For a team that’s won three-straight games by a combined 52 points, there are a lot of unanswered questions for Team Scarlet & Gray as they head into the quarterfinals of 2018’s The Basketball Tournament. Will Jared Sullinger and/or Talor Battle return from their respective weddings in time for the 3 p.m. ET tipoff today? Will Aaron Craft and company be able to force Jimmer Fredette to miss... even once? Will Greg Oden be able to keep up enough to replicate his 11-point output from Friday?
Coming off of an uneven, 72-60 win on Friday over the No. 12 Primetime Players, the team mostly made up of Ohio State alums will have a much tougher task this afternoon, as they take on the Midwest’s second-seeded Team Fredette.
How’d we get here?
The first time that the bulk of this Scarlet & Gray team got together to chase TBT glory, their run was unceremoniously cut short in double overtime, just two wins away from claiming the winner-take-all prize of $2 million dollars.
A year later, the former Buckeyes, coached by Scoonie Penn and Evan Turner, are using last year’s heartbreaking defeat as motivation. However, despite a 31-point win in the opening round, S&G has not exactly looked like a finely tuned machine in the two games since.
Having trailed to both the Matadors and Primetime Players for large swaths of their second and third round games before pulling away in their second halves, S&G has been the vastly more talented team in all of its contests thus far, but have often struggled getting on the same page; especially with the rotating roster thanks to players quitting (Byron Mullens), leaving to get married (Battle and Sullinger), and joining mid-tournament (Oden).
Despite the upheaval, the S&G talent level has shown through with nine different players putting up double-digits in at least one game. However, that stat doesn’t carry as much weight heading into today because Penn will likely be without three of those players come game time (Battle, Mullens, and Sullinger).
However, though Sully was clearly the star of the team while he was there, Aaron Craft has done more than enough to bear the leadership mantle. As the Players continued to scratch and claw to remain in the game on Friday, it was Craft; either finding open shooters for threes, or slicing into the lane to deliver debilitating underhand scoop layups; who kept the comeback at bay.
No matter who makes it to Atlanta to suit up for the Scarlet & Gray today, Craft will have his work cut out for him on both sides of the ball, as Team Fredette is averaging 97 points per game through it’s first three TBT games. If Columbus’ favorite pick-up team is going to keep their dream of the $2 million payday alive, Craft and Lighty will have to, at least, slow down the their opponent’s hot-shooting namesake, while putting up some points of their own.
Just in case you’ve forgotten what he was like during his days at BYU, Jimmer Fredette can straight up score. Granted, he was never able to do much of it in the NBA, but in an environment like TBT— where defense is suspect at best, and optional at worst— Jimmer is absurdly dangerous.
In the first three games of the tournament, the current Shanghai Sharks’ star is averaging 34 points per game, and is coming off of a 41-point outing in a 104-91 victory over the No. 6 Fort Wayne Champs on Friday night. In the immortal words of Dan Patrick, “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.”
Fredette is shooting 51.7 percent from the floor during the tournament and 10-25 (40%) from beyond the arc. However, that latter number includes a shockingly awful 1-9 from distance in the second round against the Jackson TN Underdawgs. He still put up 30 in that game, but another performance like that would be much appreciated by Scarlet & Gray fans.
If Craft and Lighty can slow down the Jimmer, that will go a long way to helping them advance to the TBT semifinals. However, Team Fredette does have some players capable of putting up points, even if it is mostly via Jimmer’s scraps.
Guard Rashad James (13.7) and power forward Brandon Davies (15) are both averaging double-figures, and if S&G gets too preoccupied in shutting down Fredette, don’t be surprised if they are able to fill in the gaps.
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. 2 Team Fredette
Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN | Online: Watch ESPN