Two rivals team up for The Basketball Tournament

 

The Atlantic Sun Conference saw unprecedented success in the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three seasons. It started when Florida Gulf Coast branded itself as 'Dunk City' en route to a Sweet 16 appearance in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

The Mercer Bears followed up that performance the next year. After beating FGCU in the A-Sun Tournament title game, Mercer upset Jabari Parker and the Duke Blue Devils. Like the Eagles, the Bears were able to capture America's hearts.

The rivalry between the two schools ended in 2014, as Mercer left for the Southern Conference. This summer, that dead rivalry will hopefully turn into a profitable partnership, as alumni from both schools decided to join forces in The Basketball Tournament, according to Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated.

"There is a mutual respect between former rivals like FGCU and Mercer," said the team's GM, Liam Jones. "The Tournament gives these players a chance to combine that respect and talent as teammates instead of as opponents."

The roster is far from finalized. Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson, four-year starters for FGCU, Langston Hall, the 2014 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, and former Mercer big man Daniel Coursey could all have scheduling conflicts depending on professional obligations. Even if that's the case, this will still be a competitve squad with Sherwood BrownChase Fieler and Eric McKnight from the original Dunk City joined by the ex-Mercer trio of Bud Thomas, Anthony White Jr, and Jakob Gollon, who will add depth and size on the perimeter. 

The still-to-be-named Mercer-Florida Gulf Coast co-op is currently ranked sixth in the South Region (Atlanta).

Instagram