Nothing beats summer basketball. When the temperature goes up and the humidity starts to get worse, that means that The Basketball Tournament, better known as TBT, is back and ready to entertain.
For Ohio State basketball fans — especially those in Columbus — this can also mean a trip down memory lane. The Ohio State alumni team, Carmen’s Crew, is playing once again in the tournament and they are ready to go in their home city.
Carmen’s Crew earned the No. 1 seed and plays in the Columbus regional, thanks to their TBT championship victory in 2019 over the Marquette alumni team, the Golden Eagles.
On Friday night, Carmen’s Crew 2021 TBT opened up with a 77-65 victory over the No. 16 seed Mid American Unity, A team full of former MAC players, including former Ohio State players Ron Lewis and J.D. Weatherspoon.
As it was last year, even though Carmen’s Crew was a No. 1 seed and they got to play a No. 16 seed, this Mid American Unity team was no joke and gave Carmen’s Crew all they could handle. Of course, it has to be questioned why that team was a 16 seed to begin with since they have tournament experience and a bunch of talent, but I digress.
Carmen’s Crew newcomer Kosta Koufas and TBT veteran David Lighty led the way for head coach Jared Sullinger. Koufas finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks on 7-of-8 shooting from the field. It was pretty apparent early on that Toledo alumni Luke Knapke was going to have trouble with Koufas and most of his points down low came with ease.
Other newcomers like Miami (OH) graduate Julian Muvanga and former Ohio State guard Shannon Scott provided a huge lift for Carmen’s Crew. Scott got the start over soon-to-be Doctor Aaron Craft and Muvanga showed some serious poise and confidence in his debut. And likely will make the SportsCenter Top 10.
How did Julian Mavunga get this to go????? pic.twitter.com/JErKwkCG5m— TBT (@thetournament) July 24, 2021
Muvanga finished with 10 points and Scott finished with six points, six rebounds and three assists.
It was 37-37 at the half, but Carmen’s Crew was able to pull away late and take some intrigue out of the Elam Ending. The biggest difference was 10 turnovers in the first half compared to juts four in the second half.
Koufas was a late addition to the team after Kaleb Wesson had to drop out of the tournament due to an NBA summer league invite. Suffice to say, not a bad person to bring in late and on short notice. Koufas looked crisp and refined. He also was in excellent shape, beating every defender down the floor for an easy transition bucket on more than one occasion.
ELAM ENDING KOUFOS CAN’T BE STOPPED pic.twitter.com/ytdrTIQM1d— Car❌en’s Crew (@CarmensCrew) July 24, 2021
Lighty was vintage David Lighty, finding his spots on the court, knocking down jump shots and letting the game come to him, not forcing any action. Poetry in motion. 2019 TBT tournament MVP William Buford got off to a slow start and it was obvious that slowing him down was a priority, but he still finished with a quiet double-double, recording 14 points and 10 rebounds.
And, of course, Jeff Gibbs was awesome.
As I mentioned before, Mid American Unity has some hoopers and they were not afraid of the moment, combating most of the Carmen’s Crew runs with one or two of their own. Scott and Craft did a good job stifling Ohio legend DJ Cooper, as he was just 3-for-13 from the field. Kent State alumni and three-time First Team All-MAC selection Jimmy Hall provided a spark off the bench, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds. He was the only MAU player in double digits.
However, in the end, Carmen’s Crew held of the MAC squad and moved onto the second round and onto another simply disastrous matchup. Not sure what Carmen’s Crew did to anger the seeding committee of the TBT, but no favors were done in this region.
Second Round: No. 1 Carmen’s Crew vs. No. 8 Men of Mackey
4 p.m. ET on ESPN
In the second round, Carmen’s Crew will take on Men of Mackey, a Purdue alumni team. And they have all the Purdue guys that Ohio State fans never want to see again. Namely, Isaac Haas and TBT newcomer Robbie Hummel. Hummel has been on the call over the past couple of TBT’s for ESPN, but this year he decided to relive his glory days, dust off the kicks and jersey that doesn’t fit anymore and play for the Men of Mackey.
The Men of Mackey won their first game against the Ballinteers, a Tennessee alumni team, 83-74 and really had no issues putting the ball in the hoop.
Kelsey Barlow led the way for the Purdue alum with 19 points and of course, Robbie Hummel finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Haas finished with 11 points and four rebounds.
The other MoM big man A.J. Hammons did not play in their first game and was inactive due to injury, so it is to be determined whether or not he will suit up against Carmen’s Crew. If he does, it will be a huge addition for the MoM as they will have two elite big men to choose from.
I think this will be one that goes down to the wire, but in crunch time, I like guys like Aaron Craft, David Lighty and William Buford. I wouldn’t be surprised if Carmen’s Crew did not even set the Elam Ending, but came back to beat the MoM during the final points.
Kosta Koufas also showed that he can be trusted late, as he had six of the eight Elam Ending points for Carmen’s Crew against Mid-American Unity.
The MoM are officially the biggest team in TBT history and that will obviously be the thing that can hurt Carmen’s Crew. However, Carmen’s Crew has Koufas, a seven-footer of their own and a guy who is much more versatile and athletic than Haas or Hammons. Also, Hammons might not play so that one-two punch dynamic would not exist.
Another thing that will factor into this is Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft (shocking I know). Scott and Craft did not see any time on the floor together in the last contest but with the guards that the MoM have, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sully tries some new things and puts them both on the floor together to lock those guys up.
Barlow can score at will and guys like Ra’Shad James, Frank Gaines and Lewis Jackson can score the ball well, so it will be an all hands on deck effort defensively for Carmen’s Crew to slow down the Men of Mackey.
The problem with that is, again, the length and height of the MoM. Julian Muvanga will have to play a large role again as he brings some size to Carmen’s Crew and some offensive talent.
It will be key for Carmen’s Crew to use their versatility to their advantage and the MoM’s size to their disadvantage. MoM are bigger, but Carmen’s Crew is more athletic and can spread you out more and they will have to do that.
Look for William Buford to get off to a hotter start and Jon Diebler to get some early looks from deep. He only knocked down one deep ball against MAU, but he had a couple decent looks and I expect Sully to get him even more open in this one.