3. Duke Blue Devils (26-7, 13-5 ACC)- This is one of the youngest Duke teams in recent memory, as only one senior on the roster (guard Tyler Thornton) earns significant playing time. Jabari Parker (19.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg) has more than lived up to the hype this season, and has played well enough that he’s surpassed Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins on virtually every NBA draft board. At 6-8, Parker has big man size but plays like a college small forward. He shoots 36% from three-point range, and is a big-shot maker. Parker will be the best player any time he steps on the court in the NCAA Tournament.
Duke lives and dies by the three, and they shoot the triple at 39%, which ranks 22nd in the country. The Blue Devils don’t have a ton of size, and rank just 193rd nationally in rebounds per game. 6-8 forward Rodney Hood (16.8 ppg) leads the team in minutes played and might be the most important player for the Devils.
Whether or not Duke advances in this tournament could depend on guards Quinn Cook (11.5 ppg) and Rasheed Sulaimon (9.8 ppg) are making their shots. If they’re on, this is a legitimate Final Four contender. If not, Duke could be upset early.
23rd Three Point Percentage (39.1%)
62nd Field Goal Percentage (46.6%)
193rd Rebounds per Game (34.5)
27th Points per Game (79.1)
14. Mercer Bears (26-8, 14-4 A-Sun)-While Florida Gulf Coast was running, dunking and charming the nation during their unforgettable run to the Sweet 16 last year, league champion Mercer was sitting home thinking, “that could have been us.”
The Bears won the Atlantic Sun regular season title last season, but fell to FGCU in the conference tournament final. This year, Mercer strolled into Dunk City and captured their first NCAA bid since 1985.
This is a team that could make some tournament noise. Mercer owns wins over Seton Hall and Ole Miss, and lost to Texas by 3 in the season opener. They are one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country, as evidenced by some of the key numbers below. Mercer shoots the ball incredibly well, is a dangerous three-point shooting team, and rebounds well.
The Bears don’t really have a standout player–6-4 senior Langston Hall leads them in ppg at 14.7–but rather have six players who average at least 7 points per game. They share the ball as well as any team in the country and are an unselfish and capable group. 12 guys average at least 9 minutes per game, which is very rare. Hall also averages 5.6 assists per game.
6-5 guard Ike Nwamu (8.1 ppg, 43% 3-pt FG) and 6-2 senior Anthony White Jr. (8.3 ppg, 42% FG) are big-time threats from the outside.
Points per Possession 31st (1.1)
Field Goal Percentage 30th (47.5%)
Assists Per Game 10th (16.4)
Rebounds Per Game 37th (38.0)
Rebound Percentage 51st (54%)
Three Point FG Percentage 35th (38.5%)