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August 30, 2014

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Vegas Play of the Day: Mercer at Florida Gulf Coast

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Florida Gulf Coast’s Eddie Murray (23) hangs from the rim after a dunk as Chase Fieler (20) and Brett Comer (0) celebrate during the second half of a second-round game against Georgetown in the NCAA college basketball tournament on Friday, March 22, 2013, in Philadelphia.

Sticking to an established theme in yesterday’s Play of the Day, which features odds from the South Point sports book, worked out as I dodged a bad beat by delivering one with a last-second three-point heave.

So might as well stay thematic again on Sunday, which is all about the first batch of conference tournament championship games. Three mid-majors stage contests with an automatic NCAA Tournament bid awarded to the winner, but only one had a spread posted by press time.

Looks like I will continue to my quest to get over the starting bankroll of $10,000 and into the black in Fort Myers, Fla.

Mercer plus-2 at Florida Gulf Coast: $220 to win $200

Sorry to everyone hoping to experience the “Dunk City” phenomenon for a second straight year in March Madness, but it’s not going to happen.

Mercer is a better team than budding rival Florida Gulf Coast, to an extent that it won’t matter that the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship is taking place in FGCU’s Alico Arena.

That may sound delusional when focusing solely on the two previous matchups between these teams in 2014, as the Eagles smashed the Bears by 14 points in February after losing by 13 at Mercer in January.

Sounds pretty evenly matched — until looking closer. Mercer’s scoring differential is more than twice as large — 9.8 points per game to 4.5 — as Florida Gulf Coast’s despite strikingly similar strength of schedules. Mercer is 70 spots better than Florida Gulf Coast in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.

Just as important are the emotional angles in favor of the Bears. The Eagles started their magical Sweet 16 run last year by stomping the Bears on their home floor in Macon, Ga., as 5.5-point underdogs in this game conference championship game.

With virtually the exact same team — Mercer is the fifth most experienced team in the nation, according to Pomeroy — the Bears have dreamt of avenging of the bitter defeat all season. Their five senior starters make up the best class in program history, and they want to top it off by bringing the team to their first NCAA Tournament since 1985.

Standings: Bern (14-8, $11,240), Keefer (9-10, $9,167), Brewer (6-11-3, $6,760)

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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