Golden Eagles has reached their third straight semifinals in The Basketball Tournament! Was there ever any doubt? #8 seed Red Scare, a team of mostly Dayton alumni, have the honor of playing Golden Eagles in what should be one hell of a basketball game. The Red Scare have gotten to this point by handily beating #9 seed Big X, 77-68, in the Super 16 and then eliminating my second favorite team in the TBT, House of ‘Paign, in the quarterfinals.
Before we dive in too deep, let’s take a look at what happened in yesterday’s quarterfinal action on the other side of the bracket. #2 seed Overseas Elite had too much firepower for #23 Herd That and breezed by them, 93-76. After sticking around and only being down 1 point at the half, Herd That could not keep up with Iso Joe Johnson’s outstanding performance. The seven time NBA All-Star finished with 35 points connecting on 5 of his 6 three-pointers and added 7 rebounds plus 5 assists. Those 35 points are a tournament high this year! Simply put, Iso Joe playing in the TBT is just unfair, and you can see why he’s not officially retired from the Association. Meanwhile, the fabled Elmore brothers had a great run in the tournament but only one of the two played well against OE. Jon Elmore led Herd That with 23 points in a losing effort. Fan favorite Ot Elmore was held to just two points by OE.
In the other quarterfinal game of the day, #22 Sideline Cancer upset #3 Boeheim’s Army in a very low-scoring and scrappy game. In fact, the final score of 65-48 broke the record for the lowest combined score in a game in TBT history. This was in large part because there was a lid on the basket for both teams in the early going and the game was knotted up at 10 at the end of the first quarter. This prompted the following tweet from the AE twitter account:
It was not good.
Things did not get better quickly, as it was tied at 24 at the half, but Sideline Cancer found their mojo in the second half and quickly pulled away from BA. At one point in the fourth quarter one of the announcers said, “that basket ends a 9 minute drought without a made field goal for Boeheim’s Army,” which I found hilarious. The Syracuse guys shot 30% from the field and attempted 27 three-pointers to no avail as only four went in in the basket. Sometimes it’s just not your day. Maurice Creek led Sideline Cancer with 22 points while Eric Thompson dominated the paint hauling in 18 rebounds. Bravo to him for taking advantage of all of those Boeheim’s Army misses. They’ll face the 4-time TBT winner Overseas Elite in the other semifinal game.
Okay, let’s get into what’s in store for the Marquette guys today. Golden Eagles’ semifinal opponent is the Dayton alumni team named Red Scare. On Friday afternoon, they took down House of ‘Paign by a final score of 83-76. That doesn’t tell the whole story as the Dayton alumni were up 12 when the Elam Ending began and led by as many as 22 earlier in the game. House of ‘Paign went on a 13-0 run in the Elam Ending to make Red Scare really nervous and all the sudden prone to taking bad shots.
In the end, they survived the Elam Ending in large part by neutralizing House of Paign’s biggest threat Mike Daum. The Dauminator had a poor performance for his standards and was held to just 12 points. You can thank shooting guard Trey Landers for that as he showed great poise and defended Daum exquisitely throughout the game. Daum was in contention for player of the tournament after scoring 20+ points in each of the first two games. Also remember that this House of ‘Paign squad knocked off the #1 seed Carmen’s Crew on Wednesday afternoon. So, how did Red Scare cripple House of ‘Paign?
Aside from taking Daum out of the game, 2020 Dayton graduate Trey Landers was also hot from the field leading the way for Red Scare with 19 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. He was one of five players in double-digits as the Red Scare did a great job of spreading the ball around and getting everyone quality scoring chances. The two Ryan’s, Ryan McMahon and Ryan Mikesell, had 16 each while 7’0” center Trevor Thompson and forward Devin Oliver rounded out the scoring party with 15 and 10 respectively. In the Super 16 matchup against Big X, McMahon, Mikesell, and Thompson got into double-digits with 12, 14, and 12 points respectively. In that one, it was guard Darell Davis who led the way in this one with 15 points and dishing 4 assists. It’s anyone’s guess as to who will come out firing in the semifinals matchup against Golden Eagles. One thing we know is that the Red Scare will have a healthy balanced offense with multiple players likely to reach double-digits in scoring. The good news for Marquette fans as well as for fans of entertaining basketball is that Dayton fans could say the same thing about the Golden Eagles’ roster.
