoring threat. With him on his game, the Bears might just have enough to pull off the Cinderella story.

While the Bears will need to find scoring from not just Langston Hall, they will also need to continue their season long domination of the glass. If they can succeed against a Blue Devils squad that ranks 193rd in rebounding, then a NCAA Tournament win might just be possible.

Why the Bears Will Fall Short

Jabari Parker is a match up nightmare for the Bears so expect them to set up in a zone. If they do stay man to man however, Parker is too big for Hall or White Jr. but to quick and athletic for Coursey or Gollon. With that in mind, Duke possesses knock down shooters and can make Mercer pay for going zone. It sounds simple but if the Blue Devils can knock it down from outside, expect a long day for Bob Hoffman.


Location: Raleigh, NC (PNC Arena)

Date/Time: Friday, March 21 / 12:15 p.m. ET

Television: CBS

Tickets: NCAA

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