Well, it's official. There will be no billion dollar winner for this year's 2014 NCAA Tournament. With all the upsets, no one was able to for see the future and create a perfect bracket. There have been many great upsets, but possibly the biggest upset of the year came from the Mercer Bears.
The Mercer Bears were able to hold off the talented Duke Blue Devils on Friday, and eliminate the freshmen phenom, Jabari Parker. Mercer, with their 5 starting seniors, were experienced with the Tournament, and experienced playing together as a team. Mercer was able to feed off of each others strengths and shoot 56% from the field, while only recording 8 turnovers. Mercer played great defense and forced Duke to take contested three point jumpers in the second half, which gave away the Duke lead. Mercer has proven they are ready to make a statement in the NCAA Tournament, and they might not be finished.
Mercer will be heading to the next round to face the Tennessee Volunteers. The Tennessee Volunteers are another Cinderella story, as they upset UMass in the first round. Tennessee likes to pummel teams in the paint, and did so against UMass. Tennessee's two, 6'8 forwards scored a combined 37 points and grabbed 25 rebounds! Massachusetts center, and two other forwards could not contend with Tennessee, as Massachusetts three big men only scored a combined 26 points and 16 rebounds. With Tennessee's combination of powerful big men, and Jordan McRae (Senior guard averaging 19 PPG), they have talent that has been much overlooked.
Now, Tennessee and Mercer, both underdogs, will be facing off tomorrow to continue their Cinderella story.
The match ups will be interesting as both teams are filled with experienced, talented men. As we all know, Mercer has 5 senior starters, and their play making guard, Langston Hall. The Tennessee Volunteers are a lot like Mercer, for the fact that they start 3 seniors, and 2 juniors. Tennessee also has a great play making guard by the name of Jordan McRae.
Jordan McRae is averaging nearly 20 PPG, 4 TRB, and 3 APG, and leads the guard charge of Tennessee. Langston Hall is averaging nearly 15 PPG, 3 TRB, and 6 APG, and like McRae, leads the guards of Mercer. I will be focused on this match up the entire game tomorrow, as both played large roles on their teams upsets yesterday. McRae was able to slice up the Massachusetts defense with his scoring, and Hall was able to find passing lanes versus Duke. If both teams offense becomes dependent on individual scoring, watch out for these two young men.
Finally, the last key part to the game will be the big men. Tennessee loves to dominate in the paint and grab tough boards. As a team, Tennessee is the 14th best rebounding team in the nation and they have two great rebounder's in the paint - Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. These two average a combined 18 rebounds per game and 25 PPG. This will be the deciding factor for me.
We saw Mercer get destroyed on the boards versus Duke, but their experience was able to prevail over Duke's young guys. Against Tennessee, they are facing a very experienced team (3 senior and 2 junior starters) and an even better rebounding team than Duke. I beileve the the rebounding effect from Tennessee's team will crush the hopes of Mercer's Cinderella story.