With just eight teams remaining at the 2015 edition of The Basketball Tournament, teams are finally starting to smell the competition's $1 million winner-take-all prize.
Saturday evening in Chicago, the tournament's eight remaining teams competed in regional finals in their respective brackets and competed for spots in the semi-finals, which will take place on August 1 in New York City.
"It’s a Democratic sports model," Tournament founder Jon Mugar said, according to the Big Lead's Jason McIntyre. "The experience is to try and get March Madness for everyone. To be a fan and say to myself, 'I wonder if I could do that?' Not only as a player, but I wonder if I could build a team, a franchise, and compete on that level."
With quarterfinal action of the nation's most unique basketball showcase taking center stage at DePaul University, here's a look at how things shook out with trips to the Big Apple on the line:
|Saturday's TBT Quarterfinal Results|
|South||Overseas Elite def. Dirty South, 77-73|
|West||Team 23 def. LAUNFD, 77-56|
|Northeast||City of Gods def. Boeheim's Army, 80-76|
|Midwest||Ants Alumni def. Armored Athlete, 76-72|
Next weekend's bracket can be viewed below:
|The Basketball Tournament Final 4|
|Team 23 vs. Ants Alumni||Aug. 1||2 p.m. ET||New York City||ESPN|
|Overseas Elite vs. City of Gods||Aug. 1||4 p.m. ET||New York City||ESPN|
Overseas Elite def. Dirty South, 77-72
According to the ESPNU broadcast, Overseas Elite's five-point win over Dirty South was the fifth game since Thursday to be decided by 10 points or fewer.
Former St. John's stud D.J. Kennedy led the way for the six-man Elite squad, dropping 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting to go with 18 rebounds.
The Tournament on Twitter relayed video of the victor's post-game celebration:
Considering Kennedy's coming off an impressive stint in the hustle department at Las Vegas Summer League, per NBA.com/Stats, his dominance at The Basketball Tournament shouldn't come as a surprise:
Overseas Elite shot just 31.1 percent from the field, as the Post-Standard's Donna Ditota relayed on Twitter, but it forced Dirty South into 18 turnovers to help mitigate the offensive inefficiency.
"We don’t have any egos on the team," Overseas Elite guard Kyle Fogg said on July 24, according to TheTournament.com. "We’re going to really gel, and our best is yet to come."
After winning the South Region with a short-handed squad, Overseas Elite should be bursting with confidence as it enters a few off days with a chance to get energized and focused for semi-final action.
"We’ll be at full strength in New York," Kabongo said after the win, according to TheTournament.com. "And, we’ll be ready to go."
Team 23 def. LAUNFD, 77-56
Team 23 may have been the 13th seed out of the West Region, but building on the momentum gained during a 105-64 Round of 16 win over 7outz, it downed second-seeded LAUNFD to punch a ticket to New York.
LAUNFD remained short-handed, though, with Bobby Brown, Ike Diogu and David Blu attending to USA Basketball duties at the Pan Am games.
Their lack of depth was evident throughout the second half, as Team 23 ran away with the win. With just five players available, LAUNFD shot 38.8 percent from the field, as Pooh Jeter led the way with a game-high 20 points.
LAUNFD turned the ball over 24 times, and Team 23 tallied a whopping 14 steals as a result.
"If you’re not shooting lights out 24 turnovers is a lot. …in any game in any league in the universe," LAUNFD's Brandon Bowman said, per TheTournament.com.
The winners were paced by 18 points apiece from Augustine Okosun and Davin White.
Complete stats can be viewed below, courtesy of The Tournament on Twitter:
After closing the first half leading by five, Team 23 went on an 11-0 run over the first four minutes of the second half and left no doubt it was in complete control.
Through five wins, Team 23's average margin of victory is 22 points.
While LAUNFD and Team Grantland were the favorites to emerge out of the West when tournament play began, Team 23 has proven time and again that chemistry can trump raw talent.
City of Gods def. Boeheim's Army, 80-76
How about another upset?
With Northeast bragging rights on the line, third-seeded City of Gods downed top-ranked Boeheim's Army in a thriller.
A late hoop-plus-the-harm from Eric Devendorf with just over a minute remaining—as documented by the Daily Northwestern's Alex Putterman—cut City of Gods' lead to one, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu responded, converting a big bucket on the blocks to push City of God's lead to three. From that point on, Boeheim's Army went scoreless.
As Syracuse.com observed midway through the second half, Mensah-Bonsu owned the interior all night long:
The ex-NBA journeyman repeatedly acted as the aggressor against a frontcourt that included former Syracuse stars Rick Jackson and Hakim Warrick. He finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the win.
Warrick and Devendorf led The Army with 14 and 12 points, respectively, but City of God's late push deemed those contributions moot.
Over the final 18 minutes, City of Gods drilled seven three-pointers. Those buckets helped wipe away a one-point halftime deficit, and then some.
Now a showdown with Overseas Elite looms, and it shouldn't disappoint. While City of Gods is among the most athletic squads in the tournament, Elite has stood out as one of the most disciplined thanks to contributions from Kennedy and Myck Kabongo.
Ants Alumni def. Armored Athlete, 76-72
Ants Alumni is moving onto a semi-final clash with Team 23 after staving off a hard-charging Armored Athlete squad.
Armored Athlete trailed by as many as 15 in the second half, but Daniel Engelstad's side climbed back to within one with 18.3 seconds remaining after Christian Watford drilled a deep clutch three.
Watford had the hot hand throughout the second half, but Armored Athlete came up short on a last-gasp three-point attempt to tie the game at 75. Ants Alumni proceeded to ice the game at the free-throw line with 0.9 seconds remaining.
After knocking off the 2014 TBT champions Friday night, Ants Alumni didn't let Watford and a few Indiana alums—including Will Sheehey and Jordan Hulls—intimidate them.
Instead, the 2013-14 NBA D-League champions stood tall and delivered a knockout blow to set up a compelling tilt next Saturday at Fordham University.