Duke’s Jabari Parker, the ACC freshman of the year, begins his quest on Friday to leave one final mark at Duke – a championship banner.
Parker led the league in rebounding with an average of 8.8 and was its second-leading scorer, averaging 19.3 points. Even though he hasn’t officially announced his plans for next season, Parker is expected to declare for the NBA draft at the end of the season.
As usual, the Blue Devils are considered one of the top team in college basketball, and the expectations for them to go deep in the tournament remain high.
“This may be the last time we might play together with the guys on the team,” Parker said.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski echoed his thoughts, saying at last week’s ACC Tournament that he “wish we had [Parker] for one more year.”
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While he’s had a strong season so far, Parker is looking to leave his mark on a Duke program that under Krzyzewski has won four national titles and reached 11 Final Fours -- but has only won one championship in over a dozen years.
No. 3 seed Duke (26-8) takes on the Atlantic Sun champion Bears (26-8) on Friday in the second round of the Midwest Regional.
Friday's game marks the NCAA tournament debut for Parker -- and for everybody in a Mercer uniform. The Bears are in the tournament for the first time since 1985 and just the third time in school history.
But Mercer is the only team in the country to start five seniors in every game, and with seven of them on the roster, ranks as the fourth-most experienced team in the country, according to statsheet.com.
But while Mercer is playing with experience, Duke will be playing just down the road in Raleigh. Duke is 2-0 all-time in tournament games at PNC Arena and 32-5 in NCAA tournament games played in the state of North Carolina, but lost its last one -- a 75-70 loss to 15th-seeded Lehigh two years ago in Greensboro.
In 2013, Duke made the Elite Eight before falling to eventual champion Louisville.
The winner faces either No. 6-seed Massachusetts or No. 11-seed Tennessee in the third round.
Time: 12:15 p.m. EST
TV Channel: CBS
Online Stream Info: A live online stream can be viewed at NCAA March Madness Live here.
Prediction: Duke 78, Mercer 58