We inch closer and closer to the start of the 2021 edition of The Basketball Tournament. The biggest signpost for us, the Marquette fan, and thus Golden Eagles fan for TBT purposes, is the release of the roster for the 2020 TBT champions.
That happened on Monday, as Golden Eagles tweeted out the roster..... but not the finalized roster.
As you can see, there’s a big ol “(so far)” in that tweet, so we’ll wait to see what addition is made before TBT drops the hammer and says that rosters are officially locked. The most obvious answer to the question here is Travis Diener, aka The Guy Who Hit The 2020 TBT Elam Ender. In fact, the official TBT account actually tweeted out a version of this roster image that included Diener, going so far as to using a still of Diener shooting said TBT Elam Ender as his picture. If you click through there, you’ll notice that the original TBT tweet has been deleted and replaced with one that’s using the same picture as you see above from the official Golden Eagles account.
If I recall correctly, Diener went on the TBT podcast after winning the whole shebang last summer and declared that the MU guys would be returning to defend their title. I remember that in particular because it was funny due to the fact that General Manager Dan Fitzgerald and Head Coach Joe Chapman just signed Diener up to play last year without actually talking to Diener first.
Anyway, we’ll see what happens, I guess. The squad only needs seven confirmed players by Noon Eastern on June 15th (that’s tomorrow as I type this), but they have up until 72 hours before their first game in regional play to add players. Golden Eagles is already at 11 players listed and they can have up to 18 as long as they pay a $1,000 per player fee, at least according to the official rules. When you’ve already won $1 million in TBT, it probably gets a lot easier to pay said fee.
The roster is loaded up with guys returning from last year’s title run: Jamil Wilson, Dwight Buycks, Andrew Rowsey, Derrick Wilson, Maurice Acker, Luke Fischer, Elgin Cook, and Jarvis Williams. Quite honestly, they could go into battle with just those guys and still have a pretty good shot at pulling off the win again this year.
There are a trio of new names to the TBT squad this year though, and the biggest one is, quite obviously, Vander Blue. Darius Johnson-Odom was on the championship team a year ago, but it appears that he suffered a late season injury with his club team over in France and will be rehabbing from that in order to bounce back for next season. Blue is a “so obvious, it’s stupid” replacement for DJO. The Madison, Wisconsin, native played for three seasons for Marquette, averaging 9.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game in his 106 career appearances. He snagged a couple of cups of coffee in the NBA between 2013 and 2018, appearing in three games for the Celtics and seven games for the Lakers. He compiled a wildly successful G-League career across seven seasons with eight different teams, appearing in 239 total games. He has averaged 20.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in those games while shooting 35% from long range. Blue is one of the most prolific G-League players ever, as he currently ranks second on the all-time scoring chart, just 213 points behind all-time leader Renaldo Major.
In the “non-MU guys” department, Fitzgerald and Chapman have added Matt Lojeski and David Moss. Lojeski is a Wisconsin guy, having been born in Racine and attended St. Catherine’s. The 6’6”, 205 pound guard/forward started out his collegiate career at Eastern Wyoming in the junior college ranks before transferring to Hawaii for two seasons. He played and started in 59 games for the Rainbow Warriors, averaging 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals. Back in 2005-07, Lojeski shot 38% from long range in college, so that’s a pretty valuable skill to add to the team. He has played for six different clubs over in Europe since 2007, playing first in Belgium and then in Greece. His Basketball Reference page only lists stats for his time in Greece since 2012, but hey, that’s also the most current and thus most interesting stats for our purposes here. For whatever reason, it doesn’t tally up his games played, but it shows Lojeski averaging 9.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists while shooting 44% from behind the arc, including a 48% in 14 games for AEK Athens in 2020-21.
David Moss is a 2002 graduate of Thornwood High School in South Holland, Illinois and he attended Indiana State after that. He started in almost all of his 108 appearances in 2002-06, averaging 14.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals while shooting 37% from long range back before long range shooting became a very big deal. Much like Lojeski, he has an extensive playing career in Europe, playing for seven clubs along the way, most of them in Italy. His BBRef page tracks his games since 2008, and over that serious stretch of time, he has averaged 8.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.2 steals while playing for six different teams. The 6’5”, 220 pound Moss has shot 39% while playing in Europe, so that’s pretty good.
It appears that Golden Eagles is being placed into the Illinois Regional for TBT this summer, which means that games will be played at the Peoria Civic Center in Peoria, IL. The first round at that Regional will kick off on July 24 with the regional championship coming on July 28th. As of right this second, Golden Eagles is not officially accepted to play, as only House of ‘Paign, the Illinois alumni team, and Always A Brave, the Bradley alumni team, are listed on the Illinois Regional page. Let’s be honest, though: TBT ain’t running this thing without their defending champs as long as said defending champs are willing to play.