From the Tarpit: ODU-Mercer next in CIT
Mercer (24-11) is ODU's second consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference opponent. After beating third-place USC Upstate on Sunday, the Monarchs (23-12) get the A-Sun's second-place team in Mercer.
NCAA rep Belmont.
"They're methodical," USC Upstate coach Eddie Payne said of Mercer. "They run a lot of stuff, they run a lot of sets. If you allow them to run their stuff, they execute pretty well. You have to try to take them out of things, defensively."
"My feeling, for what it's worth -- Blaine (Taylor) knows what he's doing -- but I think you can't allow them to execute half-court because they're a half-court team."
Bonus points if anyone can name the locations of all three of ODU's CIT opponents -- Coastal Carolina, USC Upstate and Mercer. No fair Googling.
Mercer and ODU have two common opponents: Georgia State and Missouri. The Monarchs lost by seven to the Tigers at the Ted, while Mercer lost by 18 at Mizzou. ODU won at Georgia State in overtime, while Mercer beat Georgia State at home Saturday in a second-round CIT game.
In that CIT game, Panthers' coach Ron Hunter was ejected midway through the second half after he hustled onto the court to check on Eric Buckner, who was on the floor following a hard foul. Hunter said something to official Jerry Heater, who responded in a way that Hunter deemed inappropriate. More words were exchanged, and Heater tossed Hunter.
Crowd size will be notable Wednesday. The CIT is one of those pay-for-play events -- $30,000 to host each round -- and ODU officials have said that they need to sell approximately 4,000 tickets to break even. They've fallen far short in the first two rounds, with 2,200 versus Coastal Carolina and an announced crowd of, ahem, (cough, cough) 2,091 Sunday at Scope.
The ODU administration remains all-in with its commitment to hoops. However, another thin crowd might prompt officials to install student toll booths to cross Hampton Boulevard or to green light that "Blaine Taylor Sings Rodgers and Hammerstein" CD they've been considering.
For you intrepid souls who plan on going to the Ted on Wednesday, or are just marginally interested, here's a bit on Mercer.
Decent size, good balance. The Bears' shortest starter is 6-foot-3. Point guard Langston Hall is 6-4 and the leading scorer at 11.4 points per game. Their top six players average between eight and Hall's 11.4 points per game.
They go eight-deep, and 6-8 forward Justin Cecil is the only senior. They shoot 46 percent from the field as a team, 36 percent from 3-point range. Five players have made at least 24 3-pointers, led by Cecil (75) and Hall (63).
Mercer opponents shoot 38.4 percent from the field, 30.4 percent from 3-point range. But the Bears give up an average of 13 offensive rebounds per game -- not a good sign against an ODU team that successfully plays chuck-and-chase on offense.
Coach Bob Hoffman is in his fourth season at Mercer, which has had a breakthrough season after three years hovering around the .500 mark. He came to Mercer after being a head coach with the NBA Developmental League's Rio Grande Valley team. He's also been a head coach at Texas Pan American and at his alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist.
You want any more, you're on your own. It's the CIT, for heaven's sake. Now close down the computer screen and go enjoy the day.