Kyle Hannan has developed a slate that could leave Mercer with a nice chunk of wins at the sunset of the 2014 season. For a program that is still trying to establish an identity at the Division I level, that's a solid approach to schedule construction, even if the conversation surrounding those potential wins will start with "Yeah, but. . . ."
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
This Job Requires Travel
February 8: Boston University; February 22: Richmond; March 15: VMI; April 19: Furman
The good news is that Mercer has four winnable home games. The bad news is that Mercer is only playing four home games in 2014, a team in perpetual motion looking like the former nomadic ronin that it once exemplified before joining the Atlantic Sun (Mercer played 38 percent of its games in Macon in 2013, 43 percent were at home in 2012, and just 31 percent were played at home in 2011). The only month on the calendar in which the Bears will play at least two home games is in February; in both March and April, Mercer hosts a visitor at the midway point of the month, mere interstices between keeping the American transportation industry in business. There are potential wins here, but the chance to grow at home -- at a beautiful complex that deserves depth in competitive opportunities -- is noticeably lacking. Which raises an important question: Mercer couldn't find a way to play a game on Johns Hopkins' lacrosse moon base? I mean, if you're going to work the road, you need to involve interplanetary travel or else you're just wasting your time.
"I'm Your Density"
February 14: @Michigan; March 22: @High Point; March 29: @Lafayette
There's no shame in knowing your situation, and Mercer's situation -- a fourth-year program that has four Division I wins against 33 losses -- isn't the prettiest (even if it is built on a short history). Putting seven programs on the schedule that reside in a similar station to the Bears on college lacrosse's hierarchy is an intelligent approach. Taking curb-stomping after curb-stomping simply to experience what it feels like isn't always the best method to achieve growth. Building a foundation against competitively-analogous programs is a way to learn how to win and climb the ladder in a measured way. Mercer probably doesn't go 7-0 in its home games and these three road trips, but there are lots of opportunities for the Bears to expose themselves to circumstances that are conducive to wins.
February 22: Richmond; March 15: VMI; March 22: @High Point; April 12: @Jacksonville; April 19: Furman
The Atlantic Sun is a great vehicle for a lot of programs, but none may benefit more from the league than Mercer. As Georgia's only Division I program, the Bears were an outpost relative to the rest of the men's game at that level. With a conference to play in, the Bears not only have an avenue toward the NCAA Tournament but also five guaranteed dates on the calendar (that number will rise to six in 2015 when Bellarmine joins the league), assuring Mercer of home games and countable contests. The fact that Mercer had to play Rollins in 2013 (and would have played Lees-McRae as well if the Bobcats didn't back out of the game) is disheartening; with the Atlantic Sun putting mandatory games on the Bears' schedule, Mercer likely won't need to go down that road again.