The Mercer Bears tried on a glass slipper Friday against Duke and found that it fit, picking up the school's first-ever NCAA tournament victory.
Now winners of 22 of their last 26 games, the Bears go hunting for another upset victim when they take on the Volunteers of Tennessee in a Midwest Region bout Sunday in Raleigh.
This matchup of dueling Cinderellas is rare, according to the Odds Shark NCAA hoops database. It’s just the second time since 1996 that an 11th seed has faced a 14th seed. No. 11 Washington beat Richmond back in 1998.
Spread and total points scored betting line
The Volunteers opened as 8.5-point favorites; the total was 128.5. (Compare lines and consensus on the Odds Shark matchup report.)
Odds Shark computer pick
Why pick Mercer to cover the spread
The Bears earned their first NCAA tournament bid in almost 30 years by sharing the Atlantic Sun's regular-season title and then winning the conference tournament.
No. 14 Mercer then pulled off the shocker of the tournament so far, downing No. 3 Duke Friday night 78-71. The Bears withstood a barrage of Blue Devils three-pointers and then made several very big plays down the stretch, dancing with great joy afterward.
Mercer, with five senior starters, is shooting 48 percent from the floor this season and 39 percent from three-point range and holding opponents to less than 40 percent shooting.
Why pick Tennessee to cover the spread
The Volunteers are back after a two-year absence, having finished fourth in the SEC during the regular season. Tennessee was just 16-11 a few weeks ago but has won seven of its last eight games; the only loss in that span came against top-ranked Florida.
The No. 11 Vols already own two victories in this NCAA tournament, knocking off Iowa Tuesday night 78-65 in overtime and Massachusetts Friday 86-67. That gives them six covers in their last seven games.
Tennessee, which starts three seniors, isn't anything special on offense but will beat you up on defense and on the boards. The Vols are 12-2 straight up and 11-3 against the spread in their past 14 games as favorites.
Smart betting pick
Can Tennessee win a third tournament game in five days? Can Mercer get back up mentally after a very emotional game Friday night?
This spread might set up well for the underdog. The Vols don't usually blow teams away with their scoring (although they did a great job on offense against UMass), while the Bears are rather adept at throwing it in the hole.
Ride the wave with Mercer, although the computer prediction of an upset might be a little optimistic.
Mercer Bears: No. 89
Tennessee Volunteers: No. 15 (per Odds Shark power ranks)
March Madness betting trends
- Mercer is 22-4 straight up in the past 26 games overall.
- Tennessee is 6-1 against the spread in the past seven games overall.
- Tennessee is 12-2 straight up and 11-3 against the spread in the past 14 games as a favorite.
- This is only the second time since 1996 that an 11th seed has faced a 14th seed (Washington beat Richmond in 1998).