This afternoon, The Basketball Tournament, aka TBT, tips off, giving sports fans their first taste of real, live basketball in America since the coronavirus pandemic began. Over ten days, 24 teams will face off in a fully-quarantined environment in Columbus, Ohio, with the winning squad taking home $1 million. Games will be broadcast on ESPN with a star-studded lineup of announcers on the call, including Dan Dakich, Seth Greenberg, and Fran Fraschilla. Once again, the TBT will feature the popular “Elam Ending,” which eliminates the game clock after a certain point and features teams playing towards a target score.
The Bluegrass Boys, Kentucky’s alumni team, is not participating this year, but there are still plenty of familiar faces in the field, including more than one blast from the past. Here’s who to watch.
All of the Ohio State alums, Carmen’s Crew (No. 1 seed)
Carmen’s Crew is the reigning TBT champs and this year’s No. 1 seed. Looking at their roster is like flashing back to the 2011 Sweet 16. The team is coached by Jared Sullinger, who famously took a ball to the chest from Jorts, and includes Aaron Craft, William Buford, and Deshaun Thomas, also all part of the squad that lost to the Cats in Newark. In fact, this will be Craft’s last run with Carmen’s Crew before he retires from basketball to start medical school.
One more time for good measure!
- First Round: Bye
- Second Round: July 8, #1 Carmen’s Crew (Ohio State) vs. House of ‘Paign/War Tampa, 4 pm, ESPN
Joe Johnson and Jordan Crawford, Overseas Elite (No. 2 seed)
Overseas Elite won TBT four years in a row before Carmen’s Crew took the crown last year. This year, their roster includes former Arkansas great and seven-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson, former first round NBA Draft pick Jordan Crawford (brother of UK alum Joe Crawford), the wonderfully named Pooh Jeter, and former St. John’s star D.J. Kennedy.
- First Round: Bye
- Second Round: July 9, #2 Overseas Elite vs. Armored Athlete/Power of the Paw, 4 pm, ESPN
LSU alums, Eberlein Drive (No. 5 seed)
Eberlein Drive includes three former LSU Tigers: Johnny O’Bryant III, Tim Quarterman, and Emmitt Williams. At LSU, O’Bryant scored over 1,100 points and pulled down over 700 rebounds, earning First Team All-SEC honors twice before being picked in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft. After stints with the Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets, and Charlotte Hornets, he now plays overseas, winning the 2019 Israeli League Championship last season with Maccabi Tel Aviv. You may remember him from all the leprechaun jokes we made on the live blog.
Quarterman went undrafted in 2016 and now plays in the G League. He was the star of LSU’s 85-67 upset over No. 9 Kentucky in January 2016, putting up 21 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Kentucky got revenge a few months later in Rupp Arena, although LSU fans claim Jamal Murray should have punished for tripping Quarterman.
Williams just declared for the NBA Draft following his sophomore season at LSU. He was the one who wore the really short shorts.
LSU's Emmitt Williams explaining his short shorts.
— Sawyer Radler (@SawyerRadler) January 13, 2019
Also on Eberlein Drive: Adonis Thomas, a former UK recruit that ended up at Memphis in 2010.
- First Round: Bye
- Second Round: July 6, #5 Eberlein Drive vs. Team Brotherly Love/Stillwater Stars, 7 pm, ESPN
Kyle Wiltjer, Bryce Alford, and Tony Wroten, The Money Team (No. 7 seed)
Wiltjer is the only former Cat in the field, replacing former Gonzaga forward Austin Daye on The Money Team. Wiltjer, who caught up with our own Bradley McKee in April, has played for several teams overseas, most recently Turk Telekom in Turkey. He led the team in scoring (17.9 points) and minutes (27.9) while hitting 42.9% of his threes.
Two other familiar names on The Money Team: Bryce Alford, who played for his dad at UCLA from 2013-17, and Tony Wroten, who dominated our headlines back in 2010 when he asked John Calipari on Twitter why he stopped recruiting him.
Man, remember the BlackBerry?
- First Round: Bye
- Second Round: July 9, vs. Best Virginia/Herd That, 2 pm, ESPN
Ryan McMahon, Red Scare (No. 8 seed)
Want a Louisville player to cheer against? Former Card Ryan McMahon is playing for Red Scare, Dayton’s alumni team. After averaging 8.7 points and 1.8 assists last season, McMahon is still figuring out what’s next, recently signing with GoEmpire sports agency in Chicago.
