Best Virginia broke its glass ceiling after a comfortable win in the second round of The Basketball Tournament — setting up one last showdown for the team at the Charleston Regional against Team 23. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. ET on ESPN3.
The second-seeded Mountaineer alumni squad has taken advantage of its draw in the bracket, notching victories over WoCo Showtime and D2. They’ll go up against Team 23, the 6-seed, who just stymied the possibility of a West Virginia rivalry clash against Herd That with a nerve-wracking 74-71 win over the Marshall alumni team. Now, both Team 23 and Best Virginia play for a ticket to the TBT Quarterfinals in Dayton, Ohio.
Best Virginia’s Kevin Jones has been one of the players of the tournament so far, nearly averaging a double-double with 15.5 points and 9.5 rebounds over the team’s two games so far. He has attributed Best Virginia’s success so far to a simple concept: the will to win.
“We keep on saying schemes don’t matter — well schemes do matter, but they don’t matter as much as will, having the will to win,” Jones said after the 63-51 second round victory on Monday. “That’s what it comes down to, that’s what happened tonight.”
Best Virginia has played strong inside with guys like Jones, John Flowers and Nathan Adrian, but they are augmented by a deep backcourt. The duo of Tarik Phillip and Juwan Staten lead the team in assists, combining for 8.5 dimes per game so far, while Phillip is one of three double-digit scorers with 11 points per game — tying Flowers for second on the team.
Team 23 has a diverse makeup, featuring players from other former TBT teams (like the four-time tournament champions Overseas Elite) and a few former NBA competitors in Walt Lemon Jr., Eric Griffin and Daniel Ochefu. It has a history in TBT, however, making a run to the 2015 finals and losing by a bucket to Overseas Elite.
6-10 forward Raphiael Putney leads the squad with 17 points and six rebounds per game, one of four double-digit scorers for Team 23 through its two games.
Best Virginia coach James Long knows that at this stage in the tournament, the opponent will likely be tougher than the last — but he is keeping his mind on his Best Virginia team.
“They’ve got a solid group of guys, but we’re focused on ourselves,” Long said. “If we can be the best version of ourselves, I’ll ride with these guys anytime.”
Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. ET on ESPN3 at the Charleston Civic Center.