How has everybody been enjoying the first two days of The Basketball Tournament? Has the Elam Ending been a hoot and a half to watch as always, he says, intentionally trying to rile up the people who really hate it for some reason?
TBT is back today with another batch of eight games, four each in the Wichita and West Virginia Regionals. It’s all second round games in Wichita while the WV set is the second half of the first round. Half of the Wichita games are between teams that played back on Friday, while the other pair are being contested between teams that had to play yesterday to get here for another win-or-go-home game on the path to a potential $1 million prize at the end of the rainbow. Does a day off to rest help? Does it hurt? Will teams with deeper benches prevail? Who can say, unless you watch today’s games!
Here’s the schedule for the day. All times Central, of course.
1pm: #3 Challenge ALS vs #6 Team Arkansas, ESPN3
Challenge ALS got here with a 67-60 victory over We Are D3 in the first round. They overcame shooting just 13% from behind the arc and just 38% overall thanks to a 21 point, seven rebound, three assist performance from Marvelle Harris. Deshawn Stephens (12 points) was the only other Challenge player to crack double digits, and he chipped in 10 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
Team Arkansas had to fend off Fort Worth Funk in a first round game that was still up in the air during the Elam Ending. C.J. Jones put the Razorback alumni up eight at the start of the untimed finale with a three right before the clock turned off, but a layup by J.D. Miller knotted the whole deal at 68, six points shy of the Target Score. Miller tied it again at 70, which nearly brought that deal to “next basket wins” territory, but a free throw from Hunter Mickelson and a three from Jones advanced Team Arkansas today.
Still, Jaylen Barford was the big performer as somewhat expected for his team, going for 23 points on 8-for-21 shooting, and he added 12 rebounds, an assist, and two steals in 31 minutes. Dusty Hannahs gave Team Arkansas 14 points, too.
3pm: #2 AfterShocks vs #10 Omaha Blue Crew, ESPN
AfterShocks snagged a 60-53 victory over Ex-Pats, a squad of former Patriot League players in the first round, but it was closer than the final score makes it look. Two free throws from Kyle Leufroy right before the Elam Ending started made it a one point game, 52-51. But the former Wichita State guys came out of the timeout burying threes, something they had not done all game long to that point. Even with a couple of quick long balls late, they still only shot 27% behind the arc for the game. That gave them six of the eight points they needed to wrap it up, and that was pretty much that. AfterShocks got 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 assists from Rashard Kelly, while Conner Frankamp added 15 points, a rebound, and four assists.
As you can see from the seeds, Omaha Blue Crew was the only upset in Wichita on the first day. The Creighton alumni team escaped with a 60-59 victory over #7 seed Purple & Black thanks to a banked in three-pointer Elam Ending winner from Deverell Biggs. That’s quite the impressive result seeing as the Kansas State alumni squad was winning, 52-48, when the Elam Ending started. Biggs led a trio of OBC guys in double digits with 14 points, as he got there on 4-for-12 shooting and his winner was his only make from long range in five attempts. Gregory Smith gave the former Bluejays 13 points and eight rebounds, while Jahenns Manigat added 11 points, three rebounds, and three assists.
6pm: #4 LA Cheaters vs #5 Florida TNT, ESPN3
Florida TNT was the first of these two teams to advance after securing an 83-59 victory over Kimchi Express yesterday. Former South Florida star Dominique Jones was the star for the day, getting a team high 20 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. Kenny Boynton hit the Elam Ender to give him 18 points, while Chris Warren added 13 points and Marc-Eddy Norelia chipped in 15 on 5-for-6 shooting from the field and from the stripe.
LA Cheaters had to overcome a big push from #13 seed Mental Toughness all game long to get to the second round. It was 67-66 towards Mental Toughness when the Elam Ending began, and a three by Jonah Radebaugh had the Cheaters down two with just five points left to go to the Target Score for the other guys. Fouls by Mental Toughness gave Derrick Williams and Terrence Jones a chance to inch the Drew League team’s way back in front. A three-pointer late from Kory Holden turned that one into a “Next Bucket Wins” game, and it was Williams with the putback to deliver the goods.
Jones had 20 points to lead the Cheaters, and he added three rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a block too. Williams had 13 points after his Elam Ender along with seven rebounds and six assists for the former #2 NBA Draft pick. Sedrick Barefield added 12 off the bench, and Mychal Thompson went 4-for-9 from long range to push him to a 16 point day.
8pm: #1 Eberlein Drive vs #9 Stillwater Stars, ESPN3
For a moment there, we were veering towards losing a #1 seed in the first round of this year’s TBT. The Drive was up just two at the half, 35-33, and NG Saints, the only high school alumni team in this tournament, scored the first four points of the third quarter to up 37-35.
