No. 14 seed Mercer had cinderella written all over them.
They were a senior-laden team led by a fiery coach bursting with personality and a bench that featured at least one guy that can flat out dance.
They were fun, they were easy to root for, and they were a No. 14 seed.
But on Sunday, we found out why they were a No. 14 seed, as Jarnell Stokes almost outrebounded the entire Bears roster in an 83-63 win for No. 11 Tennessee. He finished with 18 boards to add to 17 points and five assists while Mercer grabbed 19 rebounds as a team. The Bears cut the lead to single digits on a couple of different occasions in the second half, but the outcome was never really in doubt.
The Vols are on their way to the Sweet 16 where they will take on No. 2 Michigan in Indianapolis on Friday night.
The best player on the floor for Tennessee was Josh Richardson, who continued his terrific play this tournament by dropping 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting. He’s now averaged 19.3 points in Tennessee’s three tournament games, and is 20-for-28 from the floor since missing his first five shots against Iowa.
Tennessee is going to have their work cut out for them. The Wolverines are streaking right now and they’ll put Tennessee’s massive front line in tough spots defensively. Stokes or Jeronne Maymon will likely end up being forced to guard Glenn Robinson III, who is going to get drafted at some point to be an NBA small forward. The Vols will have a clear advantage in the paint, however, which likely means that whoever is able to take advantage of that mismatch will likely end up advancing.
It’s funny when you think about it.
Tennessee fans wanted Cuonzo Martin fired. Now he’s off to the Sweet 16 after winning a trio of games in the first week of the Big Dance.
This post will be updated throughout the night.
Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67) at Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37), 6:30 p.m.
LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76) at South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62), 7:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) at George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34), 7:00 p.m.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58), 9:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51), 9:00 p.m.
Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56) at Minnesota, 9:00 p.m.
Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57) at Utah (KenPom: 44, RPI: 16), 9:00 p.m.
San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 47) at Fresno State, 11:00 p.m.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: LSU at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m.
LSU attempts to stay atop the SEC standings when they travel on the road to face South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been very tough at home this season and they’re trying to form a potential four-way tie in the conference standings if they’re able to win this one (and Texas A&M wins tonight). It will be intriguing to see how Ben Simmons fares against South Carolina’s stingy defense.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: Saint Joseph’s at George Washington, 7:00 p.m.
An important game in the Atlantic 10 as Saint Joseph’s heads to the Smith Center to play surging George Washington. The Colonels have won three straight games as they try to stay with VCU and Dayton and make a move to tie the Hawks in the league standings. CBT’s Rob Dauster will be in the building for this one, so make sure to follow him on Twitter for updates.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- No. 21 Baylor will have a tough one in the Big 12 when they go on the road at Kansas State. The Wildcats just knocked off Oklahoma and the Octagon of Doom is a very tough place to play, even if Kansas State is struggling in the standings.
- No. 16 SMU will try to stay in the lead in the American as they host Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane could really use a road win like this for its postseason chances.
- An intriguing Pac-12 contest tips as Washington heads to Utah. The Pac-12 standings are a mess right now, but these two teams still have a chance to make one final move for the regular season title if they start building momentum now.
- In the SEC, Alabama hosts No. 15 Texas A&M, a team that has lost three of its last four games. The Aggies will be favored in this road contest, but this one could be interesting because of Avery Johnson’s unique connection to Texas A&M. Avery Johnson Jr., a transfer guard sitting out this season at Alabama, played for the Aggies last season, so he could have some useful tips for his dad on slowing down Texas A&M’s potent offense.
- No. 20 Providence will be looking for revenge when they head to Milwaukee to face Marquette. The Golden Eagles currently sit eighth in the Big East standings, but they did win on the road by a point over the Friars earlier this season.