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TBT Preview: Big X vs. Red Scare

After taking down D2 on Saturday, Big X is back in action today at Nationwide Arena in The Basketball Tournament, taking on Red Scare.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The action during TBT 2020 has been hot so far, and business is only going to pick up down at Nationwide Arena today when Big X takes on Red Scare — a team comprised mostly of Dayton Flyers alumni. The contest will be the first of two games played at Nationwide Arena on Wednesday, with Carmen’s Crew and House of ‘Paign battling in the second game of the day. The winner of the each of the two contests will face-off against one another in the next round.

Early on Saturday it looked like Big X’s run in the tournament would be short, as they trailed D2 23-11 after the first quarter. D2 replaced the Jackson TN Underdogs, who were removed from the tournament when a player tested positive for COVID-19. Big X was able to start mounting a comeback in the second quarter, pulling to within 36-30 at halftime.

After struggling from the field in the first half, Big X shifted their strategy to begin the second half, taking the basketball into the paint early and often. Nick Ward was the prime target for Big X, finishing with a team-high 18 points. The Gahanna native could have added even more to his scoring total, but the former Michigan State forward was just 4-10 from the free throw line.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Big X trailed 59-57, but the group of former Big Ten players wouldn’t be denied the victory. Trevon Hughes’ three-pointer gave Big X a 64-61 lead, but it was short-lived, as D2 answered with a three-pointer of their own. The contest would stay tight until the Elam Ending score was announced. Big X held a 70-69 lead with 3:42 left, which translated into the winning score being set at 78 points.

Big X wouldn’t trail the rest of the way. C.J. Jackson scored the first bucket of the Elam Ending period, giving Big X a 72-69 lead. D2 wouldn’t go quietly though, answering the first two buckets of the period from Big X. Javon Bess helped Big X create the slightest bit of distance on D2, with his free throws giving Big X a 77-73 lead, leaving them one point away from victory. D2’s leading scorer Kevin Capers was only able to hit one of two free throws on the ensuing possession, which gave Big X a shot at victory.

Ward led Big X in scoring, but he didn’t have to do all the work himself. Bess, the former Michigan State guard who transferred to St. Louis, finished with 11 points, while former Wisconsin guard Trevon Hughes added nine points. Another Badger, Khalil Iverson, did plenty of work on the glass, pulling down a team-high 11 rebounds.

Ohio State alum C.J. Jackson was quiet for most of the game, finishing with just seven points, but showed up when it mattered most. Jackson missed a mid-range jumper that could have won the game for Big X, but it came up just short. Luckily, Jackson was able to secure his own rebound and his second attempt at victory was good, sealing a 79-74 win for Big X.

Now Big X’s attention shifts to Red Scare, who enters the tournament as the eighth-seed, making them the last team to receive a bye into the round of 16. Last year Red Scare made it to the Columbus final, but were defeated 85-71 by the eventual champion Carmen’s Crew. Big X was also defeated by Carmen’s Crew in last year’s TBT, falling 89-75 to the group of former Buckeyes.

Coaching Red Scare is Joey Gruden, son of current Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. The younger Gruden walked on to Dayton’s basketball team in 2014, spending three seasons with the team before graduating in 2017. From there, Gruden moved on to Louisville, where he was a graduate assistant on Chris Mack’s coaching staff.

Dayton was one of the best teams in college basketball this past season, and looked to be headed for a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of March Madness. While Red Scare won’t have Obi Toppin playing, as the forward should be one of the top picks in the 2020 NBA Draft, they will have Trey Landers and Ryan Mikesell playing. Landers averaged 10.5 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Flyers this season, while Mikesell added 8.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Recent Dayton alums who will be joining Landers and Ryan Mikesell include Darrell Davis, Kyle Davis, Devin Oliver, and Jalen Robinson. Oliver, Robinson, and Kyle Davis all were part of the 2013-14 Dayton team that defeated Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That unit went on to make it to the Elite Eight.

Aside from being part of the Dayton team that beat Ohio State, Kyle Davis had a number of other highlights during his career with the Flyers. Not only was Davis chosen as Atlantic-10 Sixth Man of the Year as a senior during the 2016-17 season, but he also was named to the Atlantic-10 All-Defensive Team. The guard from Chicago could create some problems for C.J. Jackson in the backcourt.

As Kyle’s career was winding down in Dayton, another Davis was coming up through the pipeline. Darrell Davis started 16 games as a junior in 2016-17, and followed that up by starting in 31 games as a senior. During his senior season, Davis averaged 15.4 points per game for the Flyers. Davis finished the campaign just a couple tenths of a point behind Josh Cunningham for the team’s scoring lead.

While most of the players on the roster are Dayton alumns, there are a few players who played at other school. Louisville’s Ryan McMahon was selected for this team because Joey Gruden saw first-hand what McMahon can do on the court. This year for Louisville, McMahon averaged 8.7 points per game and shot 43.6% from behind the three-point line.

A name that is very familiar to many Ohio State fans is Trevor Thompson, who will be trying to take down a few of his former teammates. After transferring to Ohio State from Virginia Tech, Thompson spent two years in Columbus, nearly averaging a double-double during the 2016-17 season. It will be interesting to see if Thompson can slow down Nick Ward in the post.

The battle between Big X and Red Scare will be the 12th game of the tournament. Today’s contest tips off at 2 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN.

LGHL Score Prediction: 81-75 Red Scare

As much as I want to see Big X move on so we get a possible matchup with Carmen’s Crew, I think Red Scare will be a little too much to handle. Big X already had Keyshawn Woods sent home due to a positive COVID-19 test, as well as Jae’Sean Tate’s status being up in the air as he hopes to test negative for COVID-19. If Big X had the two former Buckeyes on their roster, it would be easier to see Big X taking down Red Scare.

What will help Big X is having a game under their belt at Nationwide Arena, which could aid them in jumping out to an early lead over Red Scare. Even with that possibility, along with the talent on their roster, Red Scare will just be a little too much to handle. The group of former Flyers are familiar with playing with each other, which should help them handle the adversity that they could face.