TBT Preview: No. 1 Seed Scarlet & Gray vs. No. 2 Seed Team Fredette

By James Grega on July 29, 2018 at 7:45 am
Scarlet and Gray

Despite playing without two of their big men and their backup point guard, Scarlet and Gray was able to advance to the quarterfinal round of The Basketball Tournament on Friday night. 

If they want to get back to the final four of the tournament for a second straight summer, they will likely have to do so one more time. 

With Jared Sullinger and Talor Battle getting married over the weekend and B.J. Mullens backing out of the chase for $2 million, Scarlet and Gray will play their second game in three days with a short bench. The Buckeye alums were able to get by the Primetime Players on Friday, 72-60, but their Sunday opponent offers a much stiffer challenge. 

The No. 2 seeded Team Fredette is led by former BYU star Jimmer Fredette, who is coming off of a 41-point performance in his 104-91 win over the Fort Wayne Champs in the Super 16. He figures to match up against defensive specialist Aaron Craft for most of the game on Sunday, a challenge Craft said he is looking forward to. 

"I wanted to guard him my freshman year in college," Craft told ESPN following the win over the Primetime Players. "I didn’t have an opportunity to do it, but I’ll get to do it Sunday."

Fredette averaged 36.9 points per game last season for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association, the second-highest scoring average in the league. In 2017, he was named the MVP of the league after averaging 37.6 points per game. 

While Craft will likely get the first crack at guarding Fredette, he added in a postgame press conference that Scarlet and Gray will probably put multiple defenders on him throughout the game in an effort to slow down the premier scoring guard. 

"I don't know if it's possible to lock up a guy like that who is shooting and scoring the ball in these (last) three games," Craft said. "I'm going to guard him and we will probably have a couple of other guys thrown at him, but it is definitely going to be a team effort to try and guard him."

Craft is coming off of his best game in the tournament, after he scored 13 points, hauled in nine rebounds and dished out six assists in the Super 16 victory. But while the Craft vs. Fredette matchup is the headliner, the battle in the paint also brings plenty of intrigue. 

Greg Oden returned to the court on Friday, scoring 11 points in 16 minutes of action, his first competitive game in more than two years. Taking the place of Sullinger in the starting lineup, Oden also pulled down five rebounds in the win. With Sullinger expected to miss his second straight game after getting married on Saturday, Oden will once again have to take on the responsibility of extended minutes in the paint. 

"It was awesome," Oden said of playing again on Friday. "It was fun for me. Now I am tired, but we have to go win again. My expectations are way too high for me to put into words. All I can do is be happy about the win."

Oden will likely have more competition in the paint against Team Fredette than he did against the Primetime Players, at least when it comes to size. Team Fredette's starting center Jack Cooley, who played his college basketball at Notre Dame, stands 6-foot-10, while power forward Brandon Davies stands 6-foot-9. 

Team Fredette is the highest-scoring team remaining in the tournament (97 points per game) and also one of the deepest, as 11 different players saw minutes in the Super 16 win over the Fort Wayne Champs. Scarlet and Gray also utilized an 11-man roster in its first game of the tournament on July 21, but with Sullinger, Mullens and Battle out, that number has dwindled to nine (Oden did not play the opening weekend). 

Taking Battle's place as the backup point guard has been East Tennessee State product Courtney Pigram. He scored seven points in just nine minutes of action off the bench against the Primetime Players, but provided solid defense in his brief stint while Craft got some much-needed rest. 

The Scarlet and Gray vs. Team Fredette matchup is set to tip off at 3 p.m. on ESPN from Atlanta. The winner will advance to The Basketball Tournament's final four, which will take place in Baltimore, starting Thursday with the $2 million championship game set for Friday.

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