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 Saturday, 7/8. Today I’ll preview the Northeast region. For my preview of the South region, CLICK HERE.
5 Teams to Watch
#1 FCM Untouchables
The top seed in this region, FCM Untouchables is a talented squad made up of some of the best players in Europe. Guys like Mike James, Kyle Hines, and Jerrelle Benimon may not be household names to most, but are easily good enough to be on NBA rosters right now. These guys are veterans who have played basketball at the highest level for a long time, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be considered one of the top contenders at TBT this year.
#2 Supernova (Villanova Alumni)
This team is loaded with names you’d probably recognize. Whether it be Scottie Reynolds, whose famous buzzerbeater in the 2009 NCAA Tournament is still talked about today, or Darryl Reynolds, who just completed his senior season at Villanova, this team of Villanova alums is looking to cut down the nets at TBT this year. Last year’s run ended in disappointment after Supernova fell early after having to finish a game with 4 players due to injury, but Supernova has reloaded and is ready for a deep run beginning in Philly this weekend.
#3 Boeheim’s Army (Syracuse Alumni)
This team is LOADED with Syracuse stars of old. Guys like CJ Fair, Brandon Triche, Eric Devendorf, and Scoop Jardine headline this squad, the team that garnered the most fan votes of any team in the Northeast regional. In theory, this roster is as balanced as any in TBT. However, they’ll have a tough road just to get out of Philly this weekend, with a matchup looming Sunday with either City of Gods (2-time defending regional champions) or GaelNation (Iona Alumni team) assuming they can knock off DuBois Dream on Saturday.
#5 Zoo Crew (Pitt Alumni)
Our run on former Big East powerhouses concludes with Zoo Crew, the 5 seed in the Northeast. Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi of ESPN has picked this group of Panthers to win the region in a video posted on his Twitter page as he prepares to cover TBT for ESPN. I’m a little concerned with a frontcourt that has just one player listed over 6-8, but the Zoo Crew has a loaded guard unit that features Ashton Gibbs and Levance Fields that should carry them in games. Certainly a team to watch out for in the Northeast regional.
#11 GaelNation (Iona Alumni)
Even though this team is labeled as just an Iona Alumni team, GaelNation features far more than just Iona alums. While there are plenty of former Gaels (David Laury, Isaiah Williams, and Steve Burtt amoung them) on the squad, guys like Fuquan Edwin (Seton Hall), D’Angelo Harrison (St. John’s), and Kareem Canty (Auburn) compliment the talented Iona products and make GaelNation perhaps the biggest sleeper in the tournament. Their draw of City of Gods in the first round followed by a potential showdown with Boeheim’s Army is nothing short of brutal, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see GaelNation make a Cinderella run through TBT.
A pair of big second round upsets highlight my picks, as Jamboree qualifier Paul’s Champions knocks off FCM Untouchables and GaelNation knocks off Boeheim’s Army. The Northeast Regional Final would be must-see TV, with Pitt taking on Villanova in a repeat of the 2009 NCAA Tournament game marked by Scottie Reynolds’ buzzer-beater. In the end, I’m rolling with Supernova to win the Northeast region and advance to the National Semi-finals in Baltimore.