Part of the new-look Celtics blueprint that began undergoing construction in the offseason and extended into February’s NBA trade deadline, Boston bonded Oshae Brissett and Xavier Tillman Sr. — a pair of ex-college foes.

Now seated alongside each other during the 2024 NBA Finals, it wasn’t too long ago that Brissett and Tillman were on-court enemies.

Five years ago, while Brissett was at Syracuse and Tillman played for Michigan State, the then-NBA prospects collided in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The Orange and Spartans went head-to-head in the Sweet 16, which the now-NBA veterans each looked back on before the Celtics and Mavericks tipped off Game 3 of the Finals in Dallas.

“In college, you don’t really go over people like that, you go over team schemes,” Brissett told CLNS Media during practice Wednesday before Game 3 of the NBA Finals. “You never really run through personnel in college, for real. But I do remember obviously it was there in Michigan so they were the favorite to win and go really far. So we knew it was gonna be a big game, a fun game. Obviously in college, that’s where you want to be at. I just remember the crowd being crazy.”

Story continues below advertisement

Syracuse edged out Michigan State, 55-53, as Brissett played 40 minutes — tied for a game-high — and scored 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting with nine rebounds. Brissett was fresh off averaging 14.9 points on 35.4% shooting from the field during his first 37 games played.

Tillman didn’t log as much action, getting 22 minutes off the bench — also as a freshman — and scoring five points with a game-high 12 rebounds.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

The Spartans won 15 of their first 16 games to begin that dominant 2017-18 run, and then 13 straight from Jan. 19 to March 22 ahead of the second-round loss to end their year. Many, at the time, penciled in Michigan State as the favorite, especially entering what became a stunning upset to Syracuse.

“We kind of knew going in that he was the standout freshman over there for them,” Tillman said of Brissett, per CLNS Media. “Kind of the same slashing and stuff like that, dominating that way and also defensively. That was a upset game though. We were, like, 30-4 late going into that game. I’ll never forget that cause when we lost we were, like, ‘Man, we were supposed to go far.’ That team was loaded.”

Story continues below advertisement

Brissett, Tillman, and the Celtics will look to avoid a similar ending to Michigan State’s five-year-old upset, ahead of the Mavericks 2-0, halfway through seizing Boston’s 18th Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images