By Kevin Sweeney
When The Basketball Tournament started in 2014, it was a little-known event with 32 teams fighting for a $500,000 prize. Now, it’s the biggest basketball event of summer, showcased on ESPN and featuring players from the top levels of basketball worldwide. This year, 64 teams will face off in a single-elimination, NCAA Tournament-style event with the winning team taking home a massive $2,000,000 prize. Whether it be college alumni squads from traditional powers, players from the same town teaming up, or semipro teams looking to make a name for themself, TBT is an incredible event showcasing players from all levels of basketball.
Regional play in the South and Northeast begin on Saturday, so here’s a preview of the South Region. I’ll have a Northeast Regional preview on Friday, so stay tuned for that.
5 Teams to Watch
#1 Overseas Elite
The 2-time defending TBT champions are back, and are as loaded as ever before. Joining the fray is former Pitt star and NBA veteran DeJuan Blair, while talented guards Paris Horne (St. John’s), Kyle Fogg (Arizona), Oliver Lafayette (Houston), and Errick McCollum (Goshen) form a loaded backcourt. Add Blair to an already solid frontcourt, and it’s clear why Overseas Elite is the favorite in this event. They have the experience from the 2 previous title runs, and are ready and hungry for a third. Hopefully, Overseas Elite can provide us with more special moments like last year, when Fogg’s explosion from downtown highlighted an incredible semifinal vs City of Gods.
#2 Ram Nation (VCU Alumni)
VCU is known for being the underdog at the national level. Their alumni team, however, will be one of the favorites at TBT this year. A team headlined by VCU alumni and former NBA players Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders, Ram Nation looks to avenge its Round of 16 loss last season and go all the way in TBT. Joining Maynor and Sanders are a group of former college stars, most of which played at VCU. Jamie Skeen, the star of the 2011 Final Four squad, teams up with Sanders to create a scary frontcourt. We all know Ram Nation will have a huge traveling fanbase in Charlotte this weekend, which should only help as they look to advance to the Super 16 in Brooklyn.
#3 Ole Hotty Toddy (Ole Miss Alumni)
Need a reason to watch TBT this weekend? Marshall Henderson, ’nuff said. Yep, one of the most polarizing players in recent college basketball history is suiting up for an Ole Miss Alumni squad that features many guys who helped the Rebels bring home the 2013 SEC Championship. Surrounding Henderson are guys like Terrico White, Jarvis Summers, and Christopher Warren, all of whom starred for Ole Miss over the years. Expect some fireworks from Ole Hotty Toddy this weekend and throughout the rest of The Basketball Tournament.
#9 Washington Generals
Yes, those Washington Generals. The team best known for how it loses games is looking to win 6 in a row and claim the 2 million dollar prize that comes with it. This team, put together by Kenny “The Jet” Smith, certainly has the talent and chemistry needed to make a big run in the event. One guy to watch from the Generals is Antoine Mason, the former Niagara and Auburn star who is the son of the late Anthony Mason (played for 13 years in the NBA). Expect an incredible celebration if the Generals can win their first game since 1971 on Saturday against the Matadors.
#13 The Citi Team
The South Region’s qualifier from The Jamboree, a play-in tournament that featured the Elam Ending, The Citi Team is a team who could bust brackets during their time in TBT. The Citi Team rolled through The Jamboree despite missing its best player, former UConn standout Jerome Dyson. All of the sudden, what is supposed to be a Round of 64 matchup with Kentucky Kings now feels like a Super 16-level matchup.
I’m rolling with a stunner, the 2-time defending champions in Overseas Elite unable to claim the South Regional title. Instead, I’m picking Ole Hotty Toddy, a roster filled with college stars who have great chemistry with one another. Last time many of these guys played together, they were cutting down the nets in March. This time should be no different, except they’ll be doing it in July.