My NYC National Tournament Prediction Report Card

Treys 4 Days Hendershot and Team Classic’s  Ndiaye

Treys 4 Days Hendershot and Team Classic’s Ndiaye

The 2019 New York National Tournament is over, the MVP has been announced and the All-Tournament Team has been announced. It’s just about time to let it go, but when I was coming up with the All-Tournament Team, I couldn’t help thinking about some of the players that just missed the cut. So instead of coming up with a second team, I decided to revisit my pre-tournament predictions and see how I did (spoiler alert: not great), plus give a coda for each team on their tournament performance.  

 

DMV Ballers

Projected finish: Runner-up

Actual finish: Play-in game loss

Grade F

This was my biggest miss of the weekend, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone. A year after winning the tournament, the DMV Ballers were the first team to be eliminated in this year’s tournament, losing 62-51 to the Villains in the 8 a.m. play-in game.

DMV’s Byron Mouton

DMV’s Byron Mouton

There are a few reasons for the drastic switch from a 5-0 record last year to an 0-3 record this year, and the biggest one is the strength of schedule. In pool play last year, they played the two teams that ended up losing in the play-in games, giving them the 1-seed. They then barely beat the 8-seed LA KIXX, who were not as good as they were this year, before taking down two very good teams on the way to the title. They had time to build confidence going into those tougher matchups, but not this time around. Their first game came against the eventual champs, FMB, while their next two would come against RTG, who made it to the semifinals, and the Villains, who got to the championship game.

This all comes after captain Al Kamara said he felt this team was better than the one that won a title in 2018. That clearly wasn’t the case, and it makes you wonder, which year was the fluke? The run all the way to the title, or the winless exit? Maybe we’ll find out next year.

Best player – Byron Mouton: 13.3/8.3/0.7 with shooting splits of 34/11/92

 

FMB

Projected finish: Quarterfinalists

Actual finish: Champions

Grade B

I always knew FMB had the talent to win this tournament. Every year, they have a couple of the best players in the tournament, and that was most evident this year. What they’ve lacked in the past in consistency and reliability, and that was still lacking a bit this year. On Saturday, they played without Farid Johnson, Dave Capers and only got one game out of Garfield Johns. On Sunday, they played without Cody Martin, Andrew Kirk and Boo Burford.

FMB- 2019 NYC National Champions

FMB- 2019 NYC National Champions

Despite all of this fluctuation, FMB was still able to go 5-0 on their way to the title, and that was due to their three consistent players: Spencer Smith, Tunde Ogunleye and Sky Williams. Those were the only three players to play in all five games, and they combined to average 48/14.8/9.6 with shooting splits of 53.7/43/84.7. All three combined their talent and athleticism to be a menace on both sides of the floor, creating havoc for other teams that couldn’t match the play of these guards and wings. Once Johns got added to the mix in full in the semifinals, it was a wrap. He scored 19 in the semifinals and 23 in the championship, shooting a combined 52% from the field and 47% from deep in those two games. This all added up to FMB averaging 85.4 points per game, over seven more than X Over in second (77.0).

FMB may have been the best team in tournament’s past, but they were never able to prove it. This year they did, and they are a deserving national champion.

Best player – Spencer Smith: 20/6.2/4.2 with shooting splits of 55/44/96

 

LA KIXX

Projected finish: Play-in game loss

Actual finish: Semifinalists

Grade C+

Another team I was pretty off on, but to be fair, I was hesitant to feel confident in this team with the lack of information I had about them. Five of their players were new to the national stage, and their player profiles don’t give much insight into who they are. All five of them are listed at 6’0”, 0 lbs, the standard for UH if no information is submitted on their player profile. If I would’ve known that they were mostly ranging from 6’3”-6’6”; I might’ve changed my mind.

Despite the size advantage LA KIXX had over every other team in the tournament, they finished as the seventh-best rebounding team with 29.8 a game. They also mostly stayed around the perimeter, as 100 of the 205 shots they took in this tournament came from the outside.

