Vegas 2018 Reflections

Its another grassroots season concluded in Las Vegas, here are some of this year's sights and sounds

The Battle For #1 and Shoe Supremacy
Wednesday night is a traditional Fab 48 showcase night for me.  But this year was special with the late night battle of titans between Team Takeover and Compton Magic.  The Fab 48 always has games that cross shoe company lines but when you get the best of Nike vs the best of Adidas for a mythical grassroots national championship at the end of the season, now you have something special.  This one had a full house on the main court at Bishop Gorman and it managed to far exceed the hype.  Compton Magic wins the battle in overtime.  Great atmosphere, ridiculous talent on hand (2020 star Evan Mobley was amazing in the game) and a close game the entire way.  Now if only the shoe companies could get out of the way and let their teams play more of these.

Earlier in the night Grassroots took on Quad City Elite.  This was intended to be a Point Guard showdown between Jalen Suggs and Ohio St commit DJ Carton.  In an attempt to make sure the late game started by 10 PM (NCAA rule), this game was 12 minute running time halves.  Add in a Suggs injury and that took out the entertainment.  They didn't go at each other much anyway.  Suggs was carried off with an injury after landing on a foot but sounds like he'll be OK. 

Dude, When's My Flight?
Saturday was full of adventure and overtime for the Minnesota teams.  Fury Wilde opened the day with a thrilling 3 overtime win over EYBL rep Houston Hoops.  Fury had 4 starters fouled out by the time it was over.  Jack Middleton with a clutch 3 to force overtime and then Sam Nissen with the game winner with 10 seconds left.  Houston Hoops played without Kentucky commit Tyrese Maxey and Oklahoma commit De'Vion Harmon still had a shot to win it at the buzzer.  Houston Hoops missed a ton of free throws late and Fury missed chances too.  Fury always seems to have games like this in Vegas (see Meanstreets many years ago at Rancho and a tight loss to Georgia Stars recently).  How fun.

Comets Lewis had the following game and liked the Fury game so much they wanted overtime too.  They hung on to advance in their game behind a great outing from Springfield's Isaac Fink.  Side Note: As a metro guy, I have to resist the urge to write the name Sam Neumann whenever I see Fink play.  But both Fury and Comets would have letdowns in their next game and bow out in the round of 16.  Fury's loss was a tough 40-39 OT loss to Oklahoma Power.  Heat MacDonald gave away a big lead and lost in 3 OT as well on Saturday.

I expected to catch only half of the Select Leafblad game after Fury's 2nd game.  But their court was so far behind that I barely missed half of the Comets DLR game before hand.  So an hour behind and a major scoreboard foul up at the end of the Select Leafblad game sees them bow out in the round of 16 as well.  Its a shame to come that far to have something that ridiculous happen.  With 39 teams in Vegas and many setup to possibly cross paths in bracket play, we only ended up with 1 MN vs MN game.  That was Mentality taking out Crossfire I in a 1st round game.  Comets Lewis vs Fury Wilde would have happened on Sunday morning had both won Saturday night.  The winner of that would have gotten a shot at Howard Pulley in the top bracket semis.  Beyond that, the WOTN Davis vs SD Attack rematch was also notable.  Matthew Mors of SD Attack was a monster in his games there.

In between the non-shoe teams it was a venture back to Under Armour headquarters to see D1 take on UA rep Team Thad.  KyKy Tandy had a big day for Team Thad but another impressive performance from Zeke Nnaji as D1 would gain another win.  They would finish out the weekend in style with a Matt Hurt buzzer beater 3 for a win.

Total Results for Minnesota
17U (21 teams): 76-38 record.  4 teams made a semifinal game.  1 team won a title (Heat Walljasper won their bronze bracket)

16U (12 teams): 35-22 record.  2 teams made quarters.  In top bracket quarterfinal, WOTN Davis lost a GPA semifinals rematch with SD Attack.

15U (6 teams):: 23-8 record.  Crossfire Bertsch made quarters of 2nd bracket.  Minnesota Magic 15s won the Gold Elite bracket.

Total Minnesota record 134-68 (66.3%)

For me, I got to see 7 of our Minnesota teams play.  Add in a day at Under Armour games and a day of Nike games and that added up to seeing about half of the top 100 kids in the country play.   Watching online and then seeing in person is fun, but with Under Armour not being online until Vegas, it was nice to spend a day to see their top 16 teams play to round out my shoe circuit viewing for the season.

Lost in an urban pigpen
Now for the lighter side of the trip.   Nothing like getting lost in the vast empire that is Caesar's Palace.  Trying to find my way back to the strip outside almost ended up in a lecture from a security guard.  Thankfully I was in the middle of the lost pack and was able to back track my way out of the mess.  Didn't end up gambling there as the price was too rich for opening night.  Plus I made a point of checking for 6 to 5 blackjack which is what The Linq had so no thanks, I'll play 3 to 2 back at the hotel.

Got a bucket item off the list by eating at The Blind Pig on Tuesday night.  Knowing time for food is limited once the games start, I usually try to get in a good meal ahead of time.  For a basketball guy, who cares what the menu is with a name like this.  Now in a just world I would have had a pork chop, but I'm not perfect.  Place somehow wasn't serving alcohol at 8 PM at night, how does that happen? 

Then the flight home, some gal in my row was sick before the flight took off and was trying to blame it on food.  Her boyfriend tried to explain it was Jack in the Box.  Sure dude, how about the Jack in the Bottle.

Anybody have extra lines of credit to spare?
Now the gambling.  For those of you who following the hit twitter series #GrindersWinGamblersLose, you'll know all this.  This was a total disaster.  I made 1 basic strategy mistake the entire trip.  I doubled a 10 vs a 10 and I actually ended up winning that.  So the book says it should be a 50/50 game at that point.  No way.  1st session, I lose something like 14 of the 1st 15 hands.  Another session, 1st 7 hands lose.  Another session, new dealer sits down turns up 21 5 of the 1st 6 hands.  I had a little luck with double deck early on but zero luck with the bigger deck continuous shuffle.  So the final night I thought would be OK with double deck.  So much for that idea, more of the same as I lose 60% of the night's budget in just the 1st 2 rounds of the double deck.  Losses upon losses upon losses.  I come home way down.  Only 2 winning sessions out of 7.  And there was no inbetween.  Either win big or lose big.  That's strange, more often its a grind it out affair and try to hand around even or just below.

A hand that sums up my trip.  Down to last chip on a double deck table.  Get a pair of 7s vs an 8.  I split those (means I dig out more $$).  1st one, draw a 3.  Double!  2nd one draw a 4, DOUBLE!  Lost both.

I did experience Craps for the 1st time.  I didn't wait out my initial run for a loss.  Then I hung around in my 2nd adventure.  Despite some idiots at the other end of table who were making my end of the table angry but making late bets and generally being a nuisance, I made up some early bad luck and came out ahead in that advenure.  If I would have stayed around, I would have ended up making up even more.  So I end up slightly behind there which wasn't bad.  Maybe a sign to switch games next time.

Next time?
So with new NCAA rules on the immediate horizon, its unclear what the future holds for this incarnation of Vegas recruiting trips.  It will be very interesting to see what comes out of the changes.  Anything that can lead to more high profile shoe vs shoe games would be a good thing.