MACON, Ga. – Mercer's men's basketball team travels to Phoenix, Ariz., to face Grand Canyon University on Wednesday, March 14, in the opening round of the 2018 College Basketball Invitational. Tipoff time at Grand Canyon University Arena is 10 p.m. (ET). The postseason appearance is the Bears' sixth in the past seven seasons, all under head coach Bob Hoffman.
The Bears, 18-14 overall and winners of eight of their last nine games, will square off against a Grand Canyon team that is 22-11 overall and finished 9-5 in the Western Athletic Conference. The Antelopes are coached by former NBA standout Dan Majerle. It will be the first meeting ever between Mercer and Grand Canyon.
This is Mercer's second trip to the CBI. Previously, the Bears played in the 2015 CBI, defeating Stony Brook 72-70 before losing to UL Monroe 71-69, with both games being played at Hawkins Arena on the Mercer campus. Overall, Mercer is 8-6 in postseason tournament games, having appeared in postseason play eight times during the program's history.
Mercer is led by a trio of seniors, all who have joined the school's 1,000-point career scoring club. Guard Jordan Strawberry is averaging 11.1 points and 4.9 assists. He has 1,154 career points and 484 career assists and is one of only three Mercer players to top 1,000 points and 400 assists in a career. Forward Stephon Jelks leads the club in rebounding (7.3) and also leads the Southern Conference with seven double-double performances on the season. Jelks has 1,105 career points and 830 career rebounds. He is only the third player in school history to score more than 1,000 points and grab more than 800 rebounds in a career. Both Strawberry and Jelks earned second-team all-conference honors this season.
Demetre Rivers is likewise a member of the 1,000-point club. The forward has 1,047 career points and is averaging 11 points per outing. He leads the team in free-throw shooting at 89.4 percent. Senior post man Desmond Ringer is a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District team selection and is averaging 9.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per outing, while shooting a team-best 60.3 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Ross Cummings has played well down the stretch and is averaging 8.1 points and shooting 42 percent from the 3-point arc.
Grand Canyon was the No. 3 seed in the WAC Tournament and went 5-1 over its last six games. The Antelopes are led in scoring by Joshua Braun and Alessandro Lever, both who are averaging 12 points per outing.
The CBI is a single-elimination tournament up until the best-of-three finals, with all games played at campus sites. After the first-round games, the quarterfinal round will take place on Monday, March 19, followed by the semifinal round on Wednesday, March 21. Prior to the semifinals, the remaining teams will be re-bracketed. The finals series is a best-of-three in which one team will host two of the three games. Those games will be played on March 26, March 28 and March 30.