LA KIXX’s Greg Little

LA KIXX’s Greg Little

They made 38% of those 3s, so it wasn’t a bad strategy, but with their size and athleticism, it could have been beneficial to attack the basket more often. Their reliance on 3s hurt them a bit in their semifinal loss to FMB, where every player not named Derrick Allen shot a combined 5-21. Allen was 7-12 from deep that game, scoring a team-high 23 points, but LA KIXX couldn’t put together a full performance.

Either way, this team showed a lot of promise and could really do some damage if they are able to improve their guard play in future tournaments. A lot of their players proved they can ball at this level, especially Allen, who just missed the cut for the All-Tournament Team.

Best player – Derrick Allen: 20.8/5/1.8 with shooting splits of 47/42/78

 

LTC Tree

Projected finish: Play-in game loss

Actual finish: Quarterfinalists

Grade B

I am always ready to admit when I’m wrong, and I was certainly wrong about LTC Tree’s chances against X Over. I thought X Over would win easily, but Arvin Zeinali had other plans, as he buried a ridiculous 3 at the buzzer to beat the defending Vegas champs. Now, when I wrote the team preview for LTC Tree and predicted them to go 0-3, they only had five players on their roster. When I wrote the schedule reveal article and predicted them to lose to X Over by 27 points, they only had six players on their roster, with one of them being Patrick Ferrell, who didn’t play this weekend. But whatever, no one cares about the details and I’m an idiot, I’ll accept it.

Zeinali delivered one of the tourney’s best moments

Zeinali delivered one of the tourney’s best moments

The late additions of Emery Range and Brock Shorter significantly helped this team, as they would have been undersized against any team in this tournament. Shorter was especially impressive, as he averaged 10 points and 10.7 rebounds, with a tournament-best 4.7 of those coming on the offensive end. Having that presence inside gave more space on the perimeter for Zeinali, Sari Papazian and Frankie Ghouchani to operate from the outside and bury the combined 7.4 3s per game that they made.

It was unfortunate to see this team get knocked out in the quarterfinals by LA KIXX, the other team representing Atlanta. I’m sure they would’ve preferred to face them later if possible, but nonetheless, Atlanta had a good showing at this tournament, and the decision to split into two teams was absolutely the right one.

Best player – Arvin Zeinali: 18/2.3/4.7 with shooting splits of 56/44/50

 

Motivation

Projected finish: Quarterfinalists

Actual finish: Quarterfinalists

Grade A

If you look solely at where this team was knocked out, they barely improved from last year. $Ball lost in a play-in game last year, finishing 0-3. Motivation ended up losing its first game on Sunday, but this was a vastly improved team that shows Boston is capable of competing at the national level. They made six new additions to their team, and you could tell the impact they had immediately.

Marco Banegas-Flores

Marco Banegas-Flores

First and foremost, there was Marco Banegas-Flores, who was a joy to watch. He made the All-Tournament Team, so if you want a full breakdown of his performance, you should read that. The other two significant additions were Kerry Weldon and Bruno Levanic, who combined for a dynamic frontcourt. Weldon’s 12 rebounds per game led the tournament, as he was a menace for opposing teams in the paint. Levanic was more of a finesse player, able to stretch the floor from the outside and score off the dribble. The addition of those three, plus the improved play from Kyree LaPlanche, was the reason this team was able to go 2-0 in pool play and earn the 1-seed.

It still ended in disappointment for Motivation, as they lost a rematch with the Villains where the Las Vegas squad played much more to their potential. Still, it ends an 0-6 run for Westwood teams in this tournament and shows the rest of the field that Boston is adding talent.

Best player – Marco Banegas-Flores: 23.7/4.7/4 with shooting splits of 51/55/92

 

RTG

Projected finish: Quarterfinalists

Actual finish: Semifinalists

Grade B+

This was another team that fooled me a little bit. I was unaware that Richie Byrd would be available this weekend, let alone that he would play three games for RTG in this tournament. I was also unaware of who Calvin Brown was, and he made a big impact in their win over DMV Ballers. Either way, it just goes to show that you can never doubt a Syosset team in the New York National Tournament. Once they walk into Sky, they know they have a chance to win.

