The Basketball Tournament schedule-makers appear to have a keen sense of TBT’s short history as well as the best rivalry in the West Coast Conference.
Sixth-seeded Few Good Men, which includes six former Zags, opens the winner-take-all, $2 million tournament against No. 11 Team Utah at approximately 7 p.m. Friday in the Hoopfest pod at Lewis and Clark High.
Team Utah, stocked with state of Utah products, knocked Few Good Men out in the Super 16 two years ago before FGM returned the favor 85-83 last year to reach the Super 16.
The rosters have changed, but there’s enough carryover on both squads to understand the series is even at 1.
“Our guys are looking forward to it,” Few Good Men general manager Jordan Piscopo said. “They don’t have the exact roster but there’s some familiarity there. It’ll be a tough game. One thing that’s definitely consistent with this tournament is the growth and addition of higher level teams.”
Friday’s opener at LC pits third-seeded Gael Force, loaded with ex-Saint Mary’s standouts, against No. 14 Air Force Bomb Squad at 5 p.m. If the seeding holds up – and that’s a big if – Few Good Men and Gael Force would clash Saturday at 7:30 for a spot in the Super 16 in late July in Atlanta.
“If that works out where we play (Gael Force) in downtown Spokane, that’s going to be one of the most insane atmospheres,” Few Good Men guard Steven Gray said.
Few Good Men’s eight-man roster includes Gonzaga grads Gray, Blake Stepp, Casey Calvary, Matt Bouldin, Sam Dower Jr. and Drew Barham, former Washington State standout DaVonte Lacy and ex-Washington Husky Robert Upshaw.
Former Eastern Washington star Jacob Wiley is expected to join Few Good Men if the team advances to the Super 16. The 7-foot Upshaw has been working out with Wiley and Lacy in the Seattle area. Upshaw has played professionally in Estonia, Dominican Republic, Iran and Lebanon and with the Lakers’ D-League team. He was with the Yakima SunKings this spring.
Gray scored 33 points in last year’s win over Team Utah, which features holdovers Shaun Green, Dakarai Tucker and Drisdom brothers Tim and Terrence. Tucker, a former Utah Ute along with Green and Tim Drisdom, had 25 points and the Drisdom brothers combined for 27 in last year’s matchup.
“I remember they were never out of the game,” Gray said. “They have a lot of heart and they could shoot. Once they got hot it was tough.”
Gael Force includes Joe Rahon, Mickey McConnell, Stephen Holt, Kerry Carter, Rob Jones, Ian O’Leary, Diamon Simpson, Omar Samhan, and 2018 Saint Mary’s grads Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson.
“They pretty much have (Saint Mary’s) core group from the last 8, 10 years outside of Patty (Mills) and ‘Delly’ (Matthew Dellavedova),” said Dan Dickau, who will be on ESPN3’s broadcast of the Hoopfest pod after being a Few Good Men coach/player/general manager the last two years. “Up and down their roster, you’ve got a lot of guys that Gonzaga fans weren’t too keen on.”
All TBT games will utilize the “Elam Ending,” which was designed to prevent late-game foulfests. At the first dead ball with under 4 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the game clock will be shut off and a target score set by adding seven points to the leading team’s score. (For example, if the score is 80-75, the target score is 87.) The first team to reach the target score wins.
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