UNC Greensboro Spartans vs Mercer Bears – NCAAM March 8

Southern Conference Championship

(1) Greensboro (19-6, 5-3) vs. (7) Mercer (18-10, 8-9)

  • Time: 4PM PST | 6PM CST | 7PM EST
  • Location: Harrah’s Cherokee Center, Asheville, NC
  • TV: ESPN

Tip-Off

A showdown between the favorite UNC Greensboro Spartans, who were clearly the top team in the Southern Conference, against the Cinderella Mercer Bears, who are still standing after playing three games to advance to the finals.

UNCG seems to be on a roll at about the right time as the Spartans have won five out of their last six games, including two over a tough ETSU team within eight days.

The Bears have won five out of six as well as they had to win the play-in game over Samford as well as a one-point upset vs. Wofford and a 73-59 decision over VMI. The last time Mercer placed an NCAA Tournament bid was in 2014 when the Bears, then in the A-Sun, upset Duke in the first round.

The Spartans won the two regular season meetings as they slid by Mercer, 77-74, in Macon, Ga., and then won 81-68 on their home floor.

Vs. The Spread

Mercer:

  • The Bears are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games
  • The total has been UNDER in 7 of the Bears’ last 8 games
  • Mercer is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games

Greensboro:

  • UNCG is 12-4 ATS in their last 16 games
  • The total has gone OVER between the Spartans and Bears in 7 of the last 9 outings
  • The total has gone UNDER in 9 of UNCG’s last 13 games played in March – a direct reflection of the defensive approach taken by coach Wes Miller

Last Time Out

Neftali Alvarez scored 23 points to lead the Bears to a 73-59 win over VMI and their first appearance in the Southern Conference finals. Mercer made 11-of-31 three-point shots as Felipe Haase scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Leon Ayers, III, added 14.

Southern Conference Player of the Year Isaiah Miller dominated wire-to-wire as the senior guard scored 21 points, gathered seven rebounds with five assists and four steals and the UNC Greensboro Spartans defeated ETSU, 77-65. Miller hit a three with one second remaining in the first half to give UNCG a 40-39 lead at the break. The Spartans then went on a went a 9-1 run midway through the second half to take a 63-53 lead and secure the win.

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Mercer +5 (-110) +185 O 135.5 (-110)
Greensboro -5 (-110) -215 U 135.5 (-110)

Advantage, Mercer

Mercer Bears LogoThe Bears place four players in double figures led by guard Ross Cummings (13.5 ppg) and Neftali Alvarez (13.5 ppg). Alvarez is a crafty ball-handler who can set up his own shots with his dribble moves and he also has 110 assists. The Bears make 37.6 percent of their three-point shots so the Spartans defense will be on call for the challenge. Big man Felipe Haase has come into his own as the 6-9 South Carolina transfer made 56 triples. If he has the stroke, it will change how the Spartans pick up Mercer on defense.

The Bears three-ball game against the Spartans was overall successful during the season. They were 7-of-14 in the 81-68 loss on Jan. 27 and 10-of-24 in the 77-74 loss on Feb. 13. UNCG allowed only 32.1 percent from the floor and 7.5 made threes this season.

Key Bears Stat:

Leon Ayers, III, (12.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg) is a solid fixture inside for the Bears as he shoots 52.4 percent from the field and pulls down 3.8 boards per night. He is also a three-ball threat as he made 27-of-68 this season.

X-Factor:

The fact that this is the Bears’ fourth game in as many nights is a big factor when you consider the depth and the athletic prowess of UNC Greensboro on both side of the court. The Spartans Greg Gary has done an outstanding job as he is in his second season of a rebuild at Mercer as the program is definitely on an uptick.

Advantage, Greensboro

UNC Greensboro SpartansIsaiah Miller (19.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.4 apg) will likely play in the NBA one day as he stuffs the stat sheet and has an unbelievable control over most of the Spartans games. Miller is the two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year as well as the two-time defensive player of the year and is one of only a few players that you can make a case for in playing at the same high level on both ends of the floor.

He is seventh nationally with 66 steals per game. He has a solid wingman in the back court in Keyshaun Langley, (9.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg) who has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games while making 17 threes in that period. Kaleb Hunter (8.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg) rounds out the backcourt as a slasher that can get to the rim as these are UNCG’s top three scorers.

Key Spartans Stat:

UNCG forces 14.8 turnovers per game and the Bears average 12.7 per game and they are (-0.5) turnover margin. Ball pressure on Neftali Alvarez will be important as although he has 110 assists, he checks in with 91 turnovers. Spartans opponents average only 41.4 percent from the field while scoring 67.6 points per game.

X-Factor:

The bigs inside are skilled in their foremost talents. Hayden Koval is a shot-blocker (62 blocks) who came over as a transfer from Central Arkansas and Mohammed Abdulsalam leads with 7.1 rebounds. Both shoot around 50 percent and are talented around the rim.

Winner: UNC Greensboro (-5) 75, Mercer 69

The Bets
UNC Greensboro Spartans -5
-110
OVER 135.5
-110
Sub Categories:
Kenneth Cross / Author

Kenneth Cross is a new entry to The Sports Geek staff as he has 25 years of experience in print, broadcast, and internet sports journalism. Cross is a lover of all sports, but college basketball is his passion. He estimates that he has seen around 1,500 college basketball games - live and in-person - and hopes that grows this season. If you listen to Radio, you have likely heard him on Sundays covering the Carolina Panthers for some 20 years. Now in Tampa Bay, he works as a national radio correspondent.