The roster for the second ever Kansas TBT team has officially been set, with the Mass Street KU alumni squad’s Round 1 matchup slated for Wednesday night in Wichita.
There were a handful of late changes to the roster that could prove to be significant — Devon Dotson, Marcus Garrett and Wayne Selden Jr. all had to drop out — but no one can question the winning pedigree of the roster that remains.
Of the 11 players that are on the team’s final roster, nearly three quarters have seen what life is like on college basketball’s biggest stage. In fact, seven of them either won or played for an NCAA title and Jamari Traylor’s presence on the bench as an ineligible member of the roster at the 2012 championship game in New Orleans would make that number eight.
Brandon Rush and Mitch Lightfoot have NCAA championship rings. Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson, Kevin Young and Keith Langford all played for a title on the final Monday night of one of their college basketball seasons. And Lagerald Vick joined that group in reaching the Final Four during his second-to-last season as a Jayhawk.
That experience might not mean much in this event, but no one can say that these guys don’t know how to win.
They’ll be coached by NBA veterans Marcus and Markieff Morris and their goal will be the same as every other team’s in the tournament — to be the last one standing for the million-dollar prize.
Former Jayhawks Mario Little and Dedric Lawson, along with former LaSalle player Rodney Green, round out the Mass Street roster, and the team was together in Lawrence for the first time on Sunday for a light shoot-around and a little practice.
They’ll ramp things up throughout the week before opening play in the Wichita region at Koch Arena at 8 p.m. Wednesday night against We Are D3, a group of former Division III ballers.
A win on Wednesday would set up a potential second-round showdown on Saturday with the Show Me Squad, made up mostly of former Missouri Tigers. Show Me will take on UNLV alumni team, Vegas Rebellion, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Sunday’s practice was open to the public and I stopped by for a quick look at the team and to say hello to some familiar faces.
It’s clear that these guys understand that they have to be a tight and together bunch to make a run in this thing, and it’s also clear that, although they didn’t all play together at Kansas, getting on the same page quickly should not be much of a problem.
If anyone were to ask me, here’s what the starting lineup would look like now that the roster is set. I’m not 100% sure if Lawson is actually playing, despite his presence on the roster, so we’ll leave him out.
PG – Tyshawn Taylor – No-brainer. Still as good a leader as there is and competitive as all get-out. He’s also still jet-quick and can both score and set up his teammates. Taylor, to me, appears to be the heart and soul of this team. Big surprise there.
2G – Lagerald Vick – Because he’s been playing at such a high level throughout his international career, he might be the most important player on this team. Not only is he still young, but he’s a terrific outside shooter and he can win you a game from 3-point range by himself if he gets hot.
3G – Keith Langford – At 39, Langford is ready to make this his swan song in terms of competitive basketball. He looks to be in as good of shape as anyone on the roster and he still has those skills that made him one of the best and most versatile scorers in KU history. All of it will be needed for this group to make a run, and Langford will be ready to bring it.
F – Jamari Traylor – This spot came down to Kevin Young or Traylor and I settled on Traylor for two reasons — 1. His game has evolved from where it was when he played at KU and he has a lot more versatility to it, including a jumper and tons more experience. 2. It’s impossible not to like Young’s energy off the bench. KY may not be instant offense but he is instant energy. Traylor, 31, also helps lower the average age of the starting five, which has Vick, at 26, as the youngest player in it.
F – Thomas Robinson – His chemistry with Taylor alone makes him worth starting. But the fact that he’s one of the most passionate players to ever put on a KU uniform and an absolute beast on the glass and in the paint when he gets going make the former All-American another easy choice. He should create plenty of matchup problems for whatever undersized front lines KU encounters.
As has been the case throughout its existence, the 64-team tournament will use the Elam Ending, which sets a target score rather than the full clock to reach the end of each game.
In addition to the possible matchup with Mizzou in Round 2, the bracket is littered with other familiar faces, as Big 12 programs Texas Tech, Texas, West Virginia and Kansas State, along with Wichita State’s “Aftershocks” all have entered teams into this year’s event.
All TBT games will be televised by ESPN+ until the later rounds, when ESPNU and ESPN2 get into the mix, as well.
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