Richie Byrd

Richie Byrd

The addition of Byrd was the big story for RTG, as he went on to have a great three games, made a buzzer beater against Team Classic and get named to the All-Tournament Team. He was a huge difference maker, but I’ve seen Byrd do this before. I was much more excited to see a healthy Ken Korner and Michael Mastro with a bigger role, and they both didn’t disappoint. Koerner came out hot on Saturday, scoring 17 and 12 in their 1-1 run in pool play, shooting 7-15 from deep combined in those two games. His shooting was off on Sunday, but he made up for it with his defense and energy. There’s a reason his hands were bleeding multiple times in this tournament, as he was poking the ball free from offensive players all tournament and creating turnovers. His 2.5 steals per game were tied for the most in the tournament with Courtney Fleurantin, who played in two fewer games.

Mastro was an efficiency machine this weekend, putting up shooting splits of 58/57/89, as he never settled for a bad shot. He was constantly moving the ball, making the extra pass and finding open teammates. When he finally would get open shots for himself, they typically went in. It was a Hall of Fame display from Mastro, and another impressive run from a Syosset team at this tournament. Now if only some of their other players could schedule their bachelor parties better…

Best player – Richie Byrd: 24.7/4/3.3 with shooting splits of 48/41/75

 

Team Classic

Projected finish: Semifinalists

Actual finish: Quarterfinalists

Grade B+

Team Classic is the hardest team for me to evaluate, because I’m not sure if they were better than their finish dictates or worse. They came out and put the tournament on notice with a 15-0 run to start their dominant win over Treys 4 Days in the first game of the tournament. They then went on to lose their next two games by a combined five points to two teams that made it to the semifinals. They had a tough schedule to deal with, but it felt like if they played LA KIXX or RTG 10 times, they might win six or seven of them against both of those teams.

Team Classic’s Jay Resto

Team Classic’s Jay Resto

The biggest problem this team had was the opposite problem that most teams were dealing with: too much depth. It’s nice to bring out 10 players to a tournament and get everyone a little playing time. It’s easy to do when you beat a team 93-47, but eventually you have to find a seven-man rotation that you’re going to live and die with, and this team never totally figured that out. There’s no doubt that this team is much improved over last year’s Classic Barbershop; their new additions were awesome to watch. Tommy Hubbard, Shane Coleman, Mychal Parker, Garrisson Duvivier and Keyon Armstrong are all here to stay for future tournaments, at least, I hope so.

Both Boston teams got better, but they both need to make adjustments if they’re going to contend for a title. Motivation felt like they needed one or two more impact players to make a difference, while Team Classic may need to drop a couple guys for this roster to make sense. Maybe Jay Resto and Jason LaPlanche can make a deal.

Best player – Tommy Hubbard: 15.3/2.3/2.3 on shooting splits of 50/53/50

 

Treys 4 Days

Projected finish: Quarterfinalists

Actual finish: Play-in game loss

Grade C

Another disappointing year for New Jersey, as they finish 0-3 for the second straight year, but there were some improvements. They actually got to play in their play-in game this year, and they were able to hang with X Over for quite a while before the game got away from them in the final minutes. They were also able to battle back against FMB in pool play, and make the eventual champs sweat in the final minutes.

Treys 4 Days’ Chris Hendershot

Treys 4 Days’ Chris Hendershot

There moral victories may not mean much, but there was some progress for Treys 4 Days. It didn’t help that they had to play against three of the most talented teams in the tournament, but they did seem like the worst team in the tournament again, and I’m not sure what they would have done with a different schedule.

