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Mike Lopresti | | March 22, 2014

Mercer starts the Madness early

And so, the frenzy continued. Down went Duke, and yet another No. 5 seed at the hands of yet another No. 12 seed, in yet another overtime.

Wichita State rolled onward, as unstoppable as ever. But look who's next.

And was that a No. 16 seed leading at halftime?

What Friday told us about the NCAA tournament, with its yesses and its nos . . .

No, Wichita State did not look at all fazed to have the unbeaten target on its gray uniforms, blowing past Cal Poly 64-37. That pushed the Shockers to an unprecedented 35-0.

"We're 1-0," Tekele Cotton corrected in the locker room. "We're making history but we try not to focus on that. We have a higher goal."

Yes, we're about to find out a whole lot more about Wichita State. Kentucky is next on Sunday. The blue-blooded preseason No. 1 whose freshman seem to be finding their scary stride, against the fearless wannabes packing a perfect record. And more than a few will be expecting it all to come to an end for the Shockers.

Fine with them, by the way.

"We like to play us against the world," Ron Baker said. "But most of all we just try to have fun; let all the outsiders talk their talk."

Yes, one thing everyone should understand by now. Play the Atlantic Sun conference in March at your peril.

Last year Florida Gulf Coast, this year Mercer. Matter of fact, Florida Gulf Coast had to beat the Bears on their home court last season in the conference tournament to even get the chance to become the darlings of the 2013 NCAA bracket. "We were sitting home," Anthony White Jr., said Friday after Mercer brought down Duke 78-71. "We were thinking that could be us."

And now it is.

Seven things we now need to know about Mercer.

• It's in Macon, Ga., since a lot of people are going to be asking.

• The Bears just earned their 1176th victory in program history. Or only 191 more than Mike Krzyzewski owns.

• This was their first NCAA tournament win. Duke has 99.

• The school is named after a Baptist leader. Somewhere Friday, Jesse Mercer must have been pretty happy.

• Mercer is the only college to award an honorary degree to Robert E. Lee.

• The No. 14 seed Bears start five seniors. Jakob Gollon, who scored 20 points and outplayed Jabari Parker on Friday, has been in 153 college games and just earned his master's degree in educational leadership with a 3.91 grade-point average. "They're not kids," Krzyzewski said. "Those men are determined to do something."

• Tennessee knows to be wary Sunday. The Bears beat the Vols 75-67 in Knoxville in last year's NIT first round. The location will be a little different Sunday, not to mention the stakes. "They came in our house and whooped us," Tennessee's Josh Richardson said. "So we can't let that happen again."

No, March has not been a lot of fun lately for the guy who has been to 11 Final Fours. Krzyzewski's Blue Devils have now lost to No. 15 seed Lehigh and No. 14 Mercer in the past three tournaments. A testament to what this month has become.

Yes, another No. 12 seed roared. This one Stephen F. Austin against VCU.

No, the No. 5 seed -- which went 1-3 this week and very nearly 0-4 -- does not come with a warning label. No yet, anyway.

Yes, it was Coastal Carolina up on Virginia 35-30 at halftime.

No, the Chanticleers did not finish the job and No. 16 seeds are still perfectly imperfect at 0-120 against No. 1 seeds. But three of the winning margins were nine, 11 and 12. Maybe one day ...

Yes, a game went overtime. That makes six for the week.

Yes, Doug McDermott was ready for his closeup. Thirty points against Louisiana Lafayette, and a big late 3-pointer for Creighton.

No, he has never made it to the Sweet 16. He has his last chance Sunday against Baylor. "It's what I came back for," he said.

No, Marcus Smart's plans to put off the NBA and lead Oklahoma State to tournament glory never quite worked out. The Cowboys fell to Gonzaga 85-77, and Smart's tumultuous sophomore season ended. "A lot of downs and a lot of ups," he called it.

But yes, he went out fighting; 23 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 steals. "In the locker room, his head was down," head coach Travis Ford said. "I said, 'Did you play hard [Friday]?' He said yes. I said, 'You competed and played hard for every second.' ''

Yes, it is possible to win a game while getting outscored 36-0 in 3-pointers. Kansas pulled that off against Eastern Kentucky, missing all seven of its attempts. Of course, that was only Stat No. 1 from the game. Stat No. 2 was Eastern Kentucky getting outscored in the paint 54-20. Which is why Stat No. 1 did not send the Jayhawks back to Lawrence.

"In the tournament, anything can happen," Kansas head coach Bill Self said, and ain't that the truth?

Yes, the SEC is 4-0. This is starting to sound like football season.

No, this wasn't Dayton anymore. That's where Cal Poly hit 57 percent to beat Texas Southern 81-69 in the First Four. With under 14 minutes left in the game Friday in St. Louis, the Mustangs had missed 31 of 36 shots and trailed Wichita State 44-17.

But yes, there are still plenty of underdogs for the masses to get behind. The lower seeded team won eight of 31 games Thursday and Friday, with the UCLA-Tulsa result pending. Mercer is the lowest seed left in the field at No. 14. Everyone's heard of Mercer. At least, they have now.

Yes, the plot thickens now.

"One game down," Baker said, sitting in the middle of the Wichita State locker room. "We want to get five more. To accomplish that, we've got to get to two."

Words for 32 survivors to live by this weekend.

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