It’s not often we devote this space to sports related items, but it’s not often Mercer University has landed a ticket to the NCAA Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. The team led by head coach Bob Hoffman accomplished the feat under the most difficult of circumstances -- playing in Alico Arena, the home of a previous NCAA Cinderella team, Florida Gulf Coast University. Mercer pulled out a 68-60 victory.
How did they do it? The team has been playing Hoffman basketball all season featuring defense, rebounding and free throw shooting. Now, the only question remaining is where will the Bears play and against whom. Our wish is either Raleigh, N.C., (412 miles) or Orlando, Fla., (362 miles). Bears fans can make a memorable trip to the Big Dance.
March Madness is more than basketball. The exposure Mercer will receive by being one of only 64 teams to have a ticket is almost incalculable. Florida Gulf Coast, after its appearance in the dance, saw a 40 percent increase in enrollment applications. It’s been 29 years since the Bears were on the NCAA dance card. No matter what happens this time around, we don’t expect another three decades to pass before the Bears dance again.
Don’t miss the NCAA Tournament Selection viewing party at Hawkins Arena on Sunday, starting at 5 p.m.