Despite an international pandemic doing its best to keep TBT 2020 sidelined, it is here. Nothing can stop the Elam Ending from proving its worth on national television, not even the plague.
TBT 2020, like previous iterations, boasts a number of names you’re familiar with if you’ve watched enough college basketball in the last 15 years. It also has a ton of guys you never heard of but were killing it at Southwestern A&M Poly Tech in 2008 and have built solid overseas careers for themselves since. The point is: the level of play is legit, and the $1 million winner-take-all prize means these games are serious.
We’re in the penultimate round. All that separates each of the four remaining competitors from $1 million is two triumphs in the Columbus bubble. We have four-time TBT champions (Overseas Elite) a team that has been close before (Golden Eagles), a retooled already-talented roster with youngsters pretending this is the NCAA Tournament they had ripped from them (Red Scare) and a Cinderella story (Sideline Cancer). Only one can win the TBT payday. Who will it be?
TBT 2020 Day 9 Matchups
All times Eastern.
4 Golden Eagles (Marquette alumni) vs. 8 Red Scare (Dayton alumni) (4 p.m., ESPN)
Unfortunately, I was unable to watch Golden Eagles battle Team Brotherly Love in the quarterfinals because a storm knocked out my electricity from about 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, depriving me of Internet for almost exclusively the exact time the two teams took the floor. But through the power of box scores, highlights and my imagination, I have pieced together enough of what happened to say that Golden Eagles is pretty good.
I didn’t need to see Marquette alumni eliminate Team Brotherly Love, 83-76, to know that, though. This team has multiple TBTs and previous games in TBT 2020 to prove that. And judging by the statlines and replays, it seems like the same story from the earlier games of this tournament – the trio of Jamil Wilson (Marquette), Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette) and Dwight Buycks (Marquette) powering this machine – continued in the quarters. The three combined for 52 points versus Team Brotherly Love, the second game of two in TBT 2020 that they have each scored in double figures. Their three-headed scoring monster makes this team highly difficult for any defense to manage.
It wasn’t only the offense that seemed impressive from the Team Brotherly Love game. Khalif Wyatt (Temple) dropped 27 on Stillwater Stars in the opening round of the tournament, and Ramone Moore (Temple) had 24. Against Golden Eagles, the two put up 23 together. That’s worthy noting, and something for this team’s next opponent, Red Scare, to remember.
The Dayton alumni had House of ‘Paign blown out of the water for good portions of the quarterfinal showdown, but at an 80-61 lead and the winning score set at 82, Red Scare gave up 15 points before finally putting House of ‘Paign out of its misery. There is cause for concern with how Red Scare closed that game, particularly the discombobulation it displayed on the offensive end during that spell. But for most of the contest, Red Scare was fantastic on both sides of the ball.
Five Red Scare players put up double-digit scoring efforts, including double-doubles from Devin Oliver (Dayton) and Trevor Thompson (Ohio State). The team shared the ball incredibly well, collectively dishing 17 assists as a squad, and leading in bench points, 34-19. When defending this team, you have to focus on so many different potential poisons: Ryan McMahon (Louisville) and Ryan Mikesell’s (Dayton) deep shooting, Trey Landers (Dayton) and Oliver on the drive, Thompson on the block and more. You need well-rounded players who understand defensive rotations and are quick enough to disrupt passing lanes and cut off drives before they can kill you.
The defense was even more of the story for Red Scare, though. Mike Daum (South Dakota State) had been one of the most dominant players in TBT 2020 and was a major reason why House of ‘Paign pulled off the upset over Carmen’s Crew in the previous round. Against Red Scare, Daum only managed 12 points and a whole lot of clanks, which really caused his team’s attack to suffer. It wasn’t all the defense – Daum missed some shots uncharacteristically and overall did not have a good day – but it was much harder for Daum to get into the middle of the floor, forcing him to settle for shots he otherwise might not have. When you’re defending someone of his caliber, making adjustments like that necessary can be enough to stifle someone’s game, and that’s what happened.
2 Overseas Elite vs. 22 Sideline Cancer (6 p.m., ESPN)
Overseas Elite faced upstart Herd That (Marshall alumni) in the quarterfinals, one of the remaining Cinderellas of TBT 2020. Herd That has been one of the most exciting teams in the tournament because of its mix of shooters, above-the-rim rockers and emphasis on transition. Defense was not what got Herd That to the quarterfinals, and Overseas Elite proved that big time.
Joe Johnson (Arkansas) had his best game of TBT 2020 so far, putting up 35 points, seven rebounds and five assists, plus five triples, as Overseas Elite eviscerated its low-seeded opposition, 93-76. I don’t really see any team in this tournament being able to stop Johnson from getting buckets when he wants to, which is going to make defeating Overseas Elite quite difficult.
It’s not just him, though. As a team, Overseas Elite outrebounded Herd That, 42-30, and outpaced its opponent in second-chance points, 21-10. In Herd That’s last contest against The Money Team, it slightly won the rebounding battle, 40-39, and didn’t have any issues on the glass versus Peoria All-Stars in the first round, winning that game within a game, 44-34. But Overseas Elite simply has too much rebounding talent on its roster; Johnson, Dakarai Tucker (Utah), Frank Sessions (Cal State Los Angeles), Justin Burrell (St. John’s) and more players on this roster have a great understanding of body and floor positioning for rebounding, and their aggression has helped turn Overseas Elite into a glass cleaning clinic.
Overseas Elite will have to deal with the other Cinderella in TBT 2020 in the semifinals: No. 22 seed Sideline Cancer. It’s here after drumming Boeheim’s Army (Syracuse alumni), 65-48, in the quarterfinals, the third-straight upset Sideline Cancer has pulled in TBT 2020. Marcus Keene (Central Michigan) had been the main catalyst for the team this tournament, but he suffered a slow start against the Syracuse alumni. He picked it up a bit in the second half but didn’t have nearly the performance as earlier in the tournament.
“If you go back and watch the film, every time I scored is when they went man-to-man in the second half,” Keene admitted after the game. “The zone threw me off, I feel like it threw the whole team off.”
Unfortunately for Boeheim’s Army, some of the Sideline Cancer supporting cast picked up the slack: Maurice Creek (Indiana/George Washington) had 22 points with eight rebounds, and Remy Abell (Xavier) chipped in 12 points of his own. And while Keene said the zone stifled Sideline Cancer’s offensive attack, it didn’t help in the rebounding category. Sideline Cancer cleaned up, outrebounding its opponent, 53-36. That has been a bit of a theme for this team, also winning the glass battles in its two first matchups. The biggest driving force behind the boards is Eric Thompson (Pacific), who has hauled in double-double rebounds in all three of Sideline Cancer’s games, including 18 against Boeheim’s Army.
The point is, Overseas Elite and Sideline Cancer have been two of the best rebounding teams in TBT 2020, and something will have to give them they meet on the same floor. I have a hunch that whichever team wins the rebounding battle will find itself one win away from $1 million.