The announcers calling the Red Scare games thus far have not been shy to mention that the Dayton alumni have a little extra motivation in this tournament since the Flyers weren’t able to compete in the 2020 NCAA Tournament. If you’ll recall, Dayton was very clearly on their way to earning a #1 seed in the bracket, which would have been the first #1 seed in program history. I know it seems like eons ago, but the coronavirus pandemic cancelled March Madness and basically everything else that brings us joy on this planet for over three months. This isn’t just “oh, the Dayton guys want to do something big to rep for their program” because both Landers and Mikesell played for the Flyers last season alongside the Player of the Year Obi Toppin. Thankfully for our purposes here, Toppin isn’t on the Red Scare as he is preparing for the NBA draft.
The Red Scare have a lot of size and athleticism with six of their eight players measuring 6’5” or taller. I envision Golden Eagles head coach Joe Chapman to counter this length by playing a lineup of Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, Elgin Cook, Jamil Wilson and Jarvis Williams. I also expect to see a bit more of Luke Fischer and Mo Charlo than we have in the previous two games. For the younger Marquette fans who are dying to see #TheThing, unfortunately this is not the game for Andrew Rowsey to get a lot (if any) playing time. It’s unlikely we’ll see Travis Diener either as he was “nursing a calf” injury and missed Friday’s game against Team Brotherly Love.
It’s difficult to game plan when five Red Scare players have shown they can drop 15 points a game. This will be one of those games where the Golden Eagles will have to adjust to whichever Red Scare player has the hot hand and play disciplined team defense to extinguish the proverbial flames. Joe Chapman has done a tremendous job in this tournament of in-game coaching. I can say this confidently because without fans you can basically hear everything the coaches and players are saying. He’ll have his hands full in this one as Red Scare have a wealth of scoring threats and play great defense. Despite taking a nap for a while in the Elam Ending, Red Scare held House of ‘Paign to 39% shooting from the field and a meager 26% from three. Additionally, HOP only registered 8 assists the entire game.
DJO leads the way with 19.5 points per game in the tournament. That’s some stellar recruiting by Chapman and general manager Dan Fitzgerald to bring him back into the fold this time around, eh? It’s worth noting that Johnson-Odom has primarily done his damage in the first half of both of Golden Eagles’ games so far. This isn’t a complaint, per se, as the MU guys have a number of options. However, if DJO puts together two great halves, then watch out. Buycks and Wilson are not far behind averaging 15.5 and 14.5 points thus far. Buycks also leads the team in assists with 3.5 per while Wilson is the rebounding leader with 7.0. Expect this trio to step up with similar production against Red Scare with a trip to a second straight title game on the line where they’ll most definitely be counted on to make baskets.
I see a lot of similarities between the Golden Eagles and the Red Scare. Both teams have multiple players that can get buckets and play excellent defense. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle in this one and I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes down to a one possession game in the Elam Ending with next shot wins situation for the victory. I just hope the good guys have the final say in this one.
You can tell from interviews with Diener and DJO that the Golden Eagles recognize that this is the best TBT team they’ve assembled. It’s clear that this team is itching to lift that TBT trophy after a runner-up finish last season. We’ll see if the Golden Eagles can get one step closer this afternoon.
Be sure to keep your TV/streaming device on after the Marquette guys are done playing. The second semifinal game comes on right afterwards, with #2 Overseas Elite and #22 Sideline Cancer facing off to decide the other side of Tuesday night’s title game.