The last time Mercer played in Raleigh, it upset Duke in the 2014 NCAA tournament. As such it is clear that Mercer is a fine and good institution, full of many fine and good people. I figure they deserve at least a golf clap when the hit the court on Saturday afternoon. Their efforts against the Blue Devils were much appreciated.
Anyway. The current iteration of the Bears appears unlikely to reach the NCAAs—there are four SoCon teams higher in the Pomeroy Ratings—but they still might be the best team that NC State has played all season.
This despite losing a handful of senior contributors off of last year’s 19-15 club. That team was legitimately good at the offensive end but was equally terrible defensively. This season, they’re kind of meeting in the middle.
Mercer is relying on a few of the bench guys from last season to carry more of the load this season, and they’ve also gotten some nice early contributions from a junior college transfer. So the bottom isn’t falling out despite the fact that they have 10 newcomers.
That’s not easy to manage, but head coach Bob Hoffman is pretty good at his job. This is his 11th year at Mercer, and his teams have finished under .500 in league play just once.
|2018||111.7 (60)||54.3 (42)||18.8 (206)||31.3 (87)||35.8 (104)|
|2019||100.7 (198)||50.6 (175)||20.8 (247)||31.4 (108)||26.8 (295)|
The Bears lost a ton of perimeter production to graduation, but they remain perimeter-oriented—they’re actually shooting threes even more frequently now than they did in 2018. Which has come with consequences in terms of accuracy: they are hitting only 32.7% from three, down from 37.8% last year. Still, any time you have an opponent that is at least competent and also willing to let fly, there’s a chance they’ll have a fluke-ish hot streak to make a game closer than it should be. Curse these teams!
But this team is not big and it is turnover-prone, which is where some of its inexperience is showing most glaringly. They may go off from three, but they aren’t diverse enough offensively to truly scare anybody.
Djordje Dimitrijevic (6-2, 180) — DD here—listen, I’m only spelling that name once, I ain’t got all day—stepped right in from the juco ranks to assume a leadership role on offense. He leads the team in scoring and workload, and his assist rate ranks 14th nationally. I am extremely confused about why he only averages 23 minutes per game. He’s hitting 36.8% of his threes and is an 88% free-throw shooter so far.
Ethan Stair (6-4, 205) — The junior is logging more minutes than ever, and so far so good since he’s off to a great start shooting the ball, including a 7-14 start from beyond the arc. He’s a secondary option who probably won’t do much other than take jumpers.
Ross Cummings (6-3, 180) — Cummings is another returnee picking up more slack this season, but his efforts to be more of a primary option haven’t gone well to this point. He’s only 9-30 from deep this season, but considering he was over 44% last year, he figures to improve there. He might just need to slow down a bit.
Jaylen Stowe (6-4, 220) — He should be a secondary option and has been fairly consistent scoring inside the arc. He’s tried to extend his range through the years with little success. Good defensive rebounder for his height.
Cory Kilby (6-7, 205) — The perils of extreme jumps in workload: after taking about 15% of the team’s shots while on the floor last year, he’s taking nearly a quarter of them in 2019. His shooting accuracy is way down, as is his offensive rating, and his turnover rate is up.
Fardaws Aimaq (6-11, 245), Marcus Cohen (6-4, 190), DJ Peavy (6-3, 185). Aimaq has been an outstanding rebounder at both ends and is one of the few guys capable of bother shots defensively. Like a lot of freshman bigs, though, he’s foul-prone. Cohen has been a good distributor in his short college career, but also incredibly prone to turnovers.
|2018||110.5 (283)||53.1 (274)||16.5 (286)||24.9 (32)||33.6 (187)|
|2019||103.2 (194)||44.9 (51)||24.1 (32)||29.6 (188)||29.3 (88)|
Mercer did a great job on the defensive glass last season but that’s only a difference-making factor if your opponents actually miss a decent amount of shots.
I wouldn’t put much of any stock into the Bears’ raw stats this season for all the obvious reasons—based on their block and steal rates, there is no indication that they are nearly as disruptive as that turnover rate would suggest. This is not a team with a lot of great athletes and its interior defense is unlikely to be an issue for NC State.
The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by 17.