- First Round: Bye
- Second Round: July 8, #8 Red Scare (Dayton) vs. Big X/Jackson TN UnderDawgs, 2 pm, ESPN
Andrew Dakich, Big X (No. 9 seed)
Dan Dakich’s son will play AND serve as head coach of Big X, which includes other Big Ten alums like Michigan State’s Nick Ward and Javon Bess and Wisconsin’s Vitto Brown, Khalil Iverson, and Trevon Hughes.
- First Round: July 4, #9 Big X vs. #24 Jackson TN UnderDawgs, 3 pm, ESPN
- Second Round (if they make it): July 8, #8 Red Scare (Dayton) vs. Big X/Jackson TN UnderDawgs, 2 pm, ESPN
Nick Calathes, Team Hines (No. 11 seed)
The former Florida star has spent most of his pro career with Panathinaikos, most recently coached by Rick Pitino. In typical Rick fashion, Pitino claimed that Calathes is the best passer he’s ever seen, even better than Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Rick Pitino says former Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes is a better passer than Magic Johnson and Larry Bird ?
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 1, 2019
- First Round: July 5, #11 Team Hines vs. #22 Sideline Cancer, 4 pm, ESPN
- Second Round (if they make it): July 7, #6 Team Challenge ALS vs. Team Hines/Sideline Cancer, 2 pm, ESPN
Isaiah Austin, Team HeartFire (No. 14 seed)
The former Baylor star was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome just before the 2014 NBA Draft but was medically cleared to play basketball in 2016 and has played overseas ever since, most recently in the Baloncesto Superior Nacional (BSN) in Puerto Rico. Austin talked some major trash before the ice game in Dallas in 2013, claiming that “Kentucky is not better than us in any way, shape, or form.” On that day, he was correct. Also, this is still one of the coolest NBA Draft moments ever:
Team HeartFire is coached by former Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy, who is hoping to use TBT to bring attention to HeartFire Missions, which “trains and equips world-changers to bring hope to a desperate world through global medical, surgical & humanitarian relief.” Neat.
- First Round: July 5, #14 HEARTFIRE vs. #19 Men of Mackey (Purdue), 7 pm, ESPN
- Second Round (if they make it): July 7, #3 Boeheim’s Army (Syracuse) vs. HEARTFIRE/Men of Mackey, 4 pm, ESPN
Bryce Brown, Horace Spencer, and Fletcher Magee, War Tampa (No. 17 seed)
War Tampa is headlined by a trio of former Kentucky foes, most notably Bryce Brown and Horace Spencer, who led Auburn past the Cats in the 2019 Elite Eight (ugh). Joining them is another familiar name from the 2019 run: former Wofford sharp-shooter Fletcher Magee. America was rooting for the Terriers to knock off the Cats in the second round of the tournament, but Magee, who broke the NCAA career three-point record in the game prior, went cold, going 0-12 from three. Despite that poor performance, he said afterwards he was not impressed by Kentucky’s defense. Well, we were not impressed by your shooting, sir.
- First Round: July 4, #16 House of ‘Paign (Illinois) vs. #17 War Tampa, 8 pm, ESPN
- Second Round (if they make it): July 8, #1 Carmen’s Crew (Ohio State) vs. House of ‘Paign/War Tampa, 4 pm, ESPN
Le’Bryan Nash, Stillwater Stars (Oklahoma State alumni, No. 21 seed)
Remember him? Had Michael Kidd-Gilchrist not chosen Kentucky, Nash could have ended up in Kentucky blue. Instead, he went to Stillwater to play for Travis Ford at Oklahoma State. Other familiar names on the Stillwater Stars: Armoni Brooks, who played for the Houston team that lost to Kentucky in the 2019 tournament, and former Kansas Jayhawks Tyshawn Taylor and Naadir Tharpe.
- First Round: July 4, #12 Team Brotherly Love vs. #21 Stillwater Stars (OK State), 5 pm, ESPN
- Second Round (if they make it): July 5, #5 Eberlein Drive vs. Team Brotherly Love/Stillwater Stars, 7 pm, ESPN
Who are you rooting for?