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.
The quarterfinals are here. We’re down to just eight teams vying for the $1 million prize that will make living in a bubble and sticking cotton swabs into your brain for two weeks worth it. It’s debatable for the other seven, but by the time they know who they are, it’ll be too late. Oh well. Coronavirus wins!
TBT 2020 Day 7 Matchups
All times Eastern.
4 Golden Eagles (Marquette alumni) vs. 12 Team Brotherly Love (2 p.m., ESPN)
Golden Eagles took out Team CP3 in the Sweet 16, 76-67, flexing its strengths in the victory. Jamil Wilson (Marquette) had a double-double on 14 points and 11 rebounds, instilling his will around the rim. Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette) looked like The Hulk, using the widest shoulders known to man to bully his way to 21 points. Dwight Buycks (Marquette) chipped in double-figure scoring and dished five assists as the off-guard. Most importantly of all, though, the team held Nate Mason (Minnesota) – Team CP3’s most dynamic scorer who had 26 in his team’s first-round win over PrimeTime Players – to just four points.
The point is, against a pretty solid Team CP3, Golden Eagles had their way, looking quite clearly as the better team for nearly every minute of the game. There is a definite advantage for the team having been together for past TBTs and some of the roster previously playing with each other in college at Marquette. But that wouldn’t get this team nearly as far if it didn’t have the talent it does on both sides of the ball. There could be some blemishes – turnovers were a bit of an issue for Golden Eagles against Team CP3 – but this team proved why it is considered one of the favorites to win the $1 million.
Team Brotherly Love had the easiest road to the quarterfinals in TBT 2020. You might be thinking to yourself, “Justin, I don’t remember them playing a second game. What gives, huh?” Well, a player for Eberlein Drive tested positive for coronavirus the day before the two teams were set to match up in the Sweet 16, sending the higher seed home and moving Team Brotherly Love on to the next round.
Whether the extra time off and one fewer game will serve as an advantage or disadvantage for Team Brotherly Love when it takes on Golden Eagles, I don’t know. In fact, it might not matter at all. Who knows?
I do know that I’m pumped to watch Khalif Wyatt, Ramone Moore and D.J. Newbill play again, though, after what they did to Stillwater Stars in the first round. Wyatt had 27, Moore put up 24, and Newbill’s 13 points were a relatively quiet night considering what he’s capable of. This team showed us in the first game exactly what should have been expected of them: tough, hard-nosed Philadelphia basketball with a love of contact and a knack for putting the ball in the basket.
Golden Eagles should provide better defensive resistance for Team Brotherly Love than Stillwater Stars did, but the offensive weapons on this squad are also more widespread and flat-out better than what Team CP3 threw at the Marquette alumni. I’m not predicting an upset necessarily, but I’d be surprised if this game’s Elam Ending doesn’t have palpable drama.
8 Red Scare (Dayton alumni) vs. 16 House of ‘Paign (Illinois alumni) (4 p.m., ESPN)
Red Scare put its foot down on Big X at the of their contest, blitzing its opponent with a 14-0 run that bled deep into the Elam Ending. By the time Vitto Brown (Wisconsin) hit two triples to bring Big X within six, it was already too late. A Ryan Mikesell (Dayton) three confirmed that shortly after.
Big X gave the Dayton alumni quite the fight, though. The Big Ten-themed team was up 38-33 at the break and had a 57-55 edge late in the third quarter. Not until there were fewer than five minutes remaining did either team open up a two-possession lead.
An extremely balanced scoring attack from Red Scare was crucial to its success as four players scoring in double figures and seven chipped in at least six points. Trevor Thompson (Ohio State) was an animal inside, notching 12 points and seven bounds, plus serving a vital role of cleaning up the glass enough in the face of fantastic rebounders like Nick Ward (Michigan State) and Brown on the other side. Mikesell and Ryan McMahon (Louisville) were responsible for four triples each, giving Red Scare multiple solid options from deep to spread the floor, and Darrell Davis (Dayton) led the team in scoring with 15. In all, Red Scare’s bench outscored Big X’s, 28-15, and bashed its opposition in second-chance points, 17-6.
“We’ve got a lot of shooters,” Davis said. “We just kept at it and got the win.”
Those are all signs of a serious team that should be considered a contender to win it all. A team with this deep in a tournament like this one, which is the first high-level basketball a lot of these guys have played in months, has a massive advantage. Red Scare used that well against Big X. Will it against House of ‘Paign?
The Illinois alumni pulled off one of the biggest upsets in TBT history, let alone in TBT 2020, by eliminating top-seeded Carmen’s Crew, 76-68, in the Sweet 16. To knock off the reigning champs, House of ‘Paign needed a big night Mike Daum and for someone else to step up and give him some serious help, and that’s exactly what happened.
Daum had 23 points and eight rebounds to add to a long list of incredible performances he’s had in his career while wearing a number of different jerseys. The guy puts the ball in the basket, it’s that simple. He finds ways to score even when it doesn’t make sense. He makes contested, pull-up, mid-range jumpers, my most-reviled shot in basketball, look automatic. His length doesn’t stop him from effectively driving the lane; he knows precisely how to use his body to get around defenders in his way. And did I mention he can stroke it, too, so you can’t be complacent and sag off him. He will kill you in the pick-and-pop like he did against Carmen’s Crew. In all honesty, I don’t know how you guard this guy.
“I was just focused on one possession at a time,” Daum said. “Each possession is so important for us. I thought our guys did such a good job of being present and being in the moment. We were so focused on what we needed to do to finish the game. Our guys did such a good job of doing what we needed to do to finish it.”
He wasn’t the only ‘Paigner who brought a punch. Andres Feliz (Illinois) operated on another level, putting up 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists while mostly guarded by Aaron Craft (Ohio State), one of the greatest college defenders of the decade and still a defensive stalwart. Kyle Vinales (Central Connecticut State) showed off why he’s one of the most underrated players in the tournament, scoring 15 through acrobatic floaters and tough kisses off the glass from angles that didn’t make sense. And Malcolm Hill (Illinois) provided a solid backup scoring option with his 11 points, too.
The biggest takeaway for me from that game: Carmen’s Crew looked old, slow and lethargic, while House of ‘Paign looked young, energetic and willing. Red Scare’s roster has a different makeup from Carmen’s Crew, and House of ‘Paign isn’t going to find itself facing another team with the average age pushing 30. But if it plays the same way it did for the rest of TBT 2020, House of ‘Paign could absolutely win this thing, particularly if Daum keeps being himself.