HELLO AND WELCOME BACK TO THE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT!
After last year’s reduced field event contested in a bubble in Columbus, Ohio, TBT is BACK this year with a full 64 team contest. It’s winner-take-all, as always, with the last team left standing splitting up a $1 million prize at the end.
As is always the case when TBT uses the regional format, two of the regions will be contested this weekend, while the other two will go next weekend. Things are even slightly weirder here as the Wichita Region will start today and the West Virginia Region will start tomorrow. As such, we have just four of Wichita’s first round games on the calendar of events here, with four more coming tomorrow along with the first four in West Virginia.
Let’s dive in to see what we’re going to see today!
All times Central, of course.
1pm: #6 Team Arkansas vs #11 Fort Worth Funk, ESPN3
This is the third TBT appearance for Team Arkansas, which is ostensibly a Razorbacks alumni team. Jaylen Barford is on board after earning all-TBT honors in 2019 with Jackson UnderDawgs, and Courtney Fortson (16/5/6 in 2008-10 with Arkansas) joins them here. It’s not immediately obvious, but FWF is a TCU alumni team, and this is the first ever application for TBT for them. They have a core of Alex Robinson and Brandon Parrish who both played a big part in TCU’s NIT title in 2017.
3pm: #7 Purple & Black vs #10 Omaha Blue Crew, ESPN3
Purple & Black is a Kansas State alumni team with four previous TBT appearances. Kamau Stokes is the name that jumps off the page, as he was a notable part of the K-State teams that Marquette played back in 2018 and 2019. Omaha Blue Crew labels themselves as a Creighton alumni team, so it’s nice to see another Big East program making the big jump into the TBT pool here. Jahenns Manigat, Martin Krampelj, and Austin Chatman are the names that are familiar to me, and they have Admon Gilder bolstering things as well.
6pm: #3 Challenge ALS vs #14 We Are D3, ESPN
This will be the fifth appearance in TBT for Challenge ALS, and they have racked up a record of 10-4 in the past. They know how to win in this event, that’s for sure. Justin Dentmon turned a double digit scoring career at Washington into a cup of coffee in the NBA and a long pro career, but the biggest name on the roster here is probably head coach Darren Collison. 10 years in the NBA will do that for you. We Are D3 is on their third try in TBT, but they’ve had near-misses against UCLA and Syracuse alumni in the past. By default, a group of former Division 3 players isn’t going to have any major household names on the roster, but if they can play like they have in the past, they might have a chance here. Much weirder things have happened in TBT history, that’s for sure.
8pm: #2 AfterShocks vs #15 Ex-Pats, ESPN2
The home team will be main-eventing the first day of TBT, as AfterShocks is the Wichita State alumni squad and the games will be played at the Shockers’ home arena. They had the #2 seed and home court advantage in 2019, but they were bounced by Sideline Cancer in the second round to give them an all-time record of 1-1. Conner Frankamp is the most notable name on the roster here, I think, although you could make an argument for Markis McDuffie, I suppose. Ex-Pats is an interesting squad in the tournament here, as they’re a group of guys who all played in the Patriot League. I like the idea of a conference all-star alumni team taking a run at TBT’s title. Zach Thomas was the PL Player of the Year in 2018 and has been playing professionally since then, while Kahron Ross broke the league’s all-time assists record when he was at Lehigh from 2014-18.