The Golden Eagles looking to take that last TBT step

 

By: Dylan Woods


The Golden Eagles have done everything except win a TBT title

In 2016, playing in TBT for the first time, the Golden Eagles (Marquette alumni) made it all the way to the quarterfinals, a very impressive feat for a brand new bunch.

The next year, now as a one seed, they again made the final eight before getting blown out by Ohio State’s alumni entrant, Scarlet and Gray. And while two successful years isn’t the same as winning a championship, consecutive deep runs is nothing to laugh at either.

And there was no one chuckling when, in 2018, the Golden Eagles made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to Overseas Elite, who would go on to win their fourth straight TBT championship the next day.

With very little territory left to explore in the bracket, Marquette still found a way to reach new heights last year. After another trip to the semifinals, they knocked off Team Hines to set up a rematch of sorts with Carmen’s Crew, Ohio State’s newly named group. However, despite the continued progress, they came up a few bounces short and watched as their opponent walked away with the prize.

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So what now?

Well, for a team that has gone deeper and deeper every year since their debut in 2016, the natural next step for the Golden Eagles this year would be to cut down the nets in Columbus and say hello to their first championship. If you were to ask a room full of Hollywood screenwriters, it is now time for that triumphant third act.

Still, just like the previous four years, every journey starts with that opening game in the first round. No matter what happened in the past, every summer gives each team a new beginning.

“[Losing last year] is a huge bummer,” said the team’s GM Dan Fitzgerald. “But I’m sure once we get into the thick of things and get into the tournament, you remember that but...you just try to figure out how to beat your first opponent.”

 

This year, things are a little different bracket-wise. With the need to limit the participants due to the coronavirus, the Golden Eagles were one of eight teams to receive a bye in the 24-team field. Now, they will sit back and watch as Team CP3 and Mid American Unity duke it out to decide who gets to face last year’s runner-up.

Nonetheless, Fitzgerald isn’t overly concerned about a different format or change in scheduling with their first round bye.

“The field will still feel really tough just like every year,” he said. “Right off the bat, all these games will be real competitive.”

If this Marquette team hopes to finally get it done this year, Fitzgerald points to two areas of strength he thinks the team can exploit to their advantage. The first is the team’s coach, Joe Chapman.

 

“He does such an incredible job of preparing guys beforehand, taking [his responsibilities] really seriously, scouting other teams, and really treating TBT like college coaches would,” Fitzgerald said.

The other is the team’s continuity and ability to play together. Going back the past few years, the core of their rotation has stayed intact and mainstays have gotten used to playing together for several summers now. And that’s without factoring in any time they spent together in college as well.

“They’re all pros,” said Fitzgerald. “We play really well together and everyone assumes their role really well, and I think that’s a key to win this tournament. 

“You can’t just throw an All-Star team out there and think you’re going to win. You have to play well together, guard really well, and do all the facets of the game as a team.”

 

For Marquette, it will be familiar faces like Maurice Acker, Dwight Buycks, Elgin Cook, Jamil Wilson, Derrick Wilson, and Travis Diener trying to maneuver the team through its first title run. All are entering at least their third go-round with the Golden Eagles and, safe to say, are well versed on each other's tendencies and idiosyncrasies. 

The team is also excited about a new addition at center, Luke Fischer. He gives the team a new element they haven’t had in the past as a mobile big with the ability to score.

The Golden Eagles also gladly welcome back Darius Johnson-Odom, who played for them in 2017 and will join the squad again this year.

“Having him back on the team is huge,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s really talented, and between him and Dwight Buycks we’ve got two really dynamic guys that can really carry the team.”

Now, with just days before the tournament gets under way, the team has made sure to spend as much time together as possible. After meeting up in Milwaukee, they made it to Columbus with enough time to get a few more practices in and are getting prepared for their first game. 

And once things tip off, don’t expect anything less than all-out effort from a team hungry for its first title taste.

“We’ll be ready,” Fitzgerald said.

 

 

 

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