TBT Power Rankings 4.11.17
By: Josh Brown | @josh_brown31
An early look at who could be competing for $2 million
Back by popular demand, the first TBT power rankings of 2017 are finally here. Eleven days into the registration process 15 teams are already eligible (7 players and 100 votes) for #TBT2017, with several others on the immediate brink as well. While eligibility was not required for this week's power rankings, only teams with at least five players were taken under consideration. So without further ado, sit back and relax as we take an early look at who the contenders are to hoist the $2 million check in Baltimore as of April 11. And please note, this is only one guy's opinion.
1. Team Challenge ALS
They have the motivation. They have the star power. And they certainly have the on-court talent. Team Challenge ALS looks like the total package, and thus takes home the top-spot in this week’s power rankings. Playing to raise money and awareness for ALS, should they qualify the team will be coached by Sacramento Kings point guard Darren Collison. They also have two dedicated boosters in Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and former Boston College baseball star Pete Frates. On the hardwood the talent is just as impressive. Point guard Dee Bost could quite possibly be one of the best players in the whole tournament. A First-Team All-SEC selection with Mississippi State in 2012, Bost has since won championships in Montenegro and Poland (where he was named Finals MVP) and was a D-League All-Star in 2014. It continues with guys like Sean Marshall, who has had a successful ten-year career following his college days at Boston College. Shall we continue? Gerald Robinson scored nearly 2,000 career points while playing at Tennessee State and Georgia. Jerry Smith hit more key buzzer-beaters at Louisville then the mind can remember, and has since played around the world. The list goes on and on.
2. Majerus SLU Crew (Saint Louis Alumni)
With only six players on the roster, Majerus SLU Crew is already one of the most complete teams in TBT 2017. As I mentioned last week, the backcourt duo of Jordair Jett and Mike McCall Jr. is going to give opposing teams nightmares should they qualify. Add in 5-foot-10 guard Kwamain Mitchell to the equation, a speedster who ended his career seventh in career scoring at SLU (1,575), and they seem almost impossible to contain. The team has a knock-down shooter in Mike Crawford, who led the Billikens in 3-pointers made in the 2015-2016 season, and a strong frontcourt presence in Dwayne Evans and Cory Remekun. Evans will be instrumental on the glass for Majerus SLU Crew, having ended his college career in 2014 as the first Saint Louis player since 1990 to lead the team in rebounding all four years. Evans also finished his Billiken career ninth all-time in points (1,499) and fourth in rebounds (942).
3.Memorial Magic (Vanderbilt Alumni)
Defense and speed. That’s how Lance Goulbourne and the Memorial Magic plan on beating the competition. And based on the early makeup of this squad, it’s looking like they’ll be able to do just that. But even with that being said, they should have plenty of fire power to get it done on offensive as well. Led by Vanderbilt all-time leading scorer Shan Foster, Memorial Magic is looking like an early favorite to give Overseas Elite a run for their money in the South Region. In addition to Foster, Jermaine Beal brings a wealth of overseas experience having won two NBL titles and a Belgian League championship in 2016. Alex Gordon will be a reliable point guard for Memorial Magic, having committed the fewest turnovers of any SEC starting point guard in the 2006-2007 regular season. Also helping out in the backcourt will be John Jenkins, who has spent time with the Hawks, Mavericks and Suns.
4. Brothers Dat Ball
One of the best pure shooters that the tournament has ever seen, former Kansas guard and McDonald’s All-American Josh Selby is back for TBT 2017. Other returnees for Brothers Dat Ball (BDB) include 6-foot-11 forward Travis Hyman and point guard Daishon Knight. While those three provide a core capable of competing with anyone, some of this year’s reinforcements could very well put Brothers Dat Ball over the edge. Strong guard play has always been a staple of Josh Selby led teams, and that continues with Florida alum Kenny Boynton and DePaul product Brandon Young. Pair that with scrappy players like Colorado State’s Travis Franklin and Southern Mississippi’s Jasper Johnson manning the frontcourt, and BDB has put themselves right back in contention to make a deep run in TBT 2017.
