In all honesty, I expected to be anticipating an SEC-WCC clash between Tennessee and BYU in the NIT's second round.
Boy, was I wrong.
The Cougers will host a team in orange next week—but it won't be Volunteer orange. Mercer upset the Vols 75-67 on Wednesday night to land the seventh-seeded Bears in the next round, and they will head to Provo on Monday to play BYU.
So, who the heck is Mercer? Here is a preview of the Bears.
Date/Time: March 25th, 7:00 p.m. MDT
Location: Provo, UT
Arena: The Marriott Center (20,900)
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM/1160 AM)
Live Stream: WatchESPN.com
Location: Macon, Georgia (enrollment of about 8,200)
Colors: Orange, white and black
Conference: Atlantic Sun
Head Coach: Bob Hoffman
Arena: Hawkins Arena at the University Center (seats 3,200)
2012-13 Record: 24-11 (14-4 in the A-Sun)
Langston Hall, G
Travis Smith, G
Jakob Gollon, F
Bud Thomas, F
Daniel Coursey, F
Mercer's backcourt duo of Travis Smith and Langston Hall are the center of the Bear squad and were nearly unstoppable against Tennessee. The pair combined for 41 points and nine assists, torching the Vols from all over the court.
It will be fun to see how well Tyler Haws and the Cougar guards do in defending the two scorers. Unless Smith and Hall are contained by BYU, the Cougs could be doomed to the same fate as Tennessee.
Mercer runs a fairly small lineup with four starting players 6'6" or smaller but is still fairly dangerous in the post. Centers Monty Brown and Daniel Coursey are two guys who could be challenges for Brandon Davies and the Cougar frontcourt, but there isn't much depth behind those two.
Brown and Coursey have struggled at times this year and average only 11 points combined. At other times, though, they have both played well, and it will be interesting to see how they fare against BYU.
Mercer is tied for 20th in the nation in scoring defense and holds its opponents to only 58.4 points per game. Nine times this year have the Bears given up less than 50 points, and they allowed only 25 in a game last November.
I'm sure that they will look for a way to contain Tyler Haws after his 37-point outburst against Washington, and we could see any number of Mercer players defending him on Monday.
Haws may not put up another 30-point game, but I think he will have a solid night and lead the Cougs to a win over Mercer. It will be closer than some may think, but BYU will pull off a win on its home court.
My prediction: BYU wins, 74-63