2014-15 Seton Hall Basketball Preview Series: Mercer Bears

Ike Nwamu (pictured close right) looks to be a key returnee for Mercer. - Grant Halverson

Seton Hall's opening day/night opponent is a school that was momentarily on everybody's lips last March after they rather easily handed Duke a 78-71 round-of-64 loss. The Bears of Mercer will travel to Prudential Center on Sunday November 16th at a time to be determined. Fox Sports will have the broadcast rights to the game, whereas Seton Hall's trip to Mercer last season was not aired on TV. The game will complete Seton Hall's two-for-one series with Mercer yhat began with an 80-77 overtime win in 2011 and was followed up by a 77-74 loss in double overtime this past campaign.

If it weren't for the massive graduation exodus of key seniors for the Bears, who is to say this year's contest won't go to triple overtime? Half serious. Mercer loses their top-four, five of their top-six, and six of their top-eight scorers due to graduation from their 27-9 (14-4) NCAA tournament team. In total, head coach Bob Hoffman must replace 71-percent of scoring from his 2013-14 team.

Roster subtractions: Langston Hall (14.6 ppg, 5.6 apg), Daniel Coursey (10.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Bud Thomas (8.9 ppg, 4 rpg), Anthony White Jr. (8.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg), Jakob Gollon (8.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.5 apg), Monty Brown (4.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg), Kevin Canevari (1.5 ppg)

Returnees to watch: shooting guard Ike Nwamu (8.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg), wing/forward Darious Moten (4.8 ppg), forward T.J. Hallice (2.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg)

Key additions: center Niklas Ney (6-10 German from Alba Berlin BC), junior college center Andrew Fishler (Gulf Coast CC), junior college guard Jestin Lewis (Wallace State CC)

On paper, Mercer has a lot to do in order to even sniff last season's success. Bob Hoffman went about seven or eight players deep last season, most of whom have since departed. Because of this, the Bears will be tough to scout very early in the season with five incoming freshmen, two junior college transfers, and several reserve players vying for a ton of starter and rotation minutes.

Returning sharpshooter Ike Nwamu will be joined by junior college shooting guard Jestin Lewis as outside threats while Hoffman will have to shuffle his deck in the post; Senior T.J. Hallice and newcomers Niklas Ney and Andrew Fishler will likely be given chances to earn starter roles in the paint. Replacing Langston Hall at point guard is also a major question for the north Georgia school. Perhaps reserve guards Jibri Bryan or Phillip Leonard will be plugged into the floor general spot, though Bryan is more of a shooting guard than Leonard, who joined Mercer last season after a year in junior college.

No matter what the newly-extended Bob Hoffman tries this season, the house should be put on Mercer finishing lower than their 81st-best RPI from 2013-14 -- a sub-200 RPI finish is my projection. While they may border on cupcake territory in 2014-15, Mercer turned out to be a decently-rated schedule for Seton Hall although a two-for-one series format could probably be argued to be "beneath" a high-major program.

This was part one of a Seton Hall Basketball Preview Series that will run up until the start of the season in November. The rest of the non-conference schedule will be released every Monday in order in this same format until the schedule is exhausted. Then the Big East schools will be previewed with two teams per week (Monday, Thursday) from 9/29 - 10/27, wrapping up three weeks prior to opening night (exhibition games, Big East Media Day, and Seton Hall Media Day will take place around this time). Finally, a comprehensive preview on Seton Hall will be released in the build up to opening night against Mercer.

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