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No. 14 Mercer shocks No. 3 Duke in Round of 64

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source: AP
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Down goes Duke.

Jakob Gollob led five players in double figures with 18 points and No. 14 Mercer held Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker to a combined 6-for-24 shooting from the floor as the Bears handed the Blue Devils their second shocking Round of 64 upset in three years, 76-68. Duke lost to No. 15 Lehigh in the opening round as a No. 2 seed in 2012.

And with that, the celebration was on.

“You’re never too old to celebrate,” a fired up Bob Hoffman, Mercer’s head coach, told Rachel Nichols on CBS after the game. “Unbelievable what theses dudes believe about each other and they can accomplish. That’s the kind of heart it takes, and it’s amazing what they’ve done the last three years, believing at the highest level that they can accomplish what they did today.”

MORE: Lehigh, FGCU send regardsMercer guard can dance | Duke’s worst tourney losses

The Bears shot 55.6% from the floor, taking full advantage of the issues that Duke has had defensively all season long. They attacked Hood and Parker in pick-and-roll actions, conceding offensive rebounds in exchange for taking away Duke’s transition game.

More important, however, was the job that the Bears did defensively. Hoffman did his homework. The way to beat Duke is to play a zone, force them to become a jump-shooting team and dare them to try and cram the ball into the paint. The Blue Devils hit 15 threes and they grabbed 16 offensive rebound, but as a team they shot just 35.5% from the field and got nothing out of their two stars. Parker didn’t touches in the post and Duke didn’t get the ball into the high post nearly enough. It was a constant theme this season — the same thing happened against Clemson, Notre Dame, Wake Forest and North Carolina — and it came back to bite the Blue Devils at the wrong time.

That said, this is a very good, and very motivated, Mercer team. They beat both Seton Hall and Ole Miss this season, losing by three at Texas and hanging with Oklahoma in Norman. They have seven seniors that had to sit home and watch the team that they beat out for last season’s Atlantic Sun regular season title, Florida-Gulf Coast, make a run to the Sweet 16.

You don’t think that that had been stewing inside them all offseason?

You don’t think that Hoffman reminded them of that fact in every single practice?

It’s not fun watching a team you believe you’re better than become a global phenomenon. Mercer wanted their moment in the sun, and they got it.

They’re advance to fact the winner of this afternoon’s game between No. 6 UMass and No. 11 Tennessee, two teams that the Bears are well-equipped to beat.

Just how far can Mercer go?

“With these guys?” Hoffman said. “I don’t know who’s beating us.”

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.