Midwest Region Third Round Handicapping Preview: #14 Mercer Bears vs #11 Tennessee Volunteers

2014 NCAA Tournament
Midwest Region – Third Round

PNC Arena – Raleigh, North Carolina
#14 Mercer Bears vs #11 Tennessee Volunteers
Sunday, March 23, 2014, 6:10 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Opening Line: Tennessee -9
Current Line: Tennessee -7 1/2
Opening Total: 127 1/2
Current Total: 130
Opening Money Line: Tennessee -385 / Mercer +310
Current Money Line: Tennessee -355 / Mercer +290

Tennessee is a 7.5 point favorite against Mercer in the Midwest region third round Sunday in Raleigh.
Tennessee is a 7.5 point favorite against Mercer in the Midwest region third round Sunday in Raleigh.

A year after Florida Gulf Coast made an unlikely run to the Sweet 16 as a #15 seed, another team from the Atlantic Sun is the Cinderella story of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The #14 seed Mercer Bears upset #3 seed Duke 78-71 in the Midwest Region second round Friday. The 27-8 Bears closed the game on a 20-8 run after trailing by 5 with under 5 minutes to go in regulation. Mercer next takes on #11 seed 23-12 Tennessee in the third round. The winner will face #2 Michigan in the Midwest regional semifinal next week in Indianapolis.

Mercer went 14-4 in the Atlantic Sun and tied for the regular season title with Florida Gulf Coast. Mercer has won 5 straight games including a 68-60 win over FGCU in the Atlantic Sun Championship game. Mercer had never won an NCAA Tournament game in two previous appearances before the Duke upset.. The Bears had not made it to the dance since 1985 before this season.

Tennessee was fourth in the SEC with an 11-7 record. The Volunteers lost to Florida 56-49 in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. Tennessee has won 7 of their last 8 games. The Volunteers beat Iowa 78-65 in overtime in the first round Wednesday night in Dayton, and then beat #6 Massachusetts 86-67 in the second round Friday in Raleigh.

Mercer leads the series against Tennessee 4-1. The Bears ended the Volunteers’ season last year with a 75-67 upset in Knoxville in the first round of the NIT.

Mercer is coached by Bob Hoffman. The Bears have losses at Texas, at Evansville, at Ohio, at Oklahoma, North Florida twice, at South Carolina Upstate, and at Florida Gulf Coast. Mercer has key wins against Seton Hall, Yale, at Valparaiso, Denver, at Ole Miss, East Tennessee State twice, USC Upstate twice, and Florida Gulf Coast twice. The Bears are 3-3 ATS and the total is 4-2 this season.

Mercer is outscoring teams 79-66 this season. The Bears are #24 nationally in scoring. Mercer is shooting 47.6% from the field and 38.6% from 3 point range. The Bears are #37 or better in both categories. Mercer makes 73.2% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 40% from the field and 29.8% from 3 point range. The Bears are #31 in field goal defense and #12 in 3 point defense nationally. Mercer averages 38 rebounds per game and opponents average 29.6. The Bears are #39 nationally in rebounding. Mercer averages 16.4 assists, 11.9 turnovers, 6 steals and 4.2 blocks per game.

Guard Langston Hall averages 14.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Forward Daniel Coursey averages 9.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Forward Bud Thomas averages 9.1 points, 4.1 assists, and 1.9 assists per game. Guard Anthony White, Jr. averages 8.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. Guard Ike Nwamu averages 8.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1 assist per game. Forward Jakob Gollon averages 7.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1 steal per game. Darious Moten, Monty Brown,  Phillip Leonard, Jibri Bryan, T.J. Hallice, and Kevin Canevari will also get significant minutes in a deep rotation. Brown suffered a concussion in the Duke upset and will miss the Tennessee game.

Tennessee is coached by Cuonzo Martin. The Volunteers have losses at Xavier, UTEP in the Bahamas, at Wichita State, North Carolina State, Texas A&M twice, at Kentucky, Florida three times, at Vanderbilt, and at Missouri. Tennessee has key wins over Xavier and Wake Forest in the Bahamas, Morehead State, Virginia, at LSU, Auburn twice, Arkansas, Ole Miss, at Alabama, South Carolina twice, Georgia, at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Missouri. Tennesse is 20-13 ATS and the total is 13-19-1 this season.

The Volunteers are outscoring teams 71-61 this season. Tennessee is #16 nationally in points allowed. The Volunteers are shooting 44.7% from the field including 33.5% from 3 point range. Tennessee makes 71% of their free throws. Volunteer opponents  are shooting 40.8% from the field including 34.2% from 3 point range. Tennessee averages 38.8 rebounds a game and opponents average 26.8 per game. Tennessee is #23 in rebounds nationally and #9 in rebounds allowed.  The Volunteers average 12.6 assists, 5.2 steals, 4.8 blocks and 10.7 turnovers a game. Opponents average 9.8 assists, 5.3 steals, 3.8 blocks, and 10.9 turnovers a game.

Guard Jordan McRae averages 18.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1 block per game. Forward Jarnell Stokes averages 14.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block per game. Forward Jeronne Maymon averages 10.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1 assist per game. Guard Josh Richardson averages 9.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. Guard Antonio Barton averages 7.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Armani Moore, Darius Thompson, Derek Reese, and A.J. Davis will also get significant time in the rotation. Guard Robert Hubbs III is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Mercer is 8-3-1 ATS after a cover, 2-5 in non-conference games, and 1-4 in neutral site games.

Tennessee is 4-0 ATS in non-conference games, 6-1 overall, 5-1 in neutral site games and after a straight up win, 4-1 after a cover and against teams with winning records.

Mercer would like to play this game in the upper 70’s, and Tennesse wants to play it in the 60’s. Both teams rebound really well. Both Mercer and Tennessee are red hot right now. The Bears will make it a game, but Tennessee pulls out the victory in the end in a close game.

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