Who’s ready for some basketball?
Today, this afternoon to be specific, the 2020 edition of The Basketball Tournament kicks off LIVE on ESPN from Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. We’re getting real live hoops —four games worth! — with the always popular Elam Ending broadcast on the World Wide Leader in Sports. What’s not to like?
For the purposes of being a Marquette sports blog, we do have a particular interest in one of the four games that will be played today. Golden Eagles, the MU alumni team, will play the winner of the 13/20 game that starts at 9pm Central time tonight. That’s Team CP3 in the favored by seed position spot facing off against PrimeTime Players. Obviously, the big name for Team CP3 is general manager Chris Paul, but he won’t be playing. The team is loaded up with guys who played Division 1 hoops up and down the mid-Atlantic area, and as you might expect with Chris Paul involved, there are three guys who also suited up at Wake Forest on the roster. I’ll be quite honest with you: None of the names jump out at you right away in terms of star power, so we’ll see what they bring to the table.
On the other end of the court from Team CP3 is PrimeTime Players. I’m just going to drop in this team description from TBT’s website as written by team general manager Chris Thomas:
“The PrimeTime Players are a minor league basketball team and founding member of the East Coast Basketball League (ECBL). The team has a 29-year history playing in various leagues, tournaments, and college exhibitions. We have played at least 100 games a year since 1998 in an effort to advance our players’ playing careers at home and abroad. Our current core of players have played at least 700 games together and we believe we can compete with any team every time we step on the floor. The PrimeTime Players are seven-time minor league champions having won the Tobacco Road Basketball League (TRBL) in 2012, 2013, 2014, and the East Coast Basketball League in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.”
Alrighty then. There’s several dudes from Wingate University on this roster, which is interesting, I suppose. If these guys are as familiar with playing with each other as Mr. Thomas says that they are, then that would give them a big leg up on the competition. One of the things that TBT has proven over and over again is that this is an extremely high level event. If you are not prepared to play high level basketball when you step on the court, then you are going to get wrecked. Along the same lines, if you come in with some level of continuity with each other, it’s going to give you a huge boost over a squad that’s just throwing some shirts on some guys on game day.
That one will actually be the final game of the day. TBT kicks off today with #9 Big X, the top seeded team that did not get a bye to the second round, facing off against #24 D2, the lowest seeded team in the field. I’m actually curious to see how the announcers deal with Big X as a team name, as they’re a primarily a group of guys that attended Big Ten schools. Thus, that X is actually the Roman numeral for ten, but they can’t actually be called Big Ten for reasons. Hilariously, I think the biggest name on their roster is actually Butler grad Kellen Dunham, so way to stick to the theme there, guys. D2 is a bunch of dudes who played Division 2 hoops in college, so by nature of the deal there, there aren’t any big names on the roster. These guys have been scratching together pro careers in one way or another, so it’s not like they’re a bunch of goofs, either.
Game #2 on the afternoon will pit #12 seed Brotherly Love against #21 Stillwater Stars. As you may have guessed, the Stars are the Oklahoma State alumni team. Le’Bryan Nash averaged at least 13 points per game in every season in Stillwater, but the most familiar name on their roster to MU fans is most likely former Kansas guard and one time Marquette recruit Tyshawn Taylor. Stillwater Stars has just seven players listed on their roster, and that’s an immediate problem for TBT. Granted, given the pandemic situation involved, odds are that if you’ve committed to play, you’re going to show up. However, we’ve seen problems in the past with guys not being available for the first round, and with only seven guys, if that happens here, that’s a bad deal for the OSU squad. Brotherly Love’s theme is obvious: They’re Philadelphia area guys. There’s three names on the roster that should stand out to you: Khalif Wyatt, Maurice Watson, and D.J. Newbill. Wyatt averaged 14.5 points, 2.5 reobunds, and 2.7 assists in a four year career at Temple, including 21/3/4 as a senior. Maurice Watson started his college career at Boston University before transferring to spend his final two years at Creighton. He was averaging 13/3/9 and shooting 47% from deep as a senior before blowing his knee out after 19 games. Newbill is, of course, the Strawberry Mansion product that signed to play at Marquette and then was just cast aside by Buzz Williams because Jamil Wilson was going to transfer back home. After tearing it up at Southern Miss on short notice, Newbill transferred to Penn State for his final three years, averaging 18.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists for the Nittany Lions.
The last game that we haven’t talked about yet is #16 House of ‘Paign against #17 War Tampa. The slightly punny team name for HOP should tip you off to the fact that they’re the Illinois alumni team. Weirdly, there aren’t any Illini names that jump off the page on their roster, but they do have Mike Daum and Billy Garrett. Daum was a four year superstar for South Dakota State, and Garrett was one of the best guys to come through DePaul during their time in the Big East. War Tampa is a fascinating team name, as it smashes together a bunch of guys who went to Auburn with a group of guys who are from Florida, presumably specifically the Tampa area. The biggest name that jumps off the page for me is actually a guy from Orlando: Fletcher Magee. The Wofford product shot over 41% from long range in all four seasons while suiting up for the Terriers, and so I’ll be interested in watching him attempt to tack on to his already formidable legend.
So that’s what’s up for Day 1. Four games today will be followed by four games tomorrow to finish out the first round, and then the Marquette guys will be in action on Monday night as we start a run of seven straight days with two TBT games for our viewing pleasure.
The Basketball Tournament 2020 Day 1
All games on ESPN
All times Central.
2pm: #9 Big X vs #24 D2
4pm: #12 Brotherly Love vs #21 Stillwater Stars
7pm: #16 House of ‘Paign vs #17 War Tampa
9pm: #13 Team CP3 vs #20 PrimeTime Players