Strengths And Weaknesses Heading Into Baltimore

 

By: Patrick Ronan | @pk_ronan


The 64-team TBT2017 field has been whittled down to just four. Scarlet And Gray, Team Challenge ALS, Boeheim’s Army and two-time defending champion Overseas Elite will travel to Baltimore this week as they prepare for Tuesday night’s semifinals.

With just two wins separating these teams from $2 million, the margin for error is almost nonexistent. So let’s take a look at the biggest strengths and weakness of each team to this point in TBT2017.

#1 OVERSEAS ELITE

Strengths:

Overseas Elite’s biggest strength is pretty obvious – that whole “two-time defending champions, 17-0 all-time TBT record and $3 million in the bank” thing. But let’s pretend for a second that they aren’t sitting on the TBT throne and break down what they’ve done through four games to get themselves into their third straight semifinals.

Statistically, the trey ball and getting to the free throw line have been Overseas’ biggest strengths. Their 46.7 percent clip from behind the arc is by far the best of the remaining four teams, as are the team’s 32.5 free throw attempts per game. Kyle Fogg and Errick McCollum have been deadly from downtown, while guys like DJ Kennedy and Oliver Lafayette have shown they’re more than capable of stepping back and knocking down the three.

But Overseas’ biggest strength this tournament is their “never die” attitude and culture. Time and time again we’ve seen Overseas start slow or find themselves trailing late, and every single time they find a way to pull themselves out of it and get the win. They trailed by double-digits in both halves against #2 Ram Nation in the South Region finals, but kept their cool and won by seven. If you’re lucky enough to get a lead on these guys, you better put your foot on their throats because you can guarantee they’re going to come for yours in the second half.

Weakness:

It’s hard to pin point “weaknesses” on a team that has never lost in TBT, but again, let’s forget the past for a second and look at just the four games to this point. Overseas’ has a habit of getting off to a slow start, but it’s hard to label that a true “weakness” when it has never come back to really bite them.

That leaves us with just the numbers, where turnovers and rebounding are Overseas’ biggest areas in need of improvement. The team’s 57 turnovers in four games are the most by any semifinal team and their 32.0 rebounds per game are the lowest of any team left. For comparison, both Scarlet And Gray and Boeheim’s Army are averaging 41.8 rebounds per outing.

If Overseas Elite takes care of the ball and competes on the glass it’ll take something special to prevent them from taking home a third straight TBT title.

 

#2 SCARLET AND GRAY

Strengths:

The guys from Ohio State are making serious noise in their first TBT appearance might be the hottest team heading into Baltimore. Scarlet And Gray convincingly won their first three games by an average of 13.0 points and then exploded against the Marquette alumni, beating #1 Golden Eagles 81-56 to advance to the semifinals.

S&G leads the remaining teams in assists per game (16.3), which leads to great contributions from their entire roster. Six of the team’s nine players average between eight and 14.5 points per game, with four of those players averaging in double-digits.

But just because they share the love on offense doesn’t mean they don’t have a number of guys that can single handedly put your team in a big hole. Aaron Craft, David Lighty, William Buford and Jon Diebler are all dangerous threats, but Jared Sullinger is the headliner. The five-year NBA vet was added just days before the tournament started, and man, was that a huge addition. He’s a game-changer on both ends, leading the team in points (14.5) and rebounds (9.0). There’s no doubting that Sullinger is an NBA talent when he’s healthy and he’s looked really, really healthy.   

Weakness:

Finding a weakness in Scarlet And Gray’s first four games isn’t easy, but free throws and turnovers are definitely areas of improvement. Their 17.8 free throw attempts per game are significantly lower than the rest of the semifinalists and the two players that get to the line the most, Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger, are shooting 64 and 63 percent respectively.

Keep an eye on the turnovers as well. Scarlet And Gray’s 13.8 turnovers per game are barely behind Overseas Elite’s semifinalists-leading 14.3.

 

#3 BOEHEIM’S ARMY

Strengths:

When you look at the crowd during a Boeheim’s Army game, you get an idea of just how accurate their team name is. The Syracuse faithful have come out in full force, and their team has treated them to one of the most entertaining TBT runs we’ve ever seen. Their last three games include an overtime win, a go-ahead three with under a minute to play and their most recent feat, a 25-point comeback in the second half to beat #4 Team FOE and advance to Baltimore.

When they’re clicking, these guys are unbelievably fun to watch. They’ve taken care of the ball better than the other semifinalists, committing just 10.5 turnovers per game, and are tied with Scarlet And Gray for the most rebounds per game among the four remaining teams.

Rebounding and taking care of the basketball have definitely helped Boeheim’s Army get to Baltimore, but their two biggest strengths are clear – that rowdy crowd and the heart of Eric Devendorf. It’s hard to imagine any Boeheim’s Army game where the crowd isn’t firmly behind them. Their fans make a 6-0 run seem like 12-0, and if you do find yourself on the wrong end of a 12-0 run you’re in serious trouble.

Then there’s Devendorf. He’s one of those players where you don’t really get how much he means to his team until you watch him play. The guy has the heart of a lion. His energy and passion are infectious, and those things are only amplified when they come from a player as talented as Devendorf. He’s a natural playmaker, is one of the best finishers in TBT and his 18.0 points per game lead the team.

Weakness:

Boeheim’s Army’s biggest weakness in their first four games might actually be bad new for the rest of the remaining field. Their 25 three point attempts are the most of any team heading to Baltimore, but their three-point shooting percentage of just 32.0 percent is the lowest.

Taking and missing a bunch of threes can lead to things like a 25-point deficit, but if Boeheim’s Army heats up from behind the arc, they could be even better than we’ve seen them thus far.

 

#6 TEAM CHALLENGE ALS

Strengths:

Their seed might make them a Cinderella in the eyes of most, but four teams will tell you that Cinderella can hoop. These guys are playing awesome ball for an awesome cause. Inspired by Boston College legend and their friend, Pete Frates, Team Challenge ALS is playing to raise funds and awareness for those affected by ALS.

They’ve quietly won each of their first four game by double digits and have thrived on getting quality shots. Team Challenge ALS leads the semifinalists in field goal percentage (48.0) and they’re shooting a strong 40.0 percent behind the three-point line.

No player in Baltimore averages more points than Team Challenge ALS’ Sean Marshall (21.5), who will return to action on Tuesday after missing the last two games. Getting Marshall back is huge, but so are the two games they played without him. They won Super 16 and quarterfinal games without arguably their best player.

Weakness:

The only noticeable weakness for Team Challenge ALS is their low assist numbers. No one on the team averages more than two assists per game and as a team, they average just over half the assists of their Tuesday opponent Scarlet And Gray. The defense from Scarlet And Gray against Golden Eagles in the quarterfinals was suffocating, so look for Team Challenge ALS to bump up the assist numbers in the semifinals.


The semifinals go down Tuesday August 1 in Baltimore. Both games will air LIVE on ESPN starting with #6 Team Challenge ALS vs. #2 Scarlet And Gray at 7:00 p.m. – followed by #3 Boeheim’s Army vs. #1 Overseas Elite at 9:00 p.m.