In many ways, the cliches of just another game are true.
The A-Sun schedule hasnt even reached the halfway point yet.
But the past makes one game this week particularly juicy because of two March days that are hard for the Mercer mens basketball team to forget.
I think we all remember that the last time we lost on this court, it was to them, Mercer senior Bud Thomas said. We know stuff like that.
As if they could forget those two A-Sun tournament meetings with Florida Gulf Coast.
Both losses were galling for the Bears for different reasons, the common denominator being a loss at home as the favorite and denying Mercer a trip or chance for a trip to the NCAA tournament.
The March 2, 2012, loss was in the A-Sun semifinals, coming in Florida Gulf Coasts first year of eligibility for conference and national postseason play. The Eagles had finally completed the four-year transition from Division II, during which they could win regular-season titles but not participate in NCAA or A-Sun postseason play.
The March 9, 2013, game left a mark as A-Sun regular-season champ and tournament host Mercer lost its first home game of the season in -- yep -- the conference tournament championship.
Theres definitely a little bit of bitterness and a little bit of excitement for us because theyre the ones that knocked us out, two years in a row, senior wing Jake Gollon said. Theyve had our number, so weve got to get them back.
The bruise of the 2013 loss grew as Florida Gulf Coast rode the momentum of the impressive 88-75 win to an exclamation point-filled, attention-dominating three-game run in the NCAA tournament. Everywhere the Bears turned, they were figuratively dunked on by stories and highlights about the then-recent emergence of Dunk City.
You cringe a little bit, Thomas said.
Granted, Mercer got its share of accompanying attention as it beat Tennessee in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament and gave BYU a battle in the second game.
Mercer got some respect during the run as the team that won the A-Sun regular season and split with Florida Gulf Coast.
It was nice to hear, but ...
I had a hard time a little bit, Gollon said of watching last years NCAA tournament, at least the first few rounds. I think the reason it was hardest was because we knew that that could be us. We knew Gulf Cast was a good team. We knew they could make some noise.
But especially after having won the regular season and beating some of the teams we did, we knew we could do that same thing. So seeing them being the ones out of this conference to get to do that, it was tough to watch.
And Florida Gulf Coast continues to ride the wave.
The Eagles have had consecutive home crowds of more than 4,500 in the past week. Merchandise sales were up 415 percent from the first half of 2012 to 2013, and season ticket sales up 154 percent, from 550 to 1,400.
The chance for a little payback is at hand when one of the most anticipated regular-season A-Sun mens basketball games in recent years tips off Thursday night at Hawkins Arena, Florida Gulf Coasts March home away from home.
Mercer is 40-3 at Hawkins Arena since the start of the 2011-12 season, with, of course, two of those losses coming to the Eagles.
As RPIs go, Mercer is having a better season this time than Florida Gulf Coast did a year ago. The Eagles were pretty much ranked in the 90s to low 100s most of the season, ending up at No. 73 in the final NCAA RPI while Mercer was 118.
The Bears have yet to fall below 100 in the NCAA RPI -- nor the ESPN and CBS versions of the RPI -- while the Eagles have been around 200.
Thursday is a chance for the Bears to clarify some misperceptions, even at home.
A couple of my friends, in general, actually (would) say, Yall lucky you stayed close to that team, senior point guard Langston Hall said. Im like, man. That a bold statement for yall to make. OK.
Indeed, Mercer leads the series 10-4.
The teams have split the past two regular-season meetings, with the Eagles taking the two tournament matchups.
Theyre tied for first in the A-Sun at 6-1, and the Bears are only five wins from 20 for the season. Both teams have highly decorated players making marks in the conference history books.
And a rivalry has developed, thanks to recent history.
Since Ive been here, weve definitely established a winning, successful program, hanging a couple banners the past couple years and trying to claim (a spot as) one of the top mid-majors in the nation, Thomas said. Gulf Coast got a lot of that last year, deservedly so. ... Theyre in the history books.
We want that.