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Team Scarlet & Gray returns to TBT action with Oden, without Sullinger, Mullens

The OSU alumni team will look a little different this weekend.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-South Dakota State vs Ohio State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

If you didn’t know any better, you might think that the 2018 edition of Team Scarlet & Gray playing in The Basketball Tournament was actually angling for their own version of “Hard Knocks” or “Last Chance U,” because it’s been a little bit of a soap opera for the former Buckeyes.

While the Midwest’s top-seeded squad won its first two games last weekend, the team that head coach Scoonie Penn fields tonight in the Super 16 will look considerably different.

Despite back-and-forth rumors, the star of the tournament thus far, Jared Sullinger, will miss the game against the No. 12 Primetime Players because he is getting married. In an interview on Columbus radio station 105.7 The Zone on Thursday, Penn seemed to leave the door open for Sully’s return on Sunday— should they advance— but was less than 100 percent confident in that option.

However, Sullinger won’t be the only former-Buckeye big-man not suiting up tonight, as Byron Mullens has withdrawn from the team, following a 14-point, five rebound performance in 10 minutes of work in Saturday’s opening-round game.

Citing a disagreement when it came to his cut of the potential $2 million top prize, on Thursday, Mullens said on Instagram that continuing to play would not be worth the risk of injury.

Fortunately for S&G, they won’t be completely without a big man for the weekend, as former No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Greg Oden will be joining the team, according to Penn. While he is not expected to play anywhere near the minutes that Sullinger did, Oden has been playing quite a bit of basketball in the past year as a student assistant/manager for Chris Holtmann’s Ohio State team. Rumor has it that he is quite the beast in the manager vs. manager pick-up games.

On The Zone, Penn said that he anticipated Scarlet & Gray playing more “small ball,” at least while Sully is out.

How’d we get here?

Sullinger has been an absolute monster in the first two rounds of TBT, putting up a combined 48 points and 26 rebounds, including a ridiculous 28 and 20 performance in the second round.

However, with Sully tying the knot, Scarlet & Gray is going to have to find production elsewhere, and it could come from any host of other players. Everybody’s favorite gym rat, Aaron Craft, turned in 12 points, five assists, and a pair of steals in the second round victory over the No. 9 Matadors, while David Lighty put up 15, four, and three of his own in the game.

In the first contest of the tournament, it was a pair of non-Buckeyes who were the best Robins to Sully’s Batman. Former Nittany Lion Talor Battle contributed 16 points, six boards, and four assists against the No. 16 West Virginia Wildcats, while Columbus native and Norther Illinois alum Leon Rodgers went for 11 points of his own.

I’m not holding my breath that Oden will be enough of a stopgap on his own to keep the Scarlet & Gray alive until Sully returns. However, if he can provided enough of an inside presence to create space for the likes of Jon Diebler, Lighty, Battle, et al., we should see the former Buckeyes make a return trip to the semifinals.

Who’s next?

The former Buckeyes’ Super 16 opponent will be the Primetime Players, a veteran group from North Carolina that has played more than 500 games together over the years. While they were bounced in the first and second rounds of the 2016 and 2017 TBTs, they did make it to the Round of 16 in the inaugural 2015 event.

In this year’s first round, the Players defeated the Bradley alumni team, Always a Brave, 68-64, thanks to an 18-point comeback. Then, in the second round, they upset the No. 4 Big X, a team made up of Big Ten alums, including Andrew Dakich.

With the score tied at 67, Terell Smith hit a three-pointer to reach the Elam Ending target of 70 (more on that below). Smith put up 30 points in the game, to bring his TBT 2018 total to 46. Chris Moore also adds to the team’s scoring, averaging 15 a game thus far.

Check out highlights of their second round game from last weekend:

What’s up with this “Elam Ending” thing?

After experimenting with it in last year’s play-in games, this year’s TBT is using a unique way to end games that will cut down on the increasingly abused, always annoying “Hack-a-Whomever” strategy that prolongs the game.

Here’s how it works:

“Under the rule, at the first dead ball after the four minute mark in the fourth quarter, the game clock shuts off. A Target Score is set by adding seven to the leading team’s score. The first team to reach the Target Score wins.” More on TBT using the Elam Ending.

How to watch

No. 1 Scarlet & Gray vs. No. 12 Primetime Players

Time: 9 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN | Online: Watch ESPN