NCAA tournament team previews: Mercer Bears
As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team's national rank. For more teams, click here.
Record: 26-8, 14-4 in Atlantic Sun
Adjusted offense/ Adjusted defense: 107.8 (111th) / 101.5 (105th)
Seed: No. 14 in Midwest
Key player: Langston Hall, senior PG, 14.7 ppg, 5.6 apg, 1.5 spg
The Case For:
The Bears sat atop the Atlantic Sun for the entire season and held off last year's tournament darling Florida Gulf Coast to earn the conference's automatic bid. It all starts with senior point guard Langston Hall, who led the conference in offensive rating among players who used at least 24 percent of their teams' possessions. The Bears challenged themselves before the conference season with a non-conference schedule that ranked 78th in the country. They won at Ole Miss, beat Seton Hall at home and lost to Texas by just three points in Austin. They also played Oklahoma, though the Sooners blew them out.
They're efficient offensively from most spots on the floor, racking up an effective field goal percentage of 53.9 percent, which ranked 24th in the country. They were 23rd with a 38.9-percent three-point percentage and 63rd with a 51.3-percent two-point percentage. They play at a slow pace, so if they can impose that on Duke in their first game, they can keep the game close, and maybe spring a huge upset like the one 15th-seeded Lehigh dropped on the Blue Devils two years ago.
The Case Against:
Outside of Hall, there isn't a ton of individual scoring punch on this team. The next-highest scorer on the team, senior forward Daniel Coursey, averages 9.9 points per game. The Bears shoot the ball well, but that doesn't make them an offensive juggernaut. Like most teams from small conferences, they have some really bad losses on their resume. They dropped games to Evansville, North Florida twice and USC Upstate. All of those teams have RPIs outside the top 160.
Mercer also allows opponents to grab more than 30 percent of available offensive rebounds. That could be the death knell for a team hoping to pull off what would be a monumental upset. The Bears also get just 20.3 percent of their points off free throws, which ranked 278th in the country. Those easy points can be crucial for No. 14 seeds in the tournament.
SI prediction: Lose to Duke in second roundView complete bracket predictions from SI.com's panel of experts