The darlings of the 2013 NCAA tournament came from #DunkCity, as Florida-Gulf Coast alley-ooped their way from a No. 16 seed to the Sweet 16, knocking off No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State in the process.
They were fun. They were exciting. They were basically the Harlem Globetrotters.
What they weren’t, however, was the regular season champion of the Atlantic Sun. That title belonged to Mercer, a team that has put themselves in a position to be this season’s cinderella story. That’s typically what happens when you are a No. 14 seed that pulls off an upset of a No. 3 seed that just so happens to Duke, a team that features a top three pink in the NBA Draft, one of the greatest coaches in the history of basketball and the kind of name-brand that is impossible to replicate.
Not every cinderella is built the same, however, and this Mercer team is not all that much like FGCU.
Last season, the Eagles were college basketball’s version of showtime. Their offense was built around Brett Comer and his ability to lead the break. They flourished in transition, taking advantage of the myriad of long, lanky and athletic front court players and the fact that Comer had a flair for throwing perfectly-timed lobs.
They fed off of emotion, and the fact that they were a thrill to watch made them immediate fan favorites.
Mercer is similar is that their offense is structured around their point guard, but this team is not a high-flying act. They’re more of a traditional mid-major: loaded with seniors, extremely well-coached, playing with a calmness that you can only see out of a group of guys that have spent four years together.
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Mercer has a ton of shooters, ranking top 25 nationally in three-point percentage, which allows them to spread the floor and let Langston Hall operate. Against Duke, he picked apart their defense with pick-and-roll actions.
How they do it doesn’t really matter when it comes down to it.
What’s relevant is that both teams are good enough at what they do to beat some of the best teams in the country.
There’s more than one way to pull an upset, and the Atlantic Sun have proven that the last two years.