It might be time for a roster revamp for Tim Wojcik. We saw both Boston teams and both Atlanta teams completely change their rosters for this tournament, and it worked out. If this same squad shows up in 2020 for Treys 4 Days, we may see the same result.

Best player – Andre Jean-Pierre: 20/7/3 with shooting splits of 58/55/80

 

Villains

Projected finish: Semifinalists

Actual finish: Runner-up

Grade B

What a wild tournament for the Villains. After they lost to Motivation, a game I expected them to win, it set them up to possibly go 0-2 with a game against X Over upcoming. X Over wins an 80-77 thriller, and all of a sudden, the Villains have to play a play-in game against the defending champs at 8 a.m.  WHAT? That was not supposed to happen.

Before that 8 a.m. game tipped off, Villains’ captain L.C. Comine saw me in the locker room and told me, “We’ve got a chance today.” On the very literal level, yes, every team on Sunday could win the tournament. But play four games and win the title? I didn’t think they had it in them. That ended up being true, as they ran out of gas against FMB in their fourth game of the day, but that shouldn’t take away from the amazing run this team had.

Villains Rob Sandoval

Villains Rob Sandoval

The Villains played in six games in two days, which totals to 1,320 minutes to hand out to five players. Their bench of J.J. Todd, Tij Von Nieda, Jacob McDonlad and Comine combined to play 112 of those minutes, meaning the starting five played 1,208 minutes in the tournament, averaging out to 40.3 minutes per game.

That took its toll eventually, but all five of their starters were incredible. Andre Vaughn scored 6 points on 2-17 shooting in their first game, a 72-64 loss to Motivation. He went on to average 20.8 points in the next five games, shooting 51% from the field and 43% from deep. Robert Sandoval had a huge impact on both ends, averaging 17.3 points on 49% shooting from the field and 40% from deep. He also recorded a tournament-record seven steals in the quarterfinals against Motivation. Chase Skinkis ran the point better than almost anyone in the tournament, always leading breaks and getting the Villains easy points in transition; his 5 assists per game were tied for the most with Courtney Fleurantin. He also had to guard some of the best players in the tournament, switching between scoring wings and big men with a few inches on him. The frontcourt duo of Josh McCarver and Reggie Jackson combined to average 29.7 points and 20.8 rebounds. No teams had an answer for both of them, as slowing one down just allowed the other to operate.

This team was awesome to watch, and who knows what would have happened had Tony Eackles Jr. not drop out a couple days before the tournament? Unfortunately for Vegas, this will be remembered as another title game loss for the region, but it should be remembered as an impressive run for a team with its back against the wall for all of Championship Sunday.

Best player – Josh McCarver: 15.5/10.3/2 with shooting splits of 64/0/77

 

X Over

Projected finish: Champions

Actual finish: Quarterfinalists

Grade C+

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Obviously, this was not the team we saw in Vegas, as Tournament MVP Tevin Kelly and instant offense threat Fred Dudley couldn’t make the trip. I still felt like this team was good enough to win the tournament, and so did they. They showed up to the Friday night event at Sky taking pictures with the trophy, thinking in two days it would be their’s to keep. That over-confidence showed in their opening game against LTC Tree, as they squandered a 13-point lead at halftime to lose to a team that they were better than.

X-Over

X-Over

If they took that first game seriously from start to finish and avoided a play-in game, this could have been a completely different tournament. But that’s what you get with X Over. They are a supremely talented, confident and fun team, and they have a tendency to play down to their opponents and really show up against great ones. The loss of Kelly and Dudley was too much to overcome against FMB, and they were knocked out in the quarterfinals against the eventual champs.

The first venture for an Arizona team to New York didn’t go as planned, but I hope to see more in the future. X Over didn’t win the tournament, but all four games they played in were entertaining as hell. That won’t mean much to them, but as someone who watches and commentates every single game, that’s gold to me, and I appreciate them for it. Can’t wait to watch them again in Vegas next year.

Best player – Travis Gabbidon: 27.8/8.5/2.5 with shooting splits of 40/22/86