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TBT quarterfinals preview 2021

TBT Quarterfinals Preview: Who Will Take Home $1 Million?

The 2021 TBT quarterfinals are Saturday, with the semifinals set for Sunday and the ultimate game scheduled for Tuesday. There are just eight teams eligible for the $1 million grand prize. Where is that money going?

Let’s take a look at all four of the quarterfinals contests, how the teams got to Dayton, and what they’ll need to do to reach their lucrative goal.

Featured photo courtesy of Ben Solomon.

2021 TBT Quarterfinals Preview

All times Eastern.

5 Florida TNT vs. 2 AfterShocks – Wichita Region Final, 12 p.m.

How They Got Here

Florida TNT: defeated No. 12 seed Kimchi Express, 83-59; defeated No. 4 seed LA Cheaters, 92-85; defeated No. 1 seed Eberlein Drive, 74-67.

AfterShocks: defeated No. 15 seed Ex-Pats, 60-53; defeated No. 10 seed Omaha Blue Crew, 76-73; defeated No. 3 seed Team Challenge ALS, 69-65.

Players to Watch

Florida TNT: The Florida TNT backcourt is wicked, and with how Kenny Boynton has been shooting so far in TBT 2021, he’s the one to watch in the quarterfinals. He’s 11-of-22 from beyond the arc through three games, including five triples in the second round against LA Cheaters. As a team, Florida TNT scores a lot of points from deep and shoots at a good clip from deep (38 percent so far). Boynton is one of the big pieces of that, plus he’s been a valuable contributor on the glass and general scorer.

AfterShocks: The Elam Ending is everything in TBT, and we’ve seen Conner Frankamp come through in a major way multiple times in this tournament already during the closing sequence of games. Even against Team Challenge ALS, he didn’t have his best game, but he was there at the end to make the game winner when it was required. He’s a PTPer through and through, and he’s a always liable to go off like he did in the second round against Omaha Blue Crew when he scored 24 points and shot 10-of-15 from the field, plus dished five dimes.

Keys to the Game

AfterShocks won’t have the home-crowd advantage it did in the first three rounds, which were massively helpful in sneaky by a handful of extremely tight games. That little extra energy the fans gave them won’t be there, so they’ll have to self-generate that drive and enthusiasm. Without that, Florida TNT will move on.

Beyond that, though, running Florida TNT off the three-point line and keeping its guards in check will be a huge deal. If the Florida TNT frontcourt beats you, then so be it, but you can’t let Boynton and Chris Warren do what they want.

AfterShocks have shown a weakness at the free-throw line, shooting just 59 percent in the second round and 61 percent in the third round on 40 total attempts across the two contests. That’s a lot of points left on the floor, and it can be area Florida TNT can exploit if AfterShocks don’t clean it up. Markis McDuffie in particular has been getting to the line with his aggressive drives, but he’s only shot 8-of-16 from the charity stripe. He in particular needs to capitalize on his opportunities at the line in this game.

3 Boeheim’s Army vs. 1 Golden Eagles – Illinois Region Final, 2 p.m.

How They Got Here

Boeheim’s Army: defeated No. 14 seed Forces of Seoul, 65-53; defeated No. 11 seed Team HEARTFIRE, 68-62; defeated No. 7 seed Always a Brave, 69-54.

Golden Eagles: defeated No. 16 seed B1 Ballers, 94-66; defeated No. 9 seed Playing for Jimmy V, 71-64; defeated No. 5 seed Autism Army, 88-75.

Players to Watch

Boeheim’s Army: There are so many players to watch on this team that is technically a Syracuse alumni squad. Boeheim’s Army had a different player step up in each of its first three games, but I’ll name Tyrese Rice as the player to watch for how much his performance can impact this contest. Rice had 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field against Forces of Seoul, but he shot a combined 25 percent (5-of-20) from the floor in the second and third rounds. He’s capable of blowing up for 20-plus on any given night, and Boeheim’s Army has so much talent that it’s survived even with him having two off scoring games. But can this team escape a team like Golden Eagles with Rice shooting 3-of-12 again like he did versus Team HEARTFIRE? I’m not sure.

