If all goes according to plan, we’re going to have live basketball here in less than two weeks. The Basketball Tournament tips off July 4 in Columbus, and while there won’t be any fans in attendance, there will be an absolute goody basket of stars competing. All games will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2, so the first live basketball in North America in four months will be easily accessible for anyone wanting to indulge.
Carmen’s Crew, the Ohio State alumni team, is the reigning champion, but they are by no means the heavy favorite as the tournament gets closer and closer. Teams are making heavyweight additions every day, and we can’t forget that four-time champion Overseas Elite will be coming for Carmen’s Crew’s crown next month after they were upset by the upstart Buckeye alumni squad in the semi-finals last summer.
And when I say heavyweight additions, I mean it. This year’s player pool includes dozens of players with NBA experience, the NCAA Division-I three point record holder, and the seventh-leading scorer in NCAA history, just to list a few.
We have seen sports junkies cry tears of joy when the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) started their season, with many games starting after midnight eastern time. People who typically could not care less about baseball have relished the opportunity to watch it with no fans and excluding some of the biggest names in the sport.
Luckily, we’ve got live basketball in a few weeks. Sneakers squeaking, rims rattling, and big guys yelling “get that sh*t outta’ here” even if they weren’t the one to block a shot. It’s been missing from our lives for months, but we’re getting just a little bit of normalcy back with TBT. It’ll be like sitting down for a nice home cooked meal after eating nothing but Long John Silvers for four months.
So without further ado, here are 10 players you should keep your eye on in TBT 2020.
Full disclosure: this is not a list of the 10 best players. This is not ranking the ten most talented players, instead it is the 10 I think will be most fun to watch.
1) Fletcher Magee
Magee holds the NCAA record for most 3-pointers in a career, with 509 made threes in four seasons at Wofford (2015-2019). He averaged 18.8 points per game in his career, and his shooting percentage beyond the arc (43.5%) was almost as good as his percentage inside it (49.9%). Magee led Wofford to their first ever win over a ranked team in 2017, beating No. 5 North Carolina 79-75 in Chapel Hill. In 2019, he led the Terriers to their first ever NCAA Tournament win. He was also the Southern Conference player of the year two times (2017-18 and 2018-19).
2) Mike Daum
House of ‘Paign
If you follow Ohio State basketball closely, you’ll remember Daum from Ohio State’s first-round NCAA Tournament match-up in 2018, when he scored 27 points in an eventual Buckeye win. He stands 6-foot-9 inches tall, weighs 240 pounds, and was a career 41% 3-point shooter at South Dakota State. The seventh-leading scorer in NCAA history, Daum was a match-up nightmare in college and will be in TBT as well.
3) Marcus Keene
Team Sideline Cancer
Marcus Keene, professional bucket-getter. The 5-foot-9 guard led the nation in scoring during the 2016-17 season, pouring in 30 points per game. He dropped 40 or more points seven times that season, but his Central Michigan team was a MAC cellar dweller during his lone season in Mt. Pleasant. Keene led the upstart Sideline Cancer team to the Wichita regional final last summer, and will look to rip off five straight wins this summer as the 22-seed in TBT.
4) Deshaun Thomas
The addition Ohio State fans have been waiting years for. For the first time, DeShaun Thomas will play with Carmen’s Crew, and this summer he’ll be doing so to defend their crown. The 2013 Third-Team All-American and second-round NBA draft pick spent last season playing for Rick Pitino (yes, that Rick Pitino) in Greece, where he scored 13.9 points per game as well as 4.4 rebounds. The 6-foot-7 lefty is a versatile wing who will exhaust defenders in the paint but can also keep you honest from outside. A huge pickup for Carmen’s Crew.
5) Phil Forte
These days, you can find Phil Forte decked out in a suit and tie on the bench, serving as an assistant coach at Sam Houston State University. The 26-year old former Oklahoma State guard and three-time All-Big 12 honoree is already venturing into coaching following a historic career in Stillwater. The 5-foot-11 guard holds the Oklahoma State record for 3-pointers made in a career (329) and is the sixth-leading scorer in OSU history. Forte attempted twice as many 3-pointers as 2-point shots in college, so don’t expect him to be shy when he gets the ball in his hands.
6) Aaron Craft
The heart and soul of Carmen’s Crew, Craft is playing organized basketball for the final time in the 2020 TBT Tournament. After four years with Ohio State and five years overseas, the 29-year old will hang it up and enroll in medical school at Ohio State this fall. In college, Craft was as steady as they come, scoring between 6.9 and 10 points per game each season while also dishing out 4.6 to 4.8 assists each year. The rosey-cheeked thief holds the record most steals in Big Ten history, with 337. He is also a two-time Big Ten Defensive player of the year, which makes him one of only three players to ever win the award twice (Kenny Lowe and Chris Kramer, both of Purdue, each won the award twice).
7) Joe Johnson
Overseas Elite has already won TBT four times, with those four being the four previous tournaments before Carmen’s Crew abruptly ended their streak last summer. They responded by calling in reinforcements. Joe Johnson had two very good seasons at Arkansas from 1999-2001 and was then drafted 10th overall by the Boston Celtics in the 2001 NBA draft. He has played 18 full NBA seasons, averaging 16 points per game to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game. He was signed by the Pistons heading into last season, but was waived shortly before their first game. He has not officially retired from basketball yet at age 38. “Iso Joe” as he is affectionately known as, may be the single best player in this tournament.
8) Nate Mason
Nate Mason is the fifth-all time scorer in Minnesota history and is second all-time in assists there. He played in 125 games for the Gophers in his four seasons, starting 99 of them. He was the eighth-leading scorer in the Big Ten in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, averaging 15.2 and 16.7 points per game in those years, respectively. Now don’t get it twisted, Mason took a ton of shots. In his four years he averaged roughly 12 shots per game, so while his output was high, his efficiency was not nearly as spectacular. Regardless, the man gets buckets, and he is certainly not playing in TBT to not shoot every chance he gets.
9) Bryce Brown
As one of the few people who picked 5-seed Auburn to make the Final Four in their 2019 bracket, I formally welcome you to the Bryce Brown fan club. The most prolific shooter in Auburn history and one of the best ever in the SEC, he led the 2019 Auburn team with 15.9 points per game as they steamrolled through the SEC tournament and then kept it going all the way to the Final Four. He holds the Auburn and SEC records for 3-pointers in a single season (141), was an All-SEC selection twice, and was the SEC tournament MVP in 2019. Brown played for the Maine Red Claws last season, the G-League affiliate of the Boston Celtics.
10) Josh Perkins
Playing for Jimmy V
Perhaps more than anyone else on this list, Josh Perkins just knows how to win basketball games. In four full seasons at Gonzaga, Perkins amassed a record of 130-19, including a 12-4 record in the NCAA Tournament. 12 tournament wins may not sound mind-blowing, but over four season his Gonzaga teams averaged three wins per year, or the equivalent of making the Elite 8 each year. His sophomore year he scored 8 points per game to go along with 3 assists and 2 rebounds, helping Gonzaga get all the way to the national title game. His senior year ended in the Elite Eight, but he upped his scoring output to 11 points per game, along with 6.3 assists, which was 14th in the country and second-best in the West Coast Conference. He is Gonzaga’s all-time assists leader with 712.