Men's basketball to play No. 3 Duke in NCAA Tournament

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Patrick Hobbs / Cluster Staff #5 Bud Thomas holds up his A-Sun championship T-shirt after the Bears beat FGCU.

For the first time since 1985, the Mercer men’s basketball team won the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship, and will compete in the NCAA Tournament as the 14th seed in the Midwest Region. As announced by the tournament selection committee on Sunday, Mercer will face-off against the three-seed Duke, in Raleigh, N.C., at PNC Arena Friday at 12:15 p.m.

“Everybody is excited to play in the tournament and against a storied program like Duke, but we are focused and ready to play,” said senior point guard Langston Hall.

In a 68-60 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on March 9 in the A-Sun tournament final, Mercer captured the automatic qualifier bid.

“It’s been a long time coming for us,” said senior forward Jake Gollon, “Making it to the NCAA tournament has been a goal of ours since the beginning, so to see the hard work finally pay off, it is really gratifying.”

Mercer imposed revenge on the same FGCU team that had eliminated the Bears from winning the A-Sun title for the past two seasons. Langston Hall was named tournament MVP, while Gollon and senior guard Anthony White Jr. earned all tournament team selections.

Just a few days following the tournament victory, Hall added another postseason award to his resume as the point guard was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division I All-District three first team.

Hall’s recognition adds to his hardware collection that includes A-Sun Player of the Year, A-Sun All-Conference first team and A-Sun All-Tournament team, and A-Sun Tournament MVP honors.

The 2013-14 season has been one of many milestones for Hall, who broke the A-Sun conference record for career assists on March 6 and scored his 1,500th point on Feb. 27. As a senior, Hall has scored 20 or more points 11 times and registered 10 or more assists on four occasions.

Patrick Hobbs / Cluster Staff The team celebrates in Hawkins Arena Sunday after being selected as the 14th seed to play the third seed Duke on Friday at 12:15 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest region.
Patrick Hobbs / Cluster Staff
The team celebrates in Hawkins Arena Sunday after being selected as the 14th seed to play the third seed Duke on Friday at 12:15 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest region.

Selection Sunday was an exciting day for the team and all Mercer fans as no one was quite sure as to who they would play.

“We knew that we would probably be a 13-15 seed, so we had an idea of the caliber of team we might play, but there was no real way of knowing,” said Gollon. “Coach Hoffman, though, predicted it to be Duke in Raleigh long before it was announced.”

Although Duke is a very high ranked team, the Bears are approaching the game the same way mentally and physically as they would any other contest.

“We are preparing the exact same way we do for any other game,” said Hall. “We are not in awe of Duke just because of their name. We just are going to go out there and play our game.”

Gollon also commented on their preparation.

“We won’t prepare any differently for Duke than we would any other game. They are a very good team, but we’ve played good teams in the past and we always prepare the same. We have to continue to be confident in our abilities and play ball the way that we know how.”

The 12:15 p.m. tip-off will be nationally broadcast on CBS.

Click here for more photos from the A-Sun championship game and Selection Sunday.