Pittsburgh fans can forget about the Pirates when Zoo Crew comes to win it all in this year’s TBT.
Pitt Panther alumni team Zoo Crew is making its TBT debut this year. Despite their relative novelness compared to their first-round opponent, Marshall alumni team Herd That, Zoo Crew has the talent to make their 5 seed in the West Virginia region look foolish. Led by triple-threat head coach, GM, and player, Gilbert Brown, Pitt’s Zoo Crew is up for the challenge.
For more TBT team profiles, click here.
- Gary McGhee (Pitt)
- Gilbert Brown (Pitt)
- Greg Elliott (Pitt)
- Jamel Artis (Pitt)
- Josh Newkirk (Pitt & Indiana)
- Levance Fields (Pitt)
- Nelly Cummings (Colgate & Pitt)
- Nike Sibande (Miami-Ohio & Pitt)
- Ryan Luther (Pitt and Arizona)
- Sam Young (Pitt)
- Talib Zanna (Pitt)
- Gilbert Brown (Head Coach, GM)
- Dejuan Blair (Head Coach)
- Jaron Brown (Asst. Coach)
- West Virginia
Team MVP: Jamel Artis
While this is the first year with a Pitt alumni team in TBT, Artis is not a TBT rookie. The former Panther played for Sideline Cancer for three years and is a TBT veteran. He should provide some leadership for a team primarily consisting of players that have yet to compete in TBT.
Artis was one of the best players at Pitt towards the end of the Jamie Dixon era. In his senior season, he averaged 18.2 PPG and 4.9 RPG. The 6’7” forward can match up well height-wise with opposing guards and can outmuscle forwards who try to contain him. Artis is still in his prime at 30 years old and should play a big role with the Zoo Crew.
Make-or-break Player: Talib Zanna
Zanna, a former Jamie Dixon Panther, played on the same 2013-2014 team as Artis when Zanna was a senior and Artis was a freshman. That year was Zanna’s best as a Panther when he averaged 13 PPG to go along with 8.6 RPG. Zanna is a key to the Zoo Crew’s frontcourt, as they need to be able to get second chances on the offensive end.
Zanna, like Artis, has played in TBT before, so there is some further experience that can be useful for the Zoo Crew. Zanna will have to play a big role if the Zoo Crew ends up advancing over Herd That, a tall first-round task.
The organizers of this year’s TBT might have had a rivalry on the forefront of their minds when they put Zoo Crew at the 5 seed in the West Virginia regional. A win over Herd would most likely mean a Backyard Brawl matchup with the West Virginia alumni team, Best Virginia.
To get there, however, they have to beat Herd That, the Marshall alumni team. It won’t be an easy task for a team that is filled with a few very young players and a few old (relatively) players. Chemistry could be an issue between the Panthers of the Jamie Dixon era and the new Jeff Capel Panthers.
Between Gary McGhee, Talib Zanna, and Ryan Luther, the Zoo Crew’s frontcourt should be fine. Will the Pitt alumni team need solid performances from Sam Young, Gilbert Brown, and Levance Fields, players who were very good at Pitt but have been impacted by age? Three Panthers, Nike Sibande, Nelly Cummings, and Greg Elliott, all played a big role in last year’s Pitt Panther tournament run. They should play big roles in this summer’s TBT, too, but I can’t see the Zoo Crew beating Best Virginia, even though I’d love for it to happen.