Wish I could say I saw it coming, but I didn’t quite. I thought Mercer could play with Duke, which isn’t the same as beating Duke. Lo and behold …
Mercer 78, Duke 71.
And it wasn’t, at least not on this day, a fluke. Mercer was the better team throughout. Truth to tell, this was among Mike Kzyzewski’s worst coaching jobs. He took a team with Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon and didn’t win the ACC regular-season title, didn’t win the conference tournament and didn’t last past the first full round of the Big Dance. It’s not often we can call a Duke team badly coached, but this one wasn’t cut from the usual K cloth.
As for Mercer: We saw again the value of seniors and seasoning and cohesion. The Bears weren’t addled when Duke pulled ahead at the nine-minute mark, and by the end the little team from Macon was makin’ hay. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) Mercer was getting — and making — better shots, and if one of those hoity-toity ACC schools in need of a coach (Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Boston College) aren’t moved to give Bob Hoffman a ring … well, there’s no justice in this world.
With 20 seconds left, the unthinkable even happened: Mercer got a call — a non-call, actually — against the team and the coach who supposedly get every call. Quinn Cook stole the ball in backcourt and got tripped with Duke five points behind, but no foul was assessed. When last did that happen? Sometime last century?
Again, I wish I’d had the nerve to pick this upset, but I didn’t. Can’t say I didn’t enjoy watching it unfold, though.