Golden Eagles: This squad is loaded with weapons, which is part of why it’s the defending champs. I’ll call Elgin Cook the player to watch, though. You’d be hard pressed to find a player who has been more efficient from the floor than Cook in this tournament – through three games, he’s shot a ridiculous 85.2 percent (23-of-27) from the floor. He’s so adept at scoring around the rim and utilizing his long arms to maneuver the ball around defenders to get a finger roll off. He’s an important piece to Golden Eagles’ rebounding attack, too, and we know how important securing possessions is in a single-elimination format.

Keys to the Game

Golden Eagles will attempt at least 30 three-pointers in every game (their totals so far are 31, 32, and 31 attempts). They’re generally pretty good at connecting on enough of them, shooting a team average of 38.3 percent (36-of-94) from beyond the arc in TBT 2021 so far. If Boeheim’s Army can contest well enough and keep Golden Eagles from connecting on 10 or more attempts from deep, that would be a huge defensive win.

I already touched on Tyrese Rice, but Boeheim’s Army needs more from him than what it’s been getting to get by Golden Eagles. Boeheim’s Army has beat everyone in front of it so far, and that’s great, but it’s yet to come up against a team even close to the caliber of Golden Eagles, a true juggernaut in this event. If Boeheim’s Army is to escape the TBT quarterfinals, Rice can’t only connect on one-fourth of his shot attempts.

Boeheim’s Army has held its opponents to an average of 56.3 points per game so far this tournament. That’s ridiculously low, even for 32-minute-plus-Elam-Ending games. On the flip side, Golden Eagles is averaging 84.3 points per contest heading into the TBT quarterfinals. So, what will give? Sure, it’s broad to say that how one team’s defense does against the other team’s offense is a key to a game. But when you’re talking about one of the best defensive teams versus one of the best offensive teams in the entire tournament, you have to think that how the game goes when Golden Eagles has the ball will have a massive impact on who advances to the semifinals.

6 Team 23 vs. 1 Sideline Cancer – West Virginia Region Final, 7 p.m.

How They Got Here

Team 23: defeated No. 11 seed Georgia Kingz, 91-64; defeated No. 3 seed Herd That, 74-71; defeated No. 2 seed Best Virginia, 75-67.

Sideline Cancer: defeated No. 16 seed Founding Fathers, 80-77; defeated No. 9 seed Fort Wayne Champs, 92-71; defeated No. 12 seed Bucketneers, 58-57.

Players to Watch

Team 23: It’s tough to nail down one player to watch, because Team 23 goes super deep and has had different players step up in different games so far (which is a big reason why it’s in the TBT quarterfinals). But I’ll go with Raphiael Putney. He’s an extremely accomplished pro player, holding the all-time lead in blocks in NBA G-League history and spanning eight countries in his overseas career. The 6-foot-10 forward is a defensive stalwart who can command the glass and score at a decent clip, too. If he has a big game, it’ll be absolutely massive for Team 23.

Sideline Cancer: Do you watch TBT? Then you know the answer is Marcus Keene. Even when he doesn’t have a good game by his standards, he still kills you in the Elam Ending, a la Sideline Cancer’s third round game against Bucketneers where he hit the long-distance dagger. He can blow up for 20 points or more any time he touches a TBT court, and if Sideline Cancer escapes the quarterfinals, he’s the most likely candidate to hit the game-winning shot (and a lot of other shots, too).

Keys to the Game

Keeping Keane in at least relative check will be crucial for Team 23. It’s a team that prides itself on what it does on the defensive end, but it has given up points to star guards in this tournament, like when Jon Elmore put up 28 in the second round. That’s not to say Elmore and Keane are exact replicas of one another, but if Keane is allowed to score like that, it will be extremely difficult for Team 23 to overcome.

