Breaking down Duke v. Mercer

Complete positional match-ups, statistics, and more info surrounding the Bears and Blue Devils

Duke vs. Mercer
Mar. 21 at 12 pm
PNC Arena


Overall Record 26-8 (.765) 26-8 (.765)
Location Record 5-3 (.625) on neutral 0-0 (.000) on neutral
Scoring/G: PF&PA(Rank) 79.1 (25) 66.9 (94) 79.3 (23) 66.4 (77)
Rebound Margin/G: RM(Rank) 2.0 (128) 5.2 (25)
7.0 (68) 6.0 (181)
Assists/G: A(Rank)
14.6 (46) 16.4 (10)
Field-Goal Percentage: FG%(Rank) 46.6 (65) 47.5 (28)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 3FG%(Rank) 39.1 (20) 38.4 (34)
Field-Goal Percentage Against: FG%(Rank) 45.4 (247) 40.0 (31)
Ranking: Coaches' Poll #6 NR
AP Poll
#8 NR


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Point Guard

PG: Tyler Thornton (6-2, 190, Sr.) vs. Langston Hall (6-4, 180, Sr.)

Hall is the best player on Mercer's roster, and one who can cause problems for Duke on a number of levels. He was the Atlantic Sun's Player of the Year in a season where he averaged 14.7 points and 5.6 assists per game. In two ‘name' games against Texas and Seton Hall, the senior averaged 23 points. Duke will counter with Thornton, who will be responsible for disrupting Hall's rhythm. Thornton isn't going to score much aside from a wide open three pointer, but he's become Duke's starter over the last month over the more explosive (and less steady) option of Quinn Cook. There is no doubt that Hall is the primary focus of the Duke defense, and it would't be a surprise to see Duke run a number of defenders at him throughout the afternoon.

Shooting Guard

SG: Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4, 190, So.) vs. Anthony White, Jr. (6-2, 170, Sr.)

White is a steady guard whose best games come when he can get going from the perimeter. He shoots 42 percent from behind the arc on the season, but has gone for 80 percent in the team's three post-season games so far in which he's averaged 18.7 points per contest on 65 percent shooting from the floor overall. At just 6'2, White is also a capable rebounder, and has upped that during March to the tune of 5.0 boards per game in the last three. On the flip side is Sulaimon who has provided roller coaster performances for Duke. He was very good leading up to the ACC title game where he was continually frustrated before letting his emotions boil over. Sulaimon will be able to get to the basket frequently against Mercer, but needs to finish consistently when he gets to that point. Additionally, he cannot get lost on defense as White will knock down three after three after three.

Small Forward

SF: Rodney Hood (6-8, 215, So.) vs. Bud Thomas (6-6, 200, Sr.)

Thomas, like the rest of his teammates, can shoot the ball from the perimeter at a very good clip. Through 34 games, 54 percent of his made baskets have been three pointers, while 66 percent of his field goal attempts have come from long range. He's shooting 39 percent from downtown on the season. In short, with Mercer's preference to spread the floor and beat you from the outside, he's unlikely to drive and mix it up physically. That's good news for Hood, who was rendered largely ineffective (relative to the rest of the season) in the ACC Tournament as teams took the 6'8 sophomore and made him play through contact. It resulted in a 13-of-35 shooting slump. And with his shot not falling, Hood was unable to contribute on the glass (2.3 rebounds per game despite playing 37 minutes per night). Look for Hood to bounce back against Mercer and to attack the rim more than we saw in Greensboro. Defensively, he'll bother Thomas enough to keep the senior in check.

Power Forward

PF: Jabari Parker (6-8, 240, Fr.) vs. Jakob Gollon (6-6, 200, Sr.)

If Mercer is going to spring the upset, Gollon has to play the game of the season against Parker. While not a good matchup for the Duke freshman, Gollon can make Parker earn things on the defensive end. Offensively, he's gotten better and more consistent as the season has wound down, averaging 14.2 points per night over the last five contests. At 6'6, he's better suited to play on the wing, and resembles the years when Duke has gone small at the stretch four position. Gollon is able to step out to the perimeter and can knock down the three ball with consistency (37 percent), but his matchup with Parker should tilt heavily in favor of Duke. If it doesn't, Duke's losing.


C: Amile Jefferson (6-9, 215, So.) vs. Daniel Coursey (6-10, 220, Sr.)

For the first time in several games, Jefferson will face a player who has a similar built. Coursey, like Jefferson relies on quickness and footwork to establish position and rebound. And, like Jefferson, he's only going to play around 25 minutes per game on most nights. In that time he's shown the ability to score around the basket and to clean up the offensive glass as his teammates are bombing away from the outside. He's not overly powerful on the inside, and it's easy to see Duke rotating Parker to the five spot to create even more problems for him at times. As for Duke, aside from Parker, it could be argued that Jefferson was the team's best player in Greensboro. He will need to continue his work on the glass in hopes of limiting Mercer to one shot possessions.


Bench: As with most of these match ups, Mercer has the advantage in experience and Duke has the advantage in raw talent. The three best bench options for the Bears include guards Ike Nwamu and Jibri Brown and wing Darious Moten. Moten can slide into the stretch four position for the Bears and provide a physical defensive presence, while sophomore Nwamu is another big, physical guard with range. Brown can handle the ball and spell the starting backcourt as needed, though he's unlikely to play more than 7-8 minutes. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils will counter with former starting point guard Quinn Cook, shooter Andre Dawkins, and bigs Marshall Plumlee and Josh Hairston. Cook has played better of late after losing his starting position, while Dawkins seemed to provide a spark off the bench late against Virginia despite not playing in more than 3.5 halves. In order for Duke to advance in March, they'll need quality minutes out of Plumlee - particularly on the glass and in the lane bothering shots.

Coaching: Mike Krzyzewski vs. Bob Hoffman

Hoffman has done a terrific job with his team, and is benefitting tremendously from its experience (seven seniors). Over the past two seasons he's won his conference regular season title, and capped it off this season with a tournament title and NCAA bid. When he got to the Mercer, things were a complete mess and he struggled to get the team over the .500 park in his first three seasons. Over the last three years, however, Hoffman has posted an impressive 77-31 (.713) winning percentage. His teams, like Duke, will work to spread you out and beat you from the outside in. Still, Coach K is, well, Coach K. He's an institution, and while his teams have underperformed at times in March relative to seeding, more often than not he's got his teams moving on from the first weekend. And he's won it all more than any active coach in the tournament.


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Prediction: Duke is the more naturally talented team. That doesn't mean all that much in March, however. For the Blue Devils to win, they need to keep track of their defensive assignments. Mercer will look to fill it up from the outside, which means Duke will have to challenge the Bears on the perimeter and not get lost when Hall looks to collapse the defense and kick out. When the shots go up, Duke needs to hit the boards hard. When Duke finds leads collapsing or teams pulling away usually corresponds to giving up offensive rebounds and second and third chances to score. Giving a team like Mercer additional shots will usually result in three points over two. We look for a close game before Duke begins to pull away down the stretch to win comfortably.

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