But it was 50-42 Eberlein Drive at the midway point of the frame, and that turned into an 11 point lead headed to the fourth and then an 18 point win for the top seed at the end, 86-68. Four of the five Drive starters hit double digits, led by 18 from Marquis Teague, and the fifth guy “only” scored nine points. Two of the starters, A.J. Slaughter and Jeremy Evans, missed out on a double-double by just one rebound each.
Speaking of “for a moment there,” can we talk about the Stillwater Stars? They were down 23. They closed on a 35-11 run to win, 84-83. The Enchantment had the ball in a Next Bucket Wins situation, and the Oklahoma State alumni team came up with the turnover instead. An easy run-out alley-oop layup later, and boom, it’s the Stars advancing instead of the New Mexico alumni team. My goodness. This was the last game of the night, and as I type this at 9:30 at night, the box score has not been published on the TBT website yet. I’d love to tell you who was the high scorer and so forth for Stillwater Stars, but the second half of Game 5 of the NBA Finals is calling my name, as is my bed because I am very old.
West Virginia Regional
11am: #5 War Ready vs #12 Bucketneers, ESPN
This is the second TBT for War Ready, a squad that brands itself as an Auburn alumni team. They have three players — Bryce Brown, Malik Dunbar, and Danjel Purifoy — from Auburn’s 2019 Final Four team, and relative youth and that kind of talent can do an awful lot for you in this kind of event. If you’re looking for vague Marquette connections, former Golden Eagles TBT team member Cinmeon Bowers is on the roster here, as he played for two years at Auburn in the mid-2010s.
Bucketneers is one of those words that looks like it won’t come out of your mouth well but if you try, it’s not too bad. They’re an East Tennessee State alumni squad, and they have four of the guys who started — and their top four scorers — on their 2016-17 team that went 27-8 and won the SoCon tournament. They also have Courtney Pigram, who won A-Sun Player of the Year honors at ETSU in 2007, and Mike Smith, who did the same thing in 2011. This seems like a much better team than a #12 seed, at least on paper.
1pm: #4 Armored Athlete vs #13 HBCUnited, ESPN2
This is TBT #7 for Armored Athlete, and they have compiled a record of 13-6 in their previous runs. Averaging more than two wins per entry is pretty damn great. With that said, they have 13 people on the roster listed as either General Manager, coach, or booster, and 13 players. It’s very wild stuff. The name that most jumps off the page at me is former St. John’s big man Tariq Owens, although Sean Armand averaged 17/4/4 in his final two seasons at Iona.
HBCUnited is exactly what it sounds like: A bunch of guys from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. They’re also sponsored by E&J Brandy, the official spirit of TBT, so when the whistles start going their way, you know what’s up. Charles Williams is the MEAC’s all-time leading scorer after wrapping up his career in 2020 with 2,404 points, so expect the 6’6” guard to lead the way here.
4pm: #1 Sideline Cancer vs #16 Founding Fathers, ESPN3
Ah, yes, Sideline Cancer, last year’s runner up to the MU alumni team and TBT original competitor. After last year’s run to the title game, the program is 10-7 all-time. They return some guys from that team, including Remy Abell and Maurice Creek and add Pittsburgh’s Jamel Artis and VaTech’s Chris Clarke. Last year’s star Marcus Keene was expected to play again but had to withdraw right before the tournament started. Can they replicate their results without a guy who averaged 20/5/5 for them a year ago?
Founding Fathers takes their name from the fact that they’re a James Madison alumni squad. In 2013, Matt Brady took the Dukes to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1994, and that’s still their most recent tourney. Two of the top three scorers from that squad — A.J. Davis and Devon Moore — are on the roster here for this outfit’s first ever attempt to claim TBT’s top prize.
6pm: #8 PrimeTime Players vs #9 Fort Wayne Champs, ESPN3
This is the seventh straight TBT appearance for PrimeTime Players, and they have won five games in their previous six entries. Trevor Booker played in over 500 games in the NBA across eight seasons and scored over 3,600 points along the way. Marquette fans might remember Tre McCallum from his two seasons at DePaul where he averaged 10 points and six rebounds per game.
Fort Wayne Champs is back for their sixth TBT run, but they have compiled a 9-5 record in that time to best PTP in total wins even though the other guys have one extra tournament to their name. As I recall, this is the team that stemmed from alumni of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants team that won a G League title in 2014. If that’s the case, only Ramon Harris remains from that Mad Ants roster here. The biggest name on the roster might be Bruno Caboclo, who was taken #20 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft and played for the Mad Ants in 2014-15 before winning a G League title with Raptors 905 in 2017. The 6’9” Brazilian has played 105 games in the NBA since 2014, including six for the Houston Rockets in December and January just this past season.