Get To Know The Arkansas Opponents – Mercer
Can you believe it is that time of year again? College football has started so naturally, we look ahead to college basketball season. At least I do. Schedules are being released daily and we can see the season on the horizon.
I wanted to do something a little different this year. So we will spend a lot of time over the next month deep diving into the non-conference opponents.
I could do my own research and give you insight behind these teams OR we can bring in the real experts! So for a lot of these deep dives, I’ll interview Sean Paul. Sean is behind the MakingTheMadness podcast and writes for Mountain West Wire. If you are familiar with Sean then you know this guy has the biggest brain in college hoops. The guy knows every single thing about every single division 1 team. It’s impressive. Does he ever sleep? My guess is no. Seriously, you need to follow this guy. His @ on Twitter is @Sean02MTM
Winners of the off-season so far:— Sean Paul (@Sean02MTM) April 9, 2021
So first up is Mercer. Arkansas will host the Bears in Fayetteville to open the season on opening night. The Hogs faced Mercer in the 2015-16 in Little Rock and the Bears upset the Hogs.
Let’s dive in!
Team: Mercer Bears
Game Date and Location: November 9th in Fayetteville, Arkansas
School Location: Macon, Georgia
History: 48 Seasons in Division 1 Basketball and 3 NCAA Tournament Appearances
2020-21 Record: 18-11(7th in the Southern)
Head Coach: Greg Gary
Departures: Ross Cummings(13.2ppg), Leon Ayers(12.2ppg), Maciej Bender(9.7ppg), Jeffrey Gary(6.7ppg)
2021-22 Roster with statistics:
Ben: What style of play can Arkansas fans expect to see from Mercer?
Sean: Mercer runs a lot of small ball lineups, and take love taking jumpers. Definitely the kind of game where Arkansas can matchup with a smaller, more athletic lineup, rather than playing a less mobile guy like Connor Vanover.
Ben: Greg Gary has to replace Ross Cummings, Leon Ayers, and Maciej Bender. All 3 were scorers last year. Do they have the pieces to replace that kind of production?
Sean: Cummings was the heart & soul of the program for a number of years. Between his season ending injury, to coming back and leading the team in scoring again. He’s an irreplaceable player. But in short, no, they have the pieces to replace the losses. Ayers played efficiently in his role, which should be filled nicely by Wake Forest (by way of Tennessee) transfer Jalen Johnson, while Sophomore Shannon Grant could see minutes when the Bears need size to replace Bender. A potential breakout candidate is Kamar Robertson, someone needs to replace the high powered shooting of Cummings & Jeff Gary, that could wind up being Robertson, who’s shooting over 40 percent from deep in two seasons in college.
Ben: Mercer as a program has racked up a lot of wins over the last decade, but has only mustered 1 NCAA Tournament appearance. They won 18 games last year, can we expect a similar season this year?
Sean: The dangerous pick & roll duo of Neftali Alvarez & former SEC player Felipe Haase could help lead to some victories, but the Bears will regress this season.
Ben: Mercer beat Arkansas in Little Rock in 2015. Can they upset this Arkansas team in 2021?
Sean: Arkansas has way too much firepower for this Mercer team to handle. Devo Davis could have a big offensive coming out party against Alvarez, who struggles guarding pick & roll ball handlers (in the 10th percentile per Synergy). This is a game where Arkansas should coast to a 15+ point victory.
We’ll be chatting with Sean a lot more over the next month as we preview these low and mid major teams! Thank, Sean!
As always, thanks for reading!
For all things Arkansas Basketball, give me a follow on Twitter @BenBrandonHoops