Mercer & Duke to go 'Over' 140.5 in Tournament Opener

Ross Benjamin

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 1:41 PM GMT

Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2014 1:41 PM GMT

The #14 seed Mercer Bears (26-8) take on #3 Duke Blue Devils (26-8) in the Midwest Regional on Friday with the opening tip slated for 12:15 PM ET. While the spread may look tempting, we have decided to focus on the total with our NCAA Basketball picks in this situation.

The game will be played at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. According to current NCAA Tournament betting odds Duke is a 13.0 point favorite and the posted total is 140.5. Mercer was the Atlantic Sun regular season and conference tournament champions. Duke finished tied for 3rd in the ACC regular season standings, and then lost in the conference tourney title game to Virginia.

[gameodds]14/262063/?r-1=19-43-349/us[/gameodds]

Unheralded and Dangerous

This is a Mercer Bears team that not a lot of people know about, and may be one of the best kept secrets in college basketball. In case you haven’t heard of the Atlantic Sun Conference where Mercer resides, it was the same conference that provided last season’s Cinderella story Florida Gulf Coast who advanced all the way to the “Sweet 16”. As a matter of fact Florida Gulf Coast lost both regular season meetings last season to this Mercer program, prior to knocking them off in their conference tournament final. Mercer owns wins this season over both Mississippi and Seton Hall, in addition to giving Texas all they can handle in Austin before losing 76-73. The Bears enter the tournament having won 21 of their last 25-games, and are a dynamic offensive team.  They’re 25th nationally in scoring averaging 79.3 points per game, 27th in field goal percentage offense at 47.6%, and 34th in three-point shooting converting an outstanding 38.6% of their attempts.

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Recapturing the Glory Days

This is a Duke team that has very high expectations heading into this year’s “Big Dance”. They possess arguably the best freshmen player in the country with 6’8 power forward Jabari Parker who averages 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Parker will be the key as to how deep this Blue Devils club can advance in the tournament. I mentioned how good a long distance shooting team that Mercer is, well statistically Duke is better. The Blue Devils are converting an excellent 39.4% of their long range bombs which is 15th best in the nation. If Duke comes to play and brings their “A-Game” then they will advance. However anything less than a top effort and their unheralded opponent can be fully capable of giving them all they can handle.

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Final Analysis 

These are two teams that love to hoist up three-point shots, and both are among the best in the country in making them. Mercer averages 8 three-point makes per game, while Duke converts an average of 9 per contest. Between both teams they average a combined 43 three-point attempts per game, which translates to better than 1 attempt per minute. Both teams average 58 field goal attempts per game which equates to an excellent tempo.

Duke has been far from impressive defensively over their last 5-games allowing opponents to shoot a combined 50.2% from the field. Although Mercer has decent defensive numbers, the majority of those statistics have been achieved versus lesser competition, than what they will be facing from a talented ACC foe. When it comes to placing my NCAA Tournament picks, I am looking for this game to approach or pass the 150 mark, which will easily put us in the winner’s circle.

Free Pick: Mercer/Duke to go over 140.5
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