- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - There’s only one way for Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood to hang a banner in the Cameron Indoor Stadium rafters in their first - and maybe only - season playing together for Duke.

Lead the Blue Devils to a national title.

A handful of clunkers kept them from winning either the ACC’s regular-season or tournament championship.

They know they can’t afford any more - and it starts with their NCAA tournament opener against 14th-seeded Mercer.

No. 3 seed Duke (26-8) takes on the Atlantic Sun champion Bears (26-8) on Friday in the second round of the Midwest Regional.

Hood said the Blue Devils are “treating it like our last game, because if we lose, it is.”

Parker, the ACC’s freshman of the year, led the league in rebounding with an average of 8.8 and was its second-leading scorer, averaging 19.3 points.

Hood, a redshirt sophomore who transferred from Mississippi State, added 16.4 points per game.

Both have been labeled as potential NBA draft entrants, and though neither one has announced his plans, coach Mike Krzyzewski said at last week’s ACC tournament that “I wish we had him for more than one year.”

Parker said “this may be the last time we might play together with the guys on the team.”

He’s running out of chances this year to make his mark on a Duke program that under Krzyzewski has won four national titles and reached 11 Final Fours - but has only one since 2004.

Friday’s game marks the NCAA tournament debut for Hood, Parker - and for everybody in a Mercer uniform.

The Bears are in the tournament for the first time since 1985 and just the third time in school history.

They’re led by A-Sun player of the year Langston Hall at point guard. They enter the tournament on a four-game winning streak that includes a 68-60 victory over 2013 NCAA tournament darling Florida Gulf Coast.

“Obviously, most of the mid majors aren’t going to get too many top-50 recruits that are just planning on going to the NBA after one year, so I think that’s a big benefit to us,” guard Bud Thomas said.

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