Mercer Bears – NIT Round 2

mercer LOGO

Who is Mercer?

Well, they play in the Atlantic Sun Conference that is comprised mainly of schools in theA Sun Logo South Carolina to Florida region of the country.  The Bears finished first in the regular season with a 23-11 record, but lost in the conference tournament to current NCAA darling Florida Gulf Coast.  They are located in Macon, GA and play their home games at Hawkins Arena.

FGCU LogoI looked over their season and didn’t see much of note.  However, a few games did jump out to me.  They beat Florida State on the road 61-56 this season. Against Florida Gulf Coast they were 1-2 by a combined 248-209 with their lone victory coming early in the regular season at home.  And of course, they beat Tennessee on the road 75-67 on the shoulders of 25 points from senior guard Travis Smith in order to reach the second round of the NIT for the right to come to Provo.

Last season, they beat Utah State in Logan in the CIT giving them the championship.

Okay, but what do they bring to the game and what should Cougar fans be watching for tonight?  The Bears aren’t a high-scoring team, in fact, they are methodical in their approach and scored fewer than 50 points 6 times this season, but they make up for their lack of a scoring punch by holding their opponents to just over 58 points per game.  Compare that with BYU who averages better than 18 PPG more than the Bears allow and this game could get interesting.  The Cougars on the season are allowing not quite 4 PPG more than Mercer is averaging.  Style and pace of play are going to go a long way in determining this game.

Here are some stats to chew on:

Mercer Team Stats

Statistic Per Game Average NCAA Rank
Points

65.4

223

Opponent’s Points

58.2

NA

Rebounds

32.3

271

Assists

14.1

83

FG%

43.3%

181

3PFG%

35.4%

NA

Road Record

8-7

NA

RPI

NA

140

 

Travis Smith MercerIndividual Player’s Stats

Player Statistic Per Game Average
Travis Smith Points per game 13.8
Jakob Gallon Rebounds per game 5.0
Langston Hall Assists per game 5.0

Let me compare that first table of stats against BYU this season:

BYU Team Stats

Statistic Per Game Average NCAA Rank
Points

76.5

18

Opponent’s Points

69.2

NA

Rebounds

38.3

29

Assists

15.6

21

FG%

45.8%

56

3PFG%

33.5%

NA

Home Record

15-3

NA

RPI

NA

65

Tyler Haws IIIAs you well know by now, BYU thrives when they can get out and run the ball.  Especially when at home against teams not accustomed to the altitude change (they lost their two altitude games by a combined score of 145-98.)  Both teams have been sitting for at least five days now so fatigue won’t be an issue but if BYU can get out and press the Bears early and often, it should pay dividends.  If Brandon Davies and Nate Austin can play smart and keep their hands in check, the Cougars will have a size advantage all game.  Don’t expect Tyler Haws to go for 37 again of Matt Carlino to rain 3s like he did in the second half against Washington, but you should expect the Cougars to run and press and push the ball up in transition often.

But just because the Cougars will press doesn’t mean it will be good.  It very well could get sloppy.  The Bears are stingy on defense holding opponents to about 39% shooting.  They help well and probably most importantly, they don’t have anything to lose at this point.  They run their offense at nearly 10 fewer possessions per game than does BYU and they play very well within the half-court.

The game will be at 7 pm in the Marriott Center and can be viewed on the ESPN network of channels.  The winner gets the winner of the Southern Miss-Louisiana Tech game for the right to go to Madison Square Garden.

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