Friday’s action in the 2014 NCAA Tournament started with the biggest upset thus far, as the No. 14 seed Mercer Bears took down the No. 3 seed Duke Blue Devils 78-71 to earn the first NCAA Tournament win in school history. They will now take on No. 11 seed Tennessee with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line, after the Volunteers beat No. 6 seed UMass 86-67 to continue their run after beating Iowa in one of the “First Four” games Wednesday night.
Here’s my look at Sunday’s game.
Mercer won on Friday despite being out-rebounded 35-27 by the Blue Devils, and forward Daniel Coursey (17 points and four rebounds against Duke) will have to step up against Jarnell Stokes, who has 21 double-doubles this season after a strong effort (26 points and 14 rebounds) against UMass. Jeronne Maymon also had a double-double against the Minutemen (11 points and 11 rebounds), and his contribution will be important as Tennessee looks to exploit their advantage in the front court.
Jordan McRae has shaken off a late-season shooting slump with 41 points in Tennessee’s first two tournament games, and he is in a good position to exploit any deficiencies in Mercer’s perimeter defense after Duke went 15-for-37 from three-point range (40.5 percent) in a losing effort on Friday.
Josh Richardson had 15 points, five assists and three rebounds against UMass and he is likely to see plenty of reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Langston Hall, who had 11 points, five assists and three rebounds on Friday, on the defensive end during Sunday’s game. If Richardson comes up with another strong effort on both ends of the floor against Mercer, the Volunteers can put a quick end to the Bears’ Cinderella run.
Prediction: Tennessee 77, Mercer 65