House of ‘Paign advanced to the second round of The Basketball Tournament after Saturday night’s resounding 76-53 win over War Tampa. Former Illini Malcolm Hill & Andres Feliz shined for HoP, but it was non-Illini Mike Daum who was clearly the best player on the floor. The South Dakota State alum tallied 21 points and 13 boards for HoP and demonstrated why he was one of the best college players of his era.
Next up, the round of 16 and No. 1 seed Carmen’s Crew. This is a loaded squad consisting mainly of former Ohio State Buckeye stars of the past decade, with one very notable exception — more on that in a sec. At least we won’t have any Matt Sylvester flashbacks.
Who Are They?
Carmen’s Crew is named after “Carmen Ohio,” a song first performed by the Ohio State men’s glee club in 1903. Led by Head Coach Jared Sullinger, Carmen’s Crew upset 4-time defending TBT champions Overseas Elite to win The Basketball Tournament in 2019.
As a result of that victory Carmen’s Crew received the top seed in this year’s field, a first-round bye, and the right to play on their home court in Columbus (which also worked out as a terrific place to hold a fully quarantined tournament in a bubble).
Sullinger is back this summer as the team’s Head Coach/GM.
William Buford donned a Buckeye uniform from 2008-12 and was one of the most consistent performers of the Thad Matta era. Buford finished his career 10 points shy of 2,000 and averaged 38.5% from three-point distance. The Basketball Tournament named Buford as its MVP in 2019.
Aaron Craft played in 148 games during his four seasons in Columbus. Only four? Can’t be true...
I mean, Aaron Craft tormented Illinois for like 9 seasons so it's only fitting we get the chance to knock the snot out of him in a couple days...— Room of ‘Paign (@Champaign_Room) July 5, 2020
Craft is a tenacious defender — he made the Big Ten All-Defensive Team each season and was twice the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year — and a highly intelligent player who always seemed to make the right play at the right time for the Buckeyes. Craft is Ohio State’s all-time leader in steals (337) and was named to Big Ten Network’s All-Decade Team. He’s the archetype of the guy you love having on your team but hate playing against. Craft was playing in Italy before COVID-19 suspended the season.
Jon Diebler was a teammate of both Buford & Craft and also a member of Carmen’s Crew in 2019. The 6-foot-6 wing was a marksman from long range, sinking nearly 42% of his three-point shots during his days with the Buckeyes, including an astonishing 50.2% (114-of-227) in 2010-11. Diebler made 374 triples at Ohio State...and only attempted 209 two-point shots. House of ‘Paign absolutely need to keep tabs on Diebler throughout this game.
One of the most underappreciated Illini players of recent memory, it will be jarring to see Demetri McCamey squaring off against the Orange & Blue. The Chicago-area native finished seventh in Illini history with 1,718 points, and fifth all-time in threes with 236. We also know that McCamey can dish the ball — his 733 assists are second only to Bruce Douglas (765) in program history.
McCamey’s Ohio State connection? In addition to playing with Carmen’s Crew last season, he was also a high school teammate of former Buckeye & 2010 National Player of the Year Evan Turner.
And in only three seasons with Ohio State, Deshaun Thomas registered the ninth-most points in school history (1,628). The 6-foot-7 forward averaged nearly 20 ppg during the 2012-13 campaign, and Thomas’ 731 points is the the third-best single-season total for a Buckeye. Thomas was chosen by san Antonio in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft but failed to make the active roster. He’s spent most of his pro career overseas, including the past two seasons with Greek club Panathinaikos BC.
No team has had a larger margin of victory so far in TBT than House of ‘Paign last week, but they’ll need to be even better if they want to score the upset here.
Carmen’s Crew is loaded. It’s an experienced, tournament-tested group that has played a lot together. HoP needs to keep up the intensity, play smart, and — most importantly — make buckets to keep this game competitive.
Carmen’s Crew are rightfully the favorites and have most of last year’s title team intact. House of ‘Paign will have its hands full.
Let’s hope Mike LaTulip has prepared a great gameplan; he’ll likely need one.