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2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (11) Tennessee vs. (14) Mercer

A 2014 NCAA Tournament Preview of (11) Tennessee vs. (14) Mercer

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Tennessee Volunteers

After having to play their way in during the first four, there’s no longer any doubting whether the Volunteers belong in the field. On Friday they throttled UMass 86-87, their second win in three days, setting the stage for a Round of 32 matchup against the Mercer Bears. Over the course of five days the Volunteers have gone from a team that wasn’t sure they were going to hear their name called on the NCAA Tournament selection show to one win away from the Sweet 16. They’re actually going to be favored on Sunday, as true of an indicator of any that the tides can turn drastically in a short period in March. Against the Minutemen the Volunteers got dominant efforts inside from Jeronne Maymon (11 points, 11 rebounds) and Jarnell Stokes (26 points, 14 rebounds). Jordan McRae was equally impressive out on the perimeter, scoring 21 points on 9-16 shooting from the field. The Volunteers lived at the free throw line, making 31 trips and converting at a 77.4 percent rate. The Volunteers are obviously rolling right now, but you have to wonder if they’re going to be playing with heavy legs as Sunday’s game will be their third in five days.  They have to contain the Bears out on the perimeter and try to hurt them on the boards as the Blue Devils did. Against Duke the Bears lost the battle of the boards 35-27, giving up 16 second chance opportunities. That will be a much more problematic issue against the Volunteers if it continues.

 

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Mercer Bears

Add another Cinderella to the mix as the Bears shocked the nation, and more importantly the Duke Blue Devils, with a 78-71 upset victory on Friday afternoon. The Blue Devils were exposed for being over reliant on the three point shot. The old saying is that if you live by it, you die by it. The Blue Devils did shoot 40 percent from distance, but they couldn’t get them to fall when they needed to late and struggled to score inside of the arc. They went 15-37 from deep, while the Bears shot 55 percent from the field and made 23-28 from the free throw line. Defensively they held Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, two of the more difficult covers in college basketball, to 6-24 shooting from the field. They also committed seven of the Blue Devils’ 12 turnovers. Four different Bears scored in double figures with Jakob Gollon’s 20 (5-9 FG, 9-9 FT) and Daniel Coursey’s 17 (7-12 FG) leading the way. They’re going up against a Tennessee Volunteers team in the Round of 32 that is going to attack them inside then out, unlike the Blue Devils. The Bears’ interior defense is really going to be tested by Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. Their best defense against them could be to attack them on offense and try to keep them on the bench in foul trouble as much as possible because they lack depth up front. The Bears will be without center Monty Brown, who suffered a concussion. He played four minutes against Duke.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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