THE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT 2019
#1 Golden Eagles vs #1 Carmen’s Crew
It all comes down to this.
64 teams started in the 2019 iteration of The Basketball Tournament on July 19th. One by one, 62 of them, including four-time defending champion Overseas Elite, have been knocked down and swept away.
Only two remain. On one side, Golden Eagles, the Marquette Golden Eagles alumni team and champions of the Wichita regional. On the other, Carmen’s Crew, the Ohio State Buckeyes alumni team and champions of the Columbus regional. One team will walk away from Wintrust Arena on Tuesday night splitting the $2 million prize. The other will watch the winner’s Elam Ending shot go through the net and get nothing.
So, yeah, there’s some stakes involved in this thing.
It’s the first ever TBT title game appearance for Golden Eagles, although they have been inching closer to this point since the first time they entered the tournament. The Marquette squad has reached at least the quarterfinals in every single TBT that they’ve been in, including a trip to the semifinals last year and now this title game appearance. I think it’s safe to consider them to be a yearly powerhouse in the event at this point, and adding the first non-Overseas Elite title since the inaugural edition of TBT would only solidify that point.
The Golden Eagles core is strong and prepared for all manner of opponents. Jamil Wilson, Elgin Cook, and Dwight Buycks provide a three-headed monster of scoring possibilities, not to mention the rebounding possibilities that Cook and Wilson displayed on Sunday afternoon in the semifinals. The supporting cast around the trio is patently absurd, if you think about it. Maurice Acker has been a spark off the bench for head coach Joe Chapman, connecting on three straight triples at one point against Team Hines on Sunday. Travis Diener popped in after his load management through the first weekend of TBT and has been his usual dangerous as hell self, including scoring six of the eight Elam Ending points that Golden Eagles needed in the semifinals. Mix in various contributions from Derrick Wilson, Mo Charlo, Trend Blackledge, and it’s a strong roster. We can say that without getting a big performance from Andrew Rowsey, who joined the team for the first time this summer. It wasn’t crazy to think that Rowsey might light up scoreboards all over the place, given how his collegiate career went, but as of yet, he hasn’t quite gotten his shooting on track.
Here’s the rundown on the full Carmen’s Crew roster according to their team page:
Running the show from the sidelines is head coach Jared Sullinger, assistant coach Evan Turner, and general manager Scoonie Penn. I presume you recognize a name or three on that list.
Carmen’s Crew sailed fairly easily to the regional championship in Columbus, picking up wins by margins of 17, 14, and 14 points. Things kicked into high gear for them once they reached Chicago for the quarterfinals. In back-to-back games, the bracket handed the Ohio State guys both sides of 2018’s TBT title game. First it was runner-up Eberlein Drive, fresh off winning the Salt Lake City regional. They busted that game wide open in the third quarter, leading by 23 at one point before fending off ED by eight at the end.
Next up was a date with history, as Carmen’s Crew faced Overseas Elite. OE came in as the four-time defending TBT champions and riding a 29 game winning streak in the event. The Ohio State guys jumped out to an early lead, going up as many as 13 points in the second quarter. But the lead was down to just five at halftime, and Overseas Elite showed exactly why they had won four TBT titles by taking a lead in the fourth quarter. The two teams were tied at 63 heading into the Elam Ending, which you don’t see all that often. Carmen’s Crew saved their best for last in that one, outscoring the champs 8-3, including scoring the first six points of the Elam Ending to give them the cushion and comfort they needed for David Lighty to make this heads-up play to survive and advance.
Four Ohio State guys scored in double figures in that game, so the Golden Eagles defense will be tested on Tuesday night. Lighty’s 18 led the way, but it did take him 17 shots to get there. William Buford added 15, Jeff Gibbs had 12, and Jon Diebler chipped in 10. The Marquette squad will need to defend out to the three-point line all over the court, as Carmen’s Crew knocked in 40% of their long range shots to beat Overseas Elite. Diebler and Buford alone combined to go 6-for-11, so they can not be left unattended. Aaron Craft had just three assists running the show, but he had seven steals. Golden Eagles will have to be steady and sure with their ball-handling to avoid things going the other way in a hurry.