ATHENS - On the day that Mercer stunned Duke, and the college basketball world, Georgia's Mark Fox was asked if he had any interest in scheduling the Bears for next season. Yes, Fox answered, it was just a matter of making the schedule work.
They made the schedule work: Mercer will visit Georgia on Dec. 27, both schools confirmed. It is a one-game series, with no scheduled return trip at this time. UGA is paying Mercer $90,000 to make the trip, according to a game contract filed at UGA.
"We had scrimmaged them last year," Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. "We thought we were going to scrimmage them (again) or do something. It worked out."
The two programs are very familiar with each other: Last year they held a closed scrimmage against each other just before the season, and the previous three seasons they met in real games. Georgia swept the three games, two of which were at Stegeman Coliseum.
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Fox said he and Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman are good friends and "talk a good bit." And when Mercer upset Duke, Fox actually agreed that the Bears, because they succeeded via an experienced lineup, were a model for what the Bulldogs were trying to accomplish. And indeed this season the roles will be reversed: Mercer, which went 27-9, loses seven seniors, five of whom were starters. Georgia is set to return two seniors and three juniors who were part of the nucleus of last year's NIT team.
"We talk off and on," Hoffman said. "Coach Fox and I talk periodically throughout the year anyway about basketball and all kinds of things."
Georgia's non-conference schedule is getting close to being finished. The team is so far committed to the following:
- The NIT Season tip-off, which consists of two games in Athens against teams to be determined, and if the Bulldogs win both two more games in New York.
- A home game against Seton Hall on Dec. 21.
- A visit to Kansas State on Dec. 31. (The Wildcats are ranked No. 25 in an ESPN.com preseason poll. Georgia is No. 43 in that poll.)
- A visit to Georgia Tech at a date yet to be announced.
- A home game against Colorado at a date yet to be announced. (Colorado is ranked No. 16 in the same ESPN poll.)
- A visit to Chattanooga at a date yet to be announced. The game is part of a three-game series, with the 2013 and 2015 games being in Athens.
- Georgia might also play another Big 12 team as part of the SEC-Big 12 challenge. Georgia did not participate in it last year (there are four more SEC teams than in the Big 12) so that makes it more likely the Bulldogs will be in it this year. The field is expected to be announced shortly.