The Mercer team had seven seniors. The four guys with the most points for Mercer — Gollon, Coursey, Hall, and White Jr. — are all seniors. They’ve quite possibly played about 100 games together, and had countless more practices. Duke’s five starters contained one senior — Tyler Thornton — and their only other major contributor was Cook, who is a junior. All those guys are three-to-five star recruits, and the Mercer guys aren’t, but the lesson is fairly simple: keep a group together for a few years and get that chemistry developed, and said group may become a giant-killer someday. You’ve seen this play out in repeated NCAA Tournaments, and you can extend this to business (build and develop teams properly, and give them the right incentives to stay) and other fields.
As for Duke’s postseason history, the 14-3 loss to Mercer and the 15-2 loss to Lehigh do sting, for sure … but Coach K isn’t exactly on the hot seat. They’ve also been to the Sweet 16 four times since 2009, and won a national title in that stretch as well.