Big East Pod Preview

 

By: Patrick Ronan | @pk_ronan


The first ever Big East Pod goes down starting Staurday, June 30 with alumni squads from Marquette, Georgetown, Seton Hall and St. John's squaring off on campus at Marquette. Before saturday's action tips off at 3:00pm EST on ESPN, take a closer look at the make up of each roster and the keys to both games.

#6 Jack Attack (Georgetown Alumni) vs. #11 Hall In (Seton Hall Alumni)

Saturday June 30, 3:00 pm ET – ESPN3

Jack Attack (Georgetown Alumni)

Before diving into the Jack Attack roster, let’s take a minute to explain how the roster got to where it is today. One of the great things about TBT is it always keeps you on your toes and you never really know what you’re going to get. While that’s exciting for fans it can be a nightmare for GMs. With the tournament’s summer schedule, we see dozens of players have to pass on their initial TBT commitment due to new professional contracts overseas or in the NBA Summer League.

Jack Attack has experienced quite a bit of those same scenarios in their first summer in TBT, but GM/Coach Patrick Ewing Jr. has kept a steady head and been able to put together a formidable roster. There are still a few big names up in the air, but one that will definitely be playing and be the leader of this Jack Attack team is D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. His Georgetown accolades include First-team All-Big East in 2015, a pair of Second-team All-Big East honors and being named to the Big East All-Rookie team and led the Hoyas in scoring his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

Smith-Rivera will certainly be looked at as the go-to scorer, but he’s also taken over the role as somewhat of a team captain. With all of the roster turnover, Smith-Rivera put on his recruiting hat and dipped into his Indianapolis, Indiana hometown roots to add guards Trey Dickerson, PJ Boutte, John Murray and Daeshon Francis to the roster.

Seven-footer Bradley Hayes will need to be a force down low, as he is the only true post player on the roster. This team is very guard heavy, so the status of former NBA power forward Jerelle Benimon is going to be huge for the Hoyas.

Hall In (Seton Hall Alumni)

Like Jack Attack. Hall In also lost a couple key pieces to NBA Summer League, but the roster that GM/Coach Jamar Wise has put together is sneaky good. Ten of the eleven players on the Hall In roster have professional experience, with six of those ten still playing overseas.

Hall In has a team full of guards that will be led by Seton Hall alum Jeremy Hazell and Temple product Quenton DeCosey. Hazell was a scoring machine in his four years at Seton Hall. His 22.7 points per game as a sophomore were second best in the Big East and he followed that up with 20.4 points per game as a junior and 19.8 points per game as a senior. He earned All-Big East honors in each of those seasons and has played professionally overseas since graduating in 2011 – earning French League All-Star honors in 2016.

DeCosey is a strong addition from outside the Seton Hall program. His tremendous leadership and prolific scoring ability are two reasons why he was named First-team All-ACC as a senior in 2016. The guards will need to carry the load for Hall In, as 6’9” center John Garcia is the only post player on the roster. If they can win a couple games and get to Atlanta, Hall In has some potential reinforcements lined up that could make this team very, very interesting.  

Keys to the Game

In the guard dominated TBT, it only makes sense to kick off the Big East Pod with two guard-heavy teams. The amount of fluctuation in the Jack Attack roster would lead many to question whether or not they’ll have the team chemistry to be successful, but the funny thing about TBT is sometimes chemistry is everything and other times it doesn’t matter. We’ve seen groups practice together for weeks leading into the tournament and get waxed in the first round, while other teams have thrown together guys on the court for the very first time and made deep runs or won the whole thing.

With so much focus on the guards, I see this game coming down to getting into the paint off the dribble. You can expect a lot of outside shots from both sides, but whichever team can effectively get their guards into the paint and to the foul line will have a great chance at moving on to Sunday.

 

#3 Golden Eagles (Marquette Alumni) vs. #14 Johnnies (St. John’s Alumni)

Saturday June 30, 5:00 pm ET – ESPN3

Golden Eagles (Marquette Alumni)

Playing in their third straight TBT, the Golden Eagles bring another talent-loaded team to the Northeast. This summer, they’ll have the added advantage of starting TBT play at home, as Marquette University hosts the Big East pod.

When you look at the 2018 roster, there are a couple things that immediately jump out at you. First, no Dwight Buycks or DeVonte Gardner. Gardner was the teams leading scorer in TBT2017 (17.0 ppg) and Buycks was a TBT2016 All-Tournament selection that moved on to the NBA after TBT2017. Those two will certainly be missed, but GM Daniel Fitzgerald has added some pieces that will help fill the void, starting with point guard Travis Diener.

While at Marquette (2001-2005) Diener was named a 2x First-team All-Conference USA (2004, 2005) and was a member of the 2003 Final Four team with NBA guys like Dwayne Wade and Steve Novak. The Orlando Magic drafted him 38th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft and Diener spent five seasons (181 career games) in the NBA with the Magic, Pacers and TrailBlazers. He has won an Italian Cup (2014) was Italian Cup MVP (2014) and is a 2x Serie A All-Star. He is so beloved by his Serie A team Dinamo that the team retired his No. 12 jersey.

In 2014, Diener retired from basketball and became director of player personnel at Marquette, but came out of retirement in 2017 to play with his cousin Drake Diener for Serie A team Vanoli. Sure, Diener is 36-years-old competing in an increasingly younger TBT landscape, but Serie A is some of the best basketball in the world and he proved this season that he’s not done quite yet.

The other key to the Golden Eagles roster is the return of their three-headed monster in Jamil Wilson, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jerel McNeal. Wilson spent time with the Los Angeles Clippers this season, Johnson-Odom has had stints with the Lakers and Sixers, and McNeal is a former All-American who has played in some of the top leagues in the world since graduating in 2009. All three were among the Golden Eagle’s top 5 scorers last summer, with Wilson leading the team in rebounds and McNeal leading the team in steals. They will certainly be looked to again as leaders of this summer’s team.

Johnnies (St. John’s Alumni)

Making their first TBT appearance are the Johnnies from St. John’s. Former Red Strom guard Kevin Clark acts as GM/Coach for a team that is definitely better than their seed might indicate.

Anthony Mason Jr. is a name that will jump off the roster for many. The 6’7” forward can score from all over the court and can help on the glass. A big non-St. John’s addition to the team is Jordan Tolbert, who spent three seasons with Texas Tech (10.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) before transferring to SMU as a senior (11.6 ppg, 8.5 rebounds). He spent the 2017-18 season with Hyeres-Toulon in France and will bring a much-needed scoring threat and rebounding presence.

But if the Johnnies want to make it out of the Big East pod, they’re going to need strong guard play and that starts with Malik Boothe and Jamal Branch. Boothe is a deadly shooter and the only player on the roster with TBT experience (TBT2016, TBT2017), while Branch is a well-rounded guard that has played in the G-League as recently as 2017.

Keys to the Game

Take the seeds out of it when you’re looking at this game. Had St. John’s not been apart of the Big East Pod, there seed would likely be higher. But the Johnnies will have their work cut out for them nonetheless.

Guards are gold in TBT and even without Buycks, the Eagles have a deeper and more talented group of guards. I’m looking for the Johnnies to knock down shots at a high rate, led by a big game from Malik Boothe, if the St. John’s alumni want to pull off the upset in what will be a home game for the Golden Eagles.

 

 

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