By Kevin Sweeney
For college basketball fans, the long wait from the end of March Madness until the new season begins in November can be almost impossible to sit through. However, the next few weekends provide fans with a reprieve from the wait thanks to TBT (the Basketball Tournament), a 64 team, single elimination tournament pitting former college, NBA, international, and semi-pro stars against each other in a “March Madness” style atmosphere. This year, the stakes are even higher, with 2 million dollars going to the winning teams and its fans. In just 3 years, TBT has gone from a little-known 500k tournament based only in Philadelphia to a 2 million dollar extravaganza with ESPN coverage and the backing of NBA and NFL superstars. The schedule for TBT is as follows:
West Regional (Los Angeles)- 7/9-7/10
South Regional (Charlotte)- 7/9-7/10
Midwest Regional (Chicago)- 7/16-7/17
Northeast Regional (Philadelphia)- 7/16-7/17
Super 16 (Philadelphia)- 7/21-7/23
Semifinals (New York City)- 7/30
Championship Game (New York City)- 8/2
You can purchase tickets to TBT here: https://thetournament.regfox.com/tickets
Here’s a breakdown of each regional:
The West Regional is anchored by top-seeded Team 23, who were runner-ups in last year’s tournament despite entering as the 13th seed. They may not be the most star-studded team, but Team 23 has great chemistry and plenty of experience at TBT. One thing that Team 23 has is size, with 5 players at 6-8 or taller. However, Few Good Men, a team made up of former Gonzaga standouts, may stand in the way. With NCAA Tournament and NBA experience, expect the Gonzaga alumni to make a major run in The Tournament. The feel-good story of the regional has to be Skinner’s Frate Train, a team with mostly Boston College alumni. However, this team is not looking to make money. The team plans to donate their winnings to ALS research in honor of Pete Frates, the inspirational man behind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Finally, don’t forget about second-seed LAUNFD, another veteran squad with plenty of NBA experience. LAUNFD features former NBA star Cuttino Mobley and international star Pooh Jeter. They also have the backing of NBA player Trevor Ariza and comedian Michael Rapaport. Overall, expect a lot of good basketball in Los Angeles
The South Regional pits teams with plenty of TBT experience against former NBA and college stars who haven’t played in TBT. My pick to win the tournament is Ram Nation. Anchored by many of the players from VCU’s Cinderella run to the Final Four, as well as former Bucks center Larry Sanders, this Ram Nation team should be fun to watch. They might even bring some of their patented “Havoc” defense to TBT. TBT veterans Overseas Elite should also should be very competitive. After winning TBT last season, Overseas Elite is back, with sharpshooter Travis Bader, former Texas star Myck Kabongo, and 2014 First Team All-Big 12 guard DeAndre Kane leading the way. The top seed in this regional, Bluff City Blues, are made up of Memphis alumni, including guard Geron Johnson and high flying dunker D.J Stephens, who won the NBA D-League Dunk Contest this season. One dark horse in this regional is Primetime Players. The 9th-seeded Primetime Players lack big names, but are very familiar with one another, having won around 500 games together, according to their GM. After a run to the Super 16 last year, another deep TBT run may be on the horizon for Primetime Players.
The Midwest Regional is the deepest regional in TBT, with Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas State, and Marquette alumni each forming teams. With these blue-blood powerhouses come lots of starpower and NBA experience. While these teams will enter as favorites, there are a few teams that could certainly stand in the way and surprise people. Former NBA superstars Mike Bibby and Jason Williams lead Pedro’s Posse, a team with boosters Chandler Parsons, Courtney Lee, and Austin Rivers. While Pedro’s Posse has excellent guard play, its success in TBT will be determined by the play of its big men. Another under-the-radar team is 8th-seeded 120 Sports. 120 Sports is made up of mostly former Northwestern players, but also features former Purdue star Robbie Hummel, who played in the NBA with the Timberwolves. 120 Sports also has former Creighton star Grant Gibbs, as well as Yale alum Justin Sears. Another team to keep an eye on is the Illinois Hoopville Warriors, a group of players from the South Side of Chicago who made deep runs into TBT in each of the past 2 years. Finally, Ants Alumni, alumni of the 2014 D-League Champion Fort Wayne Mad Ants, will look to build on a trip to the TBT semifinals last year.
With no true favorite, the Northeast Regional is full of intrigue. 2nd-seeded Boeheim’s Army, led by Syracuse alumni CJ Fair, Brandon Triche, and Eric Devendorf will be a tough team to beat. So will FOE, a team founded by the NBA’s Morris brothers that features Tyshawn Taylor, Maalik Wayns, and Klay Thompson’s brother Mychel. However, I see this region as one with the most upsets. 10th-seeded 20th and Olney is made up of La Salle Alumni who reached the Sweet 16 in 2013. 6th seeded SuperNOVA has Villanova alumni Antonio Pena, Reggie Redding, and Scottie Reynolds, and should be as tough to beat as any team in this region. Another upset pick of mine is the Liberty Ballers. Making their 3rd appearance at TBT, the Liberty Ballers bring experience and talent to the table. With former NBA players John Salmons and Flip Murray, as well as former New Mexico center Alex Kirk and Siena stars Ronald Moore and OD Anosike, the Liberty Ballers look to build on their trip to the Super 17 last year.