5. Gaelnation (Iona Alumni)
General Manager John Kiggins described this team to a tee when stating, “We’re a bunch of young, hungry guys who a lot of people who have doubted throughout our careers.” And while they may not have the name recognition that some other teams in the Northeast possess, Gaelnation is as talented as they come. Currently sitting with six players on the roster, the team already has a good mix of versatile guards and physical forwards to balance out their attack. Steve Burtt Jr. is a player to watch. The 6-foot-2 guard graduated Iona with 2,034 points under his belt, the second most in program history. Who was ahead of him? His father, Steve Burtt Sr. The two are just the second father-son duo to each score over 2,000 points in NCAA history. The only other one is Dell and Steph Curry. Not bad company to be in. In addition, Tre Bowman brings TBT experience to Gaelnation after suiting up for Sideline Cancer the past two years.
6. Team 23
Following some speculation that he could potentially join forces with his former Bradley teammates on Always A Brave, GM Michael Illiano received a huge boost in retaining 6-foot-10 center Zach Andrews for TBT 2017. In addition to Andrews, Team 23 returns Larry Owens and Davin White, both instrumental players in the team’s 2015 run to the TBT Championship and Super 16 last year. Along with the returnees, Frank Gaines will be a newcomer to watch this summer. A graduate of Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne, the 6-foot-3 guard was named the D-League’s Most Improved Player in 2014 while playing for the Maine Red Claws. He has since played in Venezuela, Italy, Puerto Rico, Poland and currently Germany where he averages 15 points per game for Vechta. Also, be sure to look out for Nigel Spikes. A former teammate of Miami Heat big man Hassan Whiteside at Marshall University, Spikes, who has experience both overseas and in the D-League, is currently tearing it up in Japan averaging nearly a double-double with 12 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for Fukushima.
7. Kentucky Kings
This is an interesting team forming in the South Region, consisting of four former Western Kentucky players, two Illinois State grads and Erving Walker of Florida. A name that will sound familiar to TBT fans is Osiris Eldridge. After dominating with the Illinois Hoopville Warriors the past couple of years, the 6-foot-3 guard has taken his talents to the Kentucky Kings. While at Illinois State Eldridge was a three-time First-team All-MVC selection, MVC Freshman of the Year in 2007 and MVC Tournament MVP in 2009.
8. Tampa Bulls
General Manager and former South Florida Graduate Assistant Michael Brown describes this team as, “by far one of the most unselfish group of guys I’ve ever been around.” They also happen to be one of the budding talents in the South Region. Led by former Pedro’s Posse forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and 1,000-point scorer Javontae Hawkins, the Tampa Bulls looked poised to make a deep run in TBT 2017 should they qualify.
9. Banner Boys (UW-Milwaukee Alumni)
Not only are the Banner Boys a scrappy team who could wreak havoc in the Midwest, but they’re also playing for a great cause. If the UW-Milwaukee Alumni squad wins the $2 million, they are promising to donate $200,000 to recovery centers in the Midwest dedicated to fighting the heroin epidemic. With 10 players already registered and the highest experience level of any team in TBT as of now, the Banner Boys are in a good position to make a deep run and help #sidelineheroin.
10. Jackson TN Underdawgs
The goal of every team in the offseason is to get better. To say the Jackson TN Underdawgs did that would be an understatement. A year after pulling off a historic first-round upset over the top-seeded Bluegrass Boys in Chicago, GM Darius DeBerry and company return the team’s main core in addition to a couple of huge signees. Leading the charge this summer will be former University of Memphis star Willie Kemp, who suited up for the Bluff City Blues (Memphis Alumni) in TBT 2016. The 6-foot-2 guard played his college ball alongside the likes of Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts, and has since put together an overseas career that has found him in Tunisia, Romania, Latvia, Poland and Kosovo. While Kemp has a good nine-inches on starting point guard Anthony Sampson, the two could prove to be one of the most dynamic backcourts in TBT 2017. In addition, the Underdawgs have also added Eastern Kentucky product Tarius Johnson to the roster this summer. The Jackson, TN native played two seasons at Eastern Kentucky from 2012-2014, in which he averaged 6.6 and 9.7 points per game respectively.
Josh Brown’s TBT Final Four this week: Brothers Dat Ball (Northeast), Memorial Magic (South), Majerus SLU Crew (Midwest), Team Challenge ALS (West)
Josh Brown’s TBT Champion this week: Team Challenge ALS