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.