What Team 23 has in abundance, though, is depth, which is very helpful in a tournament like this. Team 23 has given minutes to 13 different players in all three of its games and can comfortably go 10 deep. Sideline Cancer isn’t a shallow team, but it keeps its minutes limited to fewer players than Team 23. Both teams won’t have played in almost two weeks by the time they meet Saturday, but if fatigue becomes a factor, Team 23 looks to have fresher legs to work with.

Neither of these teams are dominant on the glass, but possessions are everything in single-elimination tournaments, especially in the Elam Ending. Who will win the battle on the boards: Putney, Daniel Ochefu, and Teams 23, or Eric Thompson, Maxie Esho, and Sideline Cancer?

Something else to watch: Marc Hughes and Charlie Parker are two of the best coaches in TBT, let alone in the quarterfinals. This game won’t just be a battle on the court; it’ll be a chess match on the sidelines, too.

6 Blue Collar U vs. 5 The Money Team – Columbus Region Final, 9 p.m.

How They Got Here

Blue Collar U: defeated No. 11 seed The Nerd Team, 88-82; defeated No. 3 seed Zip ‘Em Up, 93-83; defeated No. 10 seed Category 5, 78-61.

The Money Team: defeated No. 12 seed The Region, 86-71; defeated No. 4 seed Team Hines, 93-76; defeated No. 1 seed Carmen’s Crew, 91-89.

Players to Watch

Blue Collar U: Wes Clark was Blue Collar U’s best player in the first two rounds, but a leg injury late in the first half against Category 5 in the third round took him out of that contest and has his questionable for this weekend. He told an ESPN sideline reporter during the game that he doesn’t think he experienced a serious tear and wants to play in the TBT quarterfinals, but who knows if that will happen. Therefore, C.J. Massinburg, who helped fill the void left by Clark to close out Category 5 and was already one of the team’s best players. If Clark is unable to go, Massinburg immediately becomes the top aggressor for Blue Collar U and will have the ball in his hands much more than he already did.

The Money Team: Xavier Munford took over the fourth quarter against Carmen’s Crew, scoring 13 points in the period. That included four of The Money Team’s final five points and the Elam Ending winner. Carmen’s Crew had absolutely no response for him, which should illustrate just how dominant he can be. He had an impressive performance versus Team Hines as well, shooting 8-of-11 from the floor (3-of-3 from deep and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line) for 23 points. If he’s that efficient a scorer in the TBT quarterfinals, TMT will have a very good chance at advancing.

Keys to the Game

The biggest elephant in the room: will Wes Clark play? If he doesn’t, Blue Collar U will have a much harder time getting out of the TBT quarterfinals, though with how well this squad plays as a unit offensively and defensively, it would still be possible. Still, you have to think his ability to play will have a massive impact on how this game is played and likely its outcome, too.

Blue Collar U plays with the same style as those Nate Oats Buffalo teams did in the mid-to-late 2010s: threes, layups, and transition. It’s yet to shoot below 40 percent from beyond the arc in this tournament, and they don’t always even attempt that many – against Zip ‘Em Up in the second round, Blue Collar U took just 23 triples, but it connected on 10. It’s a pick your poison situation where you either lay off shooters to pack the paint or stay disciplined on the perimeter and sacrifice lanes to the basket, but The Money Team needs to do what it can to limit Blue Collar U’s effectiveness from three.

Jordan Crawford’s distribution is a big reason why The Money Team is in the TBT quarterfinals. He’s averaged 7.7 assists per game through three games, and his court vision has provided TMT with an excellent catalyst offensively. He hasn’t been the most efficient shooter, but if he’s allowed to pick apart the defense like he’s capable of, Blue Collar U will give up more points than it would like. How well he can spread the ball around and find open shooters will affect the final of this one.

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