This year’s “The Basketball Tournament”, or TBT for short, will see an increased Atlantic 10 presence when alumni teams from VCU and Davidson fight for a spot in the 64-team field alongside returning units from Saint Louis and La Salle.
Last season saw a Saint Louis alumni team named Marjerus’ SLU Crew and a La Salle squad by the name of 20th & Olney, featuring players from the Explorers Sweet 16 run, compete in what was then a 96-team field. The field will shrink in the 2016 edition down to an NCAA Tournament-like 64-team competition, but will see a boost in quality of competition thanks to a growing number of alumni teams and professional players. A newly-doubled $2 million prize won’t hurt either.
CAT PACK (DAVIDSON ALUMNI)
The Cat Pack will feature a group of recent Davidson grads including Jordan Barham and Brian Sullivan, fresh of their final seasons of college hoops, as well as 2015 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Tyler Kalinoski. Cat Pack will have a bit of a home court advantage, competing in the South Region of this year’s field in Charlotte, NC.
20th & OLNEY (LA SALLE ALUMNI)
20th & Olney has themselves a squad, featuring the key pieces from the Explorer’s 2013 Sweet 16 run (Galloway, Garland, Wright, Zack) as well as long-time professional, Steve Smith. 20th was eliminated from last year’s tournament by Syracuse alumni team “Boeheim’s Army”, losing 92-91 in a battle that almost literally came to blows. They’ll be back and dangerous in the Northeast Region, playing out of their hometown of Philadelphia.
RAM NATION (VCU ALUMNI)
Full disclosure: I’m the GM of this team, which is probably a good reason our squad is currently third nationally in voting behind Kansas State’s alumni team and some team made up of guys that played for a school called “Kentucky”. Either way, the Ram Nation team is made up of key players from VCU’s Final 4 team (Skeen, Rodriguez, Rozzell, Burgess), key players from VCU’s 2007 team that upset Duke (Walker, Pellot-Rosa, Anderson, as well as Maynor who will serve as “booster/coach” as he recovers from surgery) and a big addition we’ll hope to finalize this week (hint: was drafted No.15 overall in the 2010 NBA Draft). Ram Nation will compete in the South Region in the backyard of the Davidson Wildcats.
MAJERUS SLU CREW (SAINT LOUIS ALUMNI)
The pride of the Billikens will compete to represent SLU in their second consecutive TBT appearance using mostly players from the Bills recent glory days (Evans, Jett, McCall, Remekun, Mitchell, etc). Last season SLU went down early, losing in their first game to a team called “Houston Live”, a Houston-based group of ballers made up of several former NBA players. Let that educate you on just how competitive this tournament is. The SLU Crew is made up of arguably one of the most talented group of players in recent A-10 seasons yet took an early L. Needless to say, they’ll be back and hungry to advance deep into this year’s tournament. They’ll compete in the Midwest Region, tipping it up in Chicago against a loaded Region that includes alumni teams from the likes of Wisconsin, Kentucky and Kansas State.
“The biggest thing that appeals to me is the fact that I have the chance to play with my former teammates and best friends again,” Cat Pack guard, Tyler Kalinoski told A10Talk.com. “Being a professional basketball player makes it hard for you to see friends and family and this is a chance where I am able to be with my best friends. It’s also great to be able to play for Davidson in a sense again. I had some unbelievable memories at Davidson and it will always be a part of me.”
This year’s prize money has doubled from the tourney’s first-ever seven-figure payout last season to $2 million for the winning team this year, $200,000 of which gets split by the winning team’s top-100 fans.
A Group of Notre Dame alumni won the league’s inaugural tournament, taking home $500,000 before last season’s Overseas Elite group split the first million dollar prize.
“The money is definitely something that is appealing but thats not the biggest concern of mine. Don’t get me wrong, we are trying to win but I just want to go out and enjoy it with my team,” Kalinoski added when asked about playing for this year’s payout.
Tournament organizers tell us about 150 teams have registered so far this season for this year’s tournament, each needing a minimum of seven players and 200 fan votes to become eligible. The 12 teams from each region with the most votes advance into the 64-team field with four additional teams in each region receiving at-large bids.
This year’s Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds will be played in Philadelphia before advancing to New York City for the Final 4, all of those games being broadcast on the ESPN family of networks.
Head to www.thetournament.com for more information and to find out how you can support your favorite teams and players in this year’s contest.