Almost two hours after the Mercer Bears pulled the biggest upset in the NCAA Tournament, forward Bud Thomas said he remained in a state of shock.
But it might’ve been because he was hungry.
“We had a 12:15pm EST game, so our pregame meal was breakfast,” he told 9News at 5:30pm EST. ” I’m running on adrenaline right now because I haven’t eaten yet. It’s been crazy.”
Thomas, a graduate of Regis Jesuit and two-time Colorado Player of the Year, is the last remaining Colorado native in the NCAA Tournament. He only scored two points against the Blue Devils, but his long in-bounds pass over the Duke defense helped spring Anthony White Jr. for the lay-up that sealed a Bears’ win.
“There’s no words,” said Thomas after the game. “I could tell you what it was like, but to experience it was unbelievable. When we first drew Duke, it was just exciting to play against such a historic program with probably the greatest coach of all time.”
“Before the game, we all said we feel like we can win it, which sounds cliché with a fourteen-seed going up against Duke. But we felt like we had a pretty good team these last two or three years.”
When Thomas made the 1500 mile trip to Macon, GA, to join the Bears in 2009, a victory against Duke wasn’t in his plans.
“I knew they were a great program, and that they were right on the edge of breaking through and getting to the tournament,” he recalls. “If you would have told me I would go to Mercer and beat Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, I would have said ‘No way.’ But that’s what happens when you get a bunch of good coaches and good players that are competitive and work hard.”
Mercer will now face Tennessee for chance at advancing to the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis. Thomas says his team is using their experiences with Florida Gulf Coast (aka “Dunk City”) as both motivation and inspiration for what is possible in the coming rounds.
“Last year’s loss to Florida Gulf Coast (in the Atlantic Sun Championship) really hurt, especially seeing them go on to become the darlings of the Tournament last year,” he said. “We felt like that could have been us. So to come here, and pull this off, it’s absolutely amazing.”