RALEIGH, N.C. — RALEIGH, N.C. - Tipoff is less than three hours away, and here we are at the PNC Arena.
The doors open shortly, and Mercer t-shirts will be perhaps the hottest commodity on the concourse. I got orders galore.
Will there be more t-shirts to print?
There is one guarantee: Bob Hoffman will in some form or fashion tear up at the post game press conference, regardless the outcome. Actually, he may not make it off the court with a dry face.
Seniors, almost to a man, last month figured Hoffman would be a mess at senior day, but he was mostly composed. There was, of course, at least two more home games at home, and most likely an A-Sun title game.
Had Mercer lost in Fort Myers, he'd have been a hot mess.
Does Mercer move on to Indianapolis?
Here's the deal.
First, if Mercer and Tennessee played 10 times, I think I might just take Mercer. Better coached, more veteran, deeper, more consistent.
And if Monty Brown is healthy, that's an easier call. Brown can bang better than Daniel Coursey and T.J. Hallice, and can get to the line.
The feeling is here is Mercer has a definite backcourt edge, Tennessee inside, Mercer depth and coaching.
The hunger? There's our draw.
Here's the sports world for you, and the absolute glory of our nation's best event: Tennessee, the University of Tennessee, wants revenge on Mercer, Mercer University.
Sit and ponder that 'n a little while, huh?
Mercer can talk about being past Duke, but - here's a giggle line - the Bears are human.
A sharp start would be a surprise. But they'll get over any sluggishness fairly early.
One item: Tennessee played later, but didn't have as tough a game. That might be something to watch in the final few minutes.
Some of the same thing go for Sunday as for Friday: Mercer can't miss high-percentage shots, especially the front court folks. Jake Gollon won't get 20, so somebody else will have to get something going.
T.J. Hallice wasn't of impact Friday, but will be today, one way or another. He'll get some serious minutes, probably in the second half.
And again, if Mercer plays Mercer basketball, they'll have another chance to play Mercer basketball.
It's a blackout for Mercer fans, a pleasant respite in the orange grove PNC would otherwise be.
And if Mercer does get off to that slow start, a collection of fans - I'm guessing we'll end up having close to 2,000 Bear backers on hand - will jumpstart things.
I didn't have a quality hunch about Mercer-Duke, but I do know that Tennessee will be more ready than Duke was.
The Bears better play like they know that. If they do, I can tell you this: flights to Indianapolis aren't that bad, and it's not that long a trip.
Anthony White Jr. and family can put some of us up.