2012-2013 Overall Rank: #123
Conference Rank: #1 Atlantic Sun
Mercer Team Page
Mercer, like everybody else in the Atlantic Sun, has been caught in the shadow of Belmont for the last decade. That ended when Belmont switched conferences this season. On paper that may lead to a wide open race in the A-Sun as everybody tries to fill the void left by the Bruins. But no team is better equipped to take the reins this year than the Bears of Mercer. Coming off of an incredible run to a CIT title, Mercer is ready for the NCAA Tournament. Langston Hall, a 6-4 junior point guard, led this team with 11.4 points and 4.2 assists per game. His leadership helped the Bears knock off Tennessee State, Georgia State, Old Dominion, Fairfield and Utah State en route to the CIT title. And it will be his leadership that will take Mercer to bigger and better things in 2012-2013.
2011-12 Record: 27-11, 13-5
2011-12 Postseason: CIT
Coach: Bob Hoffman
Coach Record: 75-61 at Mercer, 144-136 overall
The loss of Justin Cecil is a big one. He was a big power forward who could stretch out the defense with his impressive outside shooting. However, this was a team that started four forwards around Hall, so there is no lack of depth when it comes to replacing Cecil. However, no big man can replace his consistent and prolific outside shooting abilities. Cecil, who averaged 25.1 minutes per game, is really the only significant loss Mercer has from its title team. The next departed player, Paul Larsen, averaged just 6.2 minutes per contest. Everybody else is back.
The talent in the frontcourt, combined with the lack of quality depth on the perimeter, forced Coach Bob Hoffman to play big. This small recruiting class addresses the need for some wings. Lawrence Brown is the most likely option to battle for immediate playing time. The 6-5 Kansas City, Missouri product is the type of versatile athlete that Mercer and Coach Hoffman like to bring into the program. He can score from anywhere on the floor, help out on the glass and block some shots. Anthony White Jr. is more of a pure scorer and could be a shooter off the bench from day one if he can fight his way into the regular rotation.
Who to Watch:
Hall deserves a lot of the credit, but it is the versatility of the frontcourt that makes Mercer so tough to defend. Cecil may be gone, but Jakob Gollon and Bud Thomas are back to cause nightmares for opposing defenders. These are both 6-6, 200 pound forwards who can play shooting guard. Gollon is the more versatile player. He is a little better shooter from long range, stronger on the glass and he even dished out 3.3 assists per game last year and added 1.6 steals. Some teams in the A-Sun have 6-6, 200 pounders playing the five spot. At Mercer they can be shooting guards. What makes the entire situation even scarier for the rest of the conference is that Gollon and Thomas were just sophomores last season. They are still getting better. Daniel Coursey, another junior, is the more traditional big man. At 6-10 and 220 pounds, he has the size to make an impact on both ends of the floor. And he has proven that he can do just that. During the 2011-2012 campaign Coursey averaged 8.2 points and 2.3 blocks per contest. Coursey is not the strongest rebounder, but on a team with so much size, the Bears can help him out from every other spot on the floor when it comes to hitting the glass. It would be beneficial if Coursey could play some more minutes this year. He averaged under 20 per game as a sophomore. If he can be effective for 25 minutes per contest, his numbers will be that much better. Monty Brown is more than capable for filling in at the five spot though when Coursey needs a break. The overall depth of the frontcourt is a little slim now that Cecil is gone, but it really will not make a difference. The versatility of the frontcourt will allow players to slide up and man a different position when Mercer wants to play a little smaller.
Mercer will look a little more traditional this season with the newcomers battling for playing time with a host of returning players who can step into the shooting guard spot. Travis Smith was the sixth man last year and may play that role again this year. He is a superb outside shooter, but has also emerged as a pretty aggressive playmaker as well. His shooting ability makes him a fine candidate to be the sixth man again, but this is a group that needs to replace Cecil’s shooting. Jibri Bryan can shoot too. He knocked down five three-pointers early last season against Missouri. Soon after, he was done for the year with an injury, but the 6-3 shooting guard is finally ready to roll after spending the better part of two seasons on the bench. Chris Smith may have a tough time finding playing time again, but he is a senior with plenty of experience. But this whole team has experience and their run through the CIT has them moving in the right direction. Even if Belmont was still around, Mercer would give them a run for their money. In the end, the absence of Belmont will just hurt the conference RPI and keep Mercer from getting as much attention as they deserve.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Langston Hall, Junior, Guard, 11.4 points per game
Jibri Bryan, Sophomore, Guard, 5.2 points per game
Jakob Gollon, Junior, Forward, 10.5 points per game
Bud Thomas, Junior, Forward, 8.6 points per game
Daniel Coursey, Junior, Forward, 8.2 points per game