After last season’s surprising Sweet 16 run from Florida Gulf Coast, the Eagles — and the rest of the Atlantic Sun — will be one to watch as we get closer to the NCAA Tournament. While Dunk City returns key pieces in Bernard Thompson, Brett Comer and Chase Fieler, Mercer and USC Upstate are talented enough to compete with the Eagles for the A-Sun tournament title and the automatic tournament bid. Florida Gulf Coast tied Mercer atop the league standings in the regular season and the two teams met for the conference tournament title last season. Is Dunk City on another collision course with Mercer in the title game?
Although the Eagles tied Mercer atop the Atlantic Sun at 14-4, Florida Gulf Coast holds a huge advantage in the tournament by having home-court advantage. The Eagles have lost one game at home all season and it came December 1st against non-conference Iona. Can Dunk City make another magical run?
And if they lose?: Mercer
The Bears split the season series with Florida Gulf Coast and have one of the league’s best players in senior point guard Langston Hall. In Atlantic Sun play, Mercer led the league in field goal percentage offense and defense as well as three-point percentage offense and defense and they tied Florida Gulf Coast for the league’s best mark in defensive rebounding percentage. Mercer’s talent and balance will give them a legitimate chance.
Lipscomb: Although they’re a five seed, Lipscomb has four straight wins, including a 21-point drubbing of Florida Gulf Coast at home on February 27th.
USC Upstate: The three seed has the trio of Torrey Craig, Ty Greene and Renardo Glenn and they are as talented a trio as there is in the Atlantic Sun.
Torrey Craig, USC Upstate: The conference’s leading scorer is a major offensive threat and also a top-five rebounder.
Langston Hall, Mercer: Hall is having a fine senior season as he leads Mercer in points and is also the A-Sun leader in assists.
Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast: The Eagles’ floor leader is second on the team in scoring and second in the conference — behind Hall — in assists. And don’t forget the lobs that drive Dunk City.
The interesting thing about conferences that traditionally send just one team to the NCAA tournament is that the winner of the automatic bid is the team that many people remember. And for teams that win their regular season title only to lose in the conference tournament, that can be a bitter pill to swallow.
That was the case for Bob Hoffman’s Mercer Bears in 2012-13, as they won the Atlantic Sun regular season title but lost to FGCU in the tournament title game. As a result the Eagles earned that trip to the NCAA tournament, and after a magical weekend in Philadelphia they became the darlings of the event. That may have led to outsiders simply assuming that FGCU would roll to the A-Sun’s regular season crown this season, but Mercer once again has enough talent to not only contend but win the title.
On Sunday the Bears led at Ole Miss by as many as 18 points in the second half, only to see the Rebels storm back and lead 67-60 with 6:44 remaining. Mercer refused to go away however, and a Langston Hall three-pointer with two seconds remaining gave the Bears a 79-76 victory. The win is the second win over an SEC team within the last week for the Atlantic Sun, with USC Upstate knocking off South Carolina on Thursday. Jarvis Summers led Ole Miss with 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
Ike Nwamu scored 24 points and Hall added 17 for the Bears, who lost at Texas by three and beat Seton Hall in November. As a team five players entered Sunday’s game averaging 8.9 points per game or more, and on the season Mercer leads the A-Sun with an average of 81.2 points per game. That depth makes the Bears a difficult team for opponents to defend, and they’re one of the league’s best defensive teams as well.
Mercer’s win over Ole Miss is their third straight over an SEC opponent. Sunday’s result is notice that the Bears have every intention of defending their A-Sun regular season title while also looking to enjoy greater success in the conference tournament.
It took them two overtimes to get it, but the Mercer Bears picked up a win against a major conference opponents on Saturday afternoon.
Led by 24 points and five assists from Langston Hall, Mercer knocked off Seton Hall in double-overtime, 77-74. This came on the heels of a three-point loss Mercer suffered at Texas on the season’s opening night.
Hall took over the game down the stretch, as he scored 19 of his 24 points after the under-four timeout. He hit clutch free throw after clutch free throw, and was Mercer’s entire offense down the stretch.
The Bears have a bit of a chip on their shoulder this season. They won the Atlantic Sun last season. They’re the favorites to win the Atlantic Sun this season. But the only team you ever hear about from the conference is Florida-Gulf Coast. You don’t think these kids are motivated to make a name for themselves? The Bears still have trips to Oklahoma and Ole miss and will host Denver. They play FGCU on January 23rd and February 21st.
Seton Hall wasted a career-high 35-point performance from Fuquan Edwin, who just so happens to be one of the most wasted talents in the country.