The chance to compete for Larry O'Brien Trophies and March Madness glory may be in the rearview mirror for the majority of the players in The Basketball Tournament, but there is another prize that is sure to turn some heads.
Two million dollars.
The 64 teams in the single-elimination TBT are competing for the $2 million grand prize in the sixth annual edition of the event.
The eight regional hosts are Team Fredette (Salt Lake City), AfterShocks (Wichita, Kansas), Memphis Alumni (Memphis, Tennessee), Bluegrass Boys (Lexington, Kentucky), Carmen's Crew/Ohio State Alumni (Columbus, Ohio), Ram Nation (Richmond, Virginia), Team CP3 (Greensboro, North Carolina) and Boeheim's Army (Syracuse, New York).
Saturday brought second-round action with teams attempting to play their way into TBT's Sweet 16 equivalent.
(1) Carmen's Crew (Ohio State) defeats (4) Big X, 89-75
(3) Red Scare (Dayton) defeats (7) Mid-American Unity, 80-78
(1) Loyalty is Love defeats (4) KBC, 91-80
(3) Ft. Wayne Champs defeats (7) D2, 83-81
(1) Team Hines defeats (5) Florida TNT, 91-82
(2) Team CP3 defeats Power of the Paw (Clemson), 73-68
(8) Jackson TN Underdawgs defeats (5) Southern Gentleman, 103-78
(6) Louisiana United defeats (2) Bluff City (Memphis), 80-78
Carmen's Crew Handles Big X in Battle of the Buckeyes
There was quite the Scarlet and Gray feel to Saturday's game between Carmen's Crew and Big X, and it wasn't all on the victorious side.
C.J. Jackson and Keyshawn Woods were on the Big X side after finishing their college basketball careers at Ohio State, but they weren't enough to overcome the Buckeye combination of Aaron Craft, David Lighty, Evan Ravenel, Jon Diebler, LaQuinton Ross and William Buford on Carmen's Crew.
Former Ohio State players Deshaun Thomas (Carmen's Crew) and Jae'Sean Tate (Big X) were also on the respective rosters but did not play in Saturday's contest.
While the top-seeded team eventually pulled away for a 14-point win, Big X controlled the early portion of the game and built a double-digit lead in the first half. That's when Carmen's Crew looked to the defensive side to turn things around, forcing 18 turnovers and gradually chipping away at the deficit until it seized a one-point halftime advantage.
The victors pulled away in the second half behind impressive showings from Buford, Craft, Lighty, Diebler and Ross.
Craft finished with 11 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals while spearheading the defensive effort much like he did during his Buckeyes days. He was a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and four-time Big Ten All-Defensive selection, so his effort on that side of the ball was no surprise.
Diebler played the role of outside shooter with 11 points and three triples, while Lighty (12 points and four assists) and Ross (11 points and five rebounds) provided additional offense. Yet it was Buford who proved unstoppable with 24 points and five rebounds behind 6-of-6 shooting from downtown.
Big X never had an answer for the sharpshooting wing, and he will likely be tasked with carrying the offense again during Sunday's matchup against the third-seeded Red Scare with a regional championship hanging in the balance.
Team Hines Escapes Test from Florida TNT
While Carmen’s Crew and Loyalty is Love won by double digits as top seeds in action Saturday, Team Hines received a test from Florida TNT before eventually winning by nine.
It was a back-and-forth first half with both sides trading momentum until Mike James gave the eventual victors a one-point lead with a late dunk. He and his teammates appeared to finally shake free when they extended their lead to eight heading into the fourth quarter, but Florida TNT climbed back within three points for the Elam Ending in the final four minutes.
The Elam Ending replaces the game clock following the first dead ball in the final four minutes and sets a target score of seven points more than the leading team has at the time. The first side to reach that mark wins, and Team Hines needed a late push after Florida TNT created some drama.
James sunk three free throws to clinch the win, though, after drawing a foul on an outside shot.
It was fitting that James hit the winning free throws seeing how he finished with 25 points and seven rebounds as the best player on the floor for extended stretches. He played for the New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns during the 2017-18 season and averaged 9.3 points a night in 36 NBA games, so standing on the free-throw line at the end of a game in TBT wasn’t an intimidating task.
He provided enough firepower to counter Christopher Warren, who poured in 23 points behind five made three-pointers for Florida TNT.
That Team Hines faced some pressure in the Elam Ending and still delivered figures to serve it well in the later rounds, especially with James leading the way. There will surely be moments with the game hanging in the balance entering the final stretch, and Team Hines can take solace knowing it already proved it can win in that situation.