No collegiate experience is complete without the pageantry of collegiate athletics, and rivalries are a big part of that. If you’ve been around our campus long enough, you’ve probably spotted a few “Beat Mercer” shirts on students. The smaller, much older, private school to the south has at least been marketed as KSU’s rival. It should be evident on Friday night, where KSU will likely draw the largest crowd of the season at the Convocation Center.
That doesn’t mean much considering KSU’s men’s basketball program has continued to be sans a substantial fanbase during another miserable season. They head into Friday’s contest skidding down a seven-game losing streak, which was extended on Super Bowl Sunday when the team fell apart at the seams, losing to ETSU by 13, after senior forward Andrew Osemhen was ejected for being involved in a scrum.
Scrums have become a trend for the frustrated Owls (4-20, 1-10 A-Sun) this season. They’ve continued to struggle with consistency in individual player production, and the absence of head coach Lewis Preston, who plans on returning to the team at the end of the season, still has many scratching their head. No matter what way you spin it, the fact of the matter is KSU has spent three seasons as arguably one of the worst teams in Division I basketball.
Then there’s Mercer. The Bears fell 80-61 on Sunday to a USC Upstate team that’s rebounded after a disappointing start to their campaign, but Mercer is still alone at the top of the Atlantic Sun Conference standings with an 18-6 overall record and just two losses in conference.
Before Sunday’s results, the Bears were ranked No. 12 in the CollegeInsider.com mid major power poll.
The two programs showed their true colors in the last head-to-head matchup, where Mercer, who’s undefeated at home this season, breezed through the Owls in an 83-46 victory that could have been a lot worse.
While the Bears no doubt will continue to prepare to make a run through the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament and into the NCAA Tournament, KSU’s still hard-pressed to finish games.
It’s hard to spin this matchup as a rivalry when it comes down to the actual game and teams at hand. Mercer is simply an example of where KSU’s program should strive to get to, but there’s little to no reason to think the Owls are anywhere close right now.