The Basketball Tournament

The Basketball Tournament: What you need to know ahead of Boeheim’s Army’s Final 4 matchup

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Boeheim’s Army will face Overseas Elite in Baltimore at 9 p.m. Tuesday for a spot in The Basketball Tournament’s championship game.

Boeheim’s Army’s quest for the $2 million prize continues Tuesday night in Baltimore, where the Syracuse Alumni square off against top-seeded Overseas Elite. The matchup, which will be televised nationally on ESPN at 9 p.m., will take place at Coppin State University. No. 3 seed Boeheim’s Army exploded on a 40-10 run in the Elite Eight to overcome a 25-point second-half deficit and earn a date with Overseas Elite.

The Daily Orange will have coverage Tuesday and, should BA win, Thursday for what would be the title game. For now, here’s a few notes you should know headed into Tuesday night’s bout.

In the way

What stands in the way of BA is Overseas Elite, a team that has never lost in the tournament. They’re a perfect 17-0 and winners of The Basketball Tournament in both 2015 and 2016. They’ve collected $3 million and are looking for $5 million with two more wins.

Former Pittsburgh forward DeJuan Blair, the 2009 co-Big East Player of the Year, combines with Justin Burrell and Oliver Lafayette as key additions to the already strong roster. DJ Kennedy, Kyle Fogg and Errick McCollum II (15.5 points per game) have played overseas for years and bring their talents together every summer.

Overseas Elite is shooting 46.7 percent from 3-point range and averaging 32.5 free-throw attempts per game, making for a tough road block in the way of Boeheim’s Army.

“I don’t know if they have the most talent,” BA guard Brandon Triche said, “but I’m sure they’ve probably been the best team the past few years. That’s why they won.”

big-man

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Tightening the defense

To dethrone the two-time defending champions, Boeheim’s Army will need to tighten up its 2-3 zone. During both games in Brooklyn, opponents spaced the floor and worked the high post with relative ease. There were some loose spots, especially free-throw extended and on the wings.

Switching to a half-court, three-quarter court and sometimes full-court press keyed Boeheim’s Army’s 25-point comeback. In the first half, BA sagged, giving up jumpers from deep and leaving inside post men open. BA’s press changed the pace of the game.

“That’s why we were able to actually pull out the win,” Triche said. “It seemed like there were six people on the floor for us. We were taking away shots.”

Boeheim’s Army will probably press again Tuesday to show varying looks, especially if facing another deficit in the second half.

The name of the game

The root of the BA’s temporary woes during TBT has not been a mystery. When failing to make shots, the team’s situation has turned sour. The 25-point deficit to Team Foe existed in part because of a 26.7 first half shooting percentage. The near-collapse at the hands of second-round opponent Gaelnation paired with a 31 percent mark from the field in the second half. BA will need to work each trip for the best look possible to avoid an early hole against Overseas Elite.

“Sometimes we don’t have solid movement after the first initial action,” Triche said. “We want to get better shots early, but if we have to use the clock, we’ll use the clock wisely and not force it.”

It would be wishful thinking to assume BA has another massive comeback in store against an even stronger opponent. If it wants to keep this one close, hitting a few shots from the get-go wouldn’t be a bad idea. Doing so can infuse confidence, guard John Gillon said this week.

The variable

Eric Devendorf’s 18 points per game leads Boheim’s Army, but its most crucial piece at this juncture has to be forward James Southerland. The team goes as he does.

Southerland was the only player on the team to participate in the NBA summer league this year and missed the opening weekend of TBT while playing for the Utah Jazz. He scored five points in the Super 16. BA’s lowest point total in four its games, 65, coincided.

In the first half of the regional final, he made just one shot and was not part of the equation. Team FOE was dominating. But he finished the game with 23 points and his second-half three pointers catalyzed the BA comeback.

We just needed somebody to come get the squad, today it was me,” Southerland said. “…Just keep letting ‘em fly.”

Blackwell’s team should feel better about its chances against Overseas Elite if Southerland’s name shows up as often in Tuesday’s stat sheet as it did last game.

“I know who I am and can play with anybody,” Southerland said.

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