By Jeff Kubiszyn @JeffKubiszyn on March 19, 2014
The Mercer Bears are ready to put the university on the map. The Bears knocked off last year’s NCAA tournament darlings, Florida Gulf Coast University, in the Atlantic Sun conference championship. Now Mercer sets its sights on the No. 3 seed Duke Blue Devils. The Bears are no fluke. Here are five reasons the No. 14 seed Mercer Bears can be the Cinderella story of the tournament.
The Bears may be the deepest team in the tournament. 12 players average at least nine minutes a game. Not many coaches would feel comfortable going that deep into the bench. Mercer coach Bob Hoffman uses it to his advantage. And as a No. 14 seed, sometimes you need all the help you can get.
Mercer can crash the boards. The Bears rank 38th in rebounding, pulling down 38 rebounds a game. Rebounding can win you tournament games. Mercer must win the rebounding battle against Duke in order to pull off the upset.
The Bears rank 25th in points per game. Six players score seven or more points per game. Mercer knows it has the firepower to keep pace with any team in the tournament. Opponents will not be able to concentrate on a certain player when five other guys can shoot the ball.
Seven seniors suit up and see action for Mercer. A lot can be said for a team that has been together for four years. You cannot discount the importance of the bond a team can form over a four-year period. Everyone is familiar with each other. Sometimes experience can overcome sheer athleticism on the court.
Langston Hall leads the Bears in scoring. He is unfazed by the competition. Hall scored 22 points against the Texas Longhorns. He had 24 versus the Seton Hall Pirates. When he isn’t shooting, he is getting the ball to other scorers. Hall leads the team in assists. Teams better not sleep on Hall or his Mercer teammates. Otherwise, Mercer can be this year’s version of Florida Gulf Coast University and bust some brackets.
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