Welcome back to a mostly Mercer-packed edition of BracketRacket, the one-stop shopping place for your offbeat NCAA tournament needs. Today, we get to the bottom of Duke’s dirty trick, take a whirlwind tour of Little Richard’s hometown and try to placate the eggheads in our midst. Without further ado:
NOW YOU KNOW THE REST OF STORY
Turns out tiny Mercer’s takedown of mighty Duke was even better than it looked.
Never mind all the other advantages the Blue Devils brought to the game that the Bears couldn’t hope to match: NBA-caliber players, a Hall of Fame coach, a bigger budget than two dozen BCS football programs, a pedigree and blue blood (whatever that’s good for), not to mention a 27-minute commute from their campus in Durham to the loading dock at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
But just to drive home the point, someone locked Mercer out of its locker room at halftime. We dispatched Associated Press sports writer Joedy McCreary to investigate.
Sophomore Ike Nwamu told him the Bears viewed the setback as just one more hill to climb. They went over their game plan — whispering, we presume, since Duke probably has NSA connections, too — and did what they could to stay loose. Teammates kept reminding each other, as Nwamu put it, "We’ve got a big task ahead of us."
Barely two minutes passed before someone got the door open. When the Bears came back out after halftime, they shot 58 percent and sank the Blue Devils 78-71.
All that proved is that if the folks at Duke were as smart as they think they are, they would have made sure to lock Mercer in.
CELEBRITY ALUM OF THE DAY
As the final seconds ticked down on the Mercer-Duke game, former NBA player and coach Sam Mitchell stood in middle of the TSN studios and did his version of an Irish river dance. Mitchell may have been born in Macon, Ga., but he comes by his varied musical tastes honestly.
"Let me ask you a question: Have you ever heard of Little Richard?" the proud Mercer grad began without waiting for an answer. "Have you ever heard of Otis Redding? They’re from Macon, Ga."
Actually, Redding was born in Dawson, Ga. But just like the classic scene from "Animal House" where Boon overlooks Bluto’s historical faux pas — "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!" — AP’s Jon Krawczynski didn’t interrupt Mitchell because he was rolling.
"Have you ever heard of (former L.A. Lakers guard) Norm Nixon?" Mitchell continued. "That’s Norm Nixon’s hometown."
And so it is. But among that distinguished crowd, only Mitchell could lay claim to helping the Bears make the NCAAs. But that was back in the early 1980s, and the small school from Macon didn’t win a game.
"It’s one thing to advance in the NCAA tournament," Mitchell demurred. "It’s a whole ‘nother thing to beat a school like Duke."
"They put us on the map and gave us an identity," he said, rolling once again. "That’s something that all of us graduates of Mercer will be indebted to these guys for forever. They put us on the map."
Right. Which still shows Macon exactly 101.3 miles up the road from Dawson.
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