Fri., March 21, 2014 7:36am (EDT)

Mercer Basketball To Face Duke In The Bears' First NCAA Tournament Since 1985
By Jane Hammond and Adam Ragusea
Updated: 4 months ago

MACON, Ga.  —  
A lighted sign on Forsyth Road in Macon exhorts the Mercer University Bears to beat Duke in the NCAA basketball tournament. (Photo: Adam Ragusea / GPB News.)
A lighted sign on Forsyth Road in Macon exhorts the Mercer University Bears to beat Duke in the NCAA basketball tournament. (Photo: Adam Ragusea / GPB News.)
The last time Mercer University basketball took any part in March Madness, REO Speedwagon’s "Can't Fight This Feeling" was on top of the charts — March, 1985 to be exact.

But 29 years later, the Mercer men are in Raleigh, N.C. where they'll face Duke Friday at noon. Mercer is Georgia’s only men's team in the big dance this year.

Sixth-year senior forward Jakob Gollon has been waiting for this a long time.

"Some people might be content with us just making the tournament. We really want to get in and try to beat these guys," he said.

The Bears are far from favored, but this team made it back to the NCAA tournament by beating the odds. They were on fire during their 26-8 regular season, beating Ole Miss among other powerhouse teams.

Mercer's success in the regular season transformed campus culture, said senior Mollie Davis.

"I've seen (Mercer athletics) grow from being something students are marginally interested in…now it's something that is so central to what it means to be a Mercerian," she said.

Mercer’s basketball success this season can be partially attributed to the team’s age and experience, with seven seniors on the roster. Their upcoming graduation raises questions about whether the team can continue its winning streak into next year.

However, Head Coach Bob Hoffman has made it a point to get his bench lots of playing time, seasoning next season's starters.

Mercer’s move to the Southern Conference next year is also likely to mean a less challenging schedule, allowing the team more opportunities to shine.