2012-13 Mercer (24-12, 14-4; KenPom: 119; RPI: 137; Atlantic Sun regular season champions)
Seton Hall's return trip to Georgia as part of a home-home series that started in 2011 will be a tricky one. Mercer will field four of the five players (and starters) who scored in double figures when it took overtime for the Pirates to win two seasons ago. The Bears lose 2012-13 leading scorer Travis Smith (13.9 ppg) to graduation, but not much else.
Bob Hoffman uses about 8 or 9 players in his Mercer rotation, but relies heavily on the "core four" seniors that have played against Seton Hall before: 6-foot-10 Daniel Coursey, 6-foot-6 Jakob Gollon, 6-foot-6 Bud Thomas, and 6-foot-4 Langston Hall. They are joined by junior guard Ike Nwamu, a Cleveland State transfer who is averaging 9 ppg and 5.5 rpg, forward T.J. Hallice (2.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 17 mpg), and junior college transfer Phillip Leonard (9 ppg, 16.5 mpg).
Mercer played neck-and-neck with Texas until the under-4 timeout in their season opening road game. The Bears were nearly propelled to an upset by Langston Hall, who lead all scorers with 22 points while dishing 5 assists and only turning the ball over once.
They haven't been on national TV and have played a very small sample size (including a non Division 1 opponent), but expect a dog-fight from Mercer on Saturday. They are familiar with Seton Hall and are now playing in their own cozy 3,200-seater Hawkins Arena.
Since meeting in late 2011, Mercer went on to win the 2011-12 CIT, finishing the season with a 27-11 record. Last season, Mercer ultimately fell to Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun Tournament after winning the regular season title and upsetting the likes of Florida State and Alabama.
After tying Seton Hall in CBSSports' RPI rankings last season, there is no reason why Mercer can't improve on that number in 2013-14. Expect a team that finishes between 75-125 in the index.
Mercer projected starters:
G, Sr. - Langston Hall
G, Sr. - Anthony White, Jr.
G/F, Sr. - Jakob Gollon
G/F, Sr. - Bud Thomas
F, Sr. - Daniel Coursey
KenPom says: No. 129 Mercer - 68, No. 79 Seton Hall - 67 (48%)
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Radio: WMCA 570 AM