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TBT: The Basketball Tournament Preview

One of the premier non-NBA basketball events on the sports calendar is gearing up for its ninth summer in action.
TBT: The Basketball Tournament tips off on July 16, when, over the course of the following two-and-a-half weeks, 64 teams will duke it out across eight American cities for a chance to be crowned champions and win $1,000,000. With ex-NBA players, overseas superstars, and former Division I standouts on nearly every roster, TBT provides no shortage of quality players, moments, and drama. 

What is TBT?

TBT is a 64-team, single-elimination tournament that plays out very similarly to the NCAA basketball tournament. Teams are seeded one through eight in each of the eight regions, with the winner of each region advancing to Dayton, Ohio for the championship round in late July and early August.

What makes TBT unique? The Elam Ending. Adopted by the NBA for the last few All-Star games, the Elam Ending was implemented to avoid long late-game stoppages and to make the end of games – even blowouts – more exciting.

When the game clock reaches four minutes remaining in the final quarter, it is shut off. A target score is set (the winning team’s current score plus 8), and the first team to reach that mark wins. That way, every game ends on a made basket, and the trailing team is forced to get stops, rather than halt the game clock, for any chance at a comeback win.

The 64-team field is mainly comprised of college alumni teams. This theme acts as a huge draw for fans of college basketball, who have the chance to watch their favorite school’s ex-players years after they last played as a college student. Nearly every roster has at least one name casual fans are bound to recognize.

Even though most participants’ names and games will be unfamiliar, that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of quality. Overseas professional basketball leagues, where most all of TBT’s participants play, require a higher level of skill, athleticism, and toughness than Division I college basketball, and perhaps even the NBA G-League. TBT is far from a glorified pick-up tournament.

The favorites

Like any single-elimination tournament, it is difficult to predict who will advance to the final stages. TBT’s history, however, suggests that there are a clear-cut list of favorites, including the last two champions.

Boeheim’s Army, the Syracuse University alumni team, is looking to repeat as champions after winning its first TBT title last summer. The loaded roster includes former Syracuse studs Tyler Ennis, CJ Fair, and Rakeem Christmas, as well as 5x TBT champion DJ Kennedy and 4x champ DeAndre Kane.

Kennedy and Kane were key players on Overseas Elite, the team that won four-straight TBTs from 2015-18, but is now defunct.

Marquette alumni team Golden Eagles, the 2020 champions and 2019 runners-up, may be Boeheim’s Army’s biggest threat for the million-dollar prize. The squad features seasoned TBT veterans Darius Johnson-Odom, Mo Acker, and Travis Diener. Diener, a former college teammate of Dwyane Wade, hit the game-winning three-point shot to win the 2020 tournament.
Other top seeds include the Floyd Mayweather-backed ‘The Money Team,’ Celtics star and NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart’s ‘YGC,’ and Wichita State alumni ‘Aftershocks.’

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Notable participants

There will be no shortage of recognizable names in this summer’s tournament, as college stars from the last decade-plus are littered across all 64 rosters.

Arguably the most notable of them all is Jimmer Fredette. Once one of the most electrifying players in college basketball history, Jimmer has bounced between the NBA, Chinese Basketball Association, and more in his 11 years since leaving BYU. This summer, the three-point sharpshooter will be on the Floyd Mayweather-backed ‘The Money Team.’

2018 Philadelphia 76ers first round pick Zhaire Smith will make his TBT debut, representing the Texas Tech alumni squad, ‘Air Raiders.’ He will share the backcourt with Peter Kiss, Division I’s leading scorer from the 2021-22 season at 25.2 PPG.

Omari Spellman is one of the few former college national champions to take part in TBT this summer, having won the title with Villanova in 2018. Since last suiting up for the Golden State Warriors in 2020, Spellman has spent the last year in the Korean Basketball League. He will represent Eberlein Drive in the tournament.

Romeo Travis has enjoyed a 14+ year career across Europe and Asia, but it’s not his on-court talent that he’s known for. Travis played high school ball alongside LeBron James at the famed St. Vincent-St. Mary HS and remains a close friend and member of King James’ inner circle. The 37-year-old will suit up for ‘Mid American Unity’ this summer.

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