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The Basketball Tournament is here to save us from sports starvation

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The seventh annual TBT tournament is set to tip off July 23, right here in Columbus.

Photo via @CarmensCrew Twitter

As I write this, we don’t yet know when sports will be back in our lives. What began with the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament quickly escalated into the cancellation of all major sports leagues roughly two months ago, and with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) still very much present in the United States, it’s unclear when sports will return.

What we DO know is that we need something to bring us all together. Something that will signal that, despite these difficult circumstances, sports are going to come back. Things will never be normal again, that is for sure. There will be a “new” normal, but I think I speak for everyone in agreeing that a new normal with sports is better than what we have right now.

The Basketball Tournament has entered the chat.

The Basketball Tournament, also known as just “TBT”, has been an annual tradition for the past six years, but this year’s edition of TBT could end up being more meaningful than it ever has been before. Maybe by mid-July, cases of COVID-19 will have dropped enough that crowds can return to the small college gyms that host the regional sites. Or maybe the games will go on as planned, but without fans. We’re not sure what’s going to happen, and anyone who tells you they do know is lying.

The Tournament has not given any statements regarding its status since March. When the NCAA Tournament was cancelled, TBT founder Jon Mugar put out a statement telling fans that, “For now, we look forward 4-5 months to summertime, when we hope to be able to host a collection of teams, all across the country, for competitive, meaningful, championship basketball once again.”

As someone who’s been to the games in Columbus the last two summers, I pray we get live basketball this July. I will plant my butt on an uncomfortable set of bleachers and be grateful that we have returned to some semblance of normalcy. But even if the games must go on without fans, they will still be televised on ESPN. For the first time in four months, sports fans could turn on their TV’s and collectively enjoy high-level competition that isn’t a re-run from five years ago.

To make it better, this tournament is not made up of men and women collecting seven-digit salaries. The tournament is made up of alumni teams from across the country, giving college basketball fans an opportunity to see players whom they rooted for years ago at their alma mater give it another run with their old teammates, all while competing for a grand prize of $2 million dollars. And with American sports still assumedly in the recovery stage this summer, TBT could be something that we all gather around and enjoy together.

In the past few weeks, sports fans have reveled in the return of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), staying up until 2:00 AM to watch the KBO play in empty stadiums. People have paid top-dollar to watch UFC fights with no fans in attendance, listening to every cough and grunt coming from the mouths of fighters. ESPN even organized a virtual game of HORSE where NBA and WNBA players took shots in home gyms, only to be matched by their competitors in their own home gyms, all while being live streamed and televised.

If people are so starved for sports they’re willing to sit through these events (no offense), imagine the buzz TBT will create for sports fans this July. Imagine the joy it’ll bring to people of all ages who just want some sense of normalcy to return.

Photo via @thetournament Twitter

Somehow, this tournament has gone under the radar for several years. Some of the most in-tune basketball fans watch, but many people are unaware that there’s a march-madness style tournament that happens every July featuring hundreds of former collegiate and professional basketball players. This summer, I have a feeling it’s going to take center stage.

Other than the obvious fact that it could be the only live sports we’ve seen since Easter, you’re probably asking, “Why should I be interested in TBT?” Well, funny you’d ask. I’ll tell you why.

The Elam Ending

The Basketball Tournament does not end in the same fashion any other basketball league does. To add excitement to the end of games, the Elam Ending was installed so that every game ends on a made basket. There is no “foul game” in the closing minutes of games in TBT. No stretching the final three minutes into 15 by sending the other team’s worst free throw shooter to the line over and over.

When there are four minutes remaining in regulation, the game clock is turned off at the very next dead ball. Eight points are then added to the number of points the leading team has, and the first team to get to that score is declared the winner.

For example, let’s say Team “A” has 56 points, and Team “B” has 52 points. At the 3:57 mark, the ball goes out of bounds off Team A. At this point, the game clock is turned off. Eight points gets added to the leading score (56+8=64), and the first team to get to this target score wins the game. In this situation, the game would resume with a score of 56-52, but the first team to get to 64 wins. The game will always end on a bucket.

Need an example? Here’s the best one ever:

As you can see, the game was tied at 78, with a target score of 80. No game clock. The Red Scare, which is the Dayton alumni team, needed a bucket to win. Following the missed layup, former Dayton Flyer Devin Oliver flew in with the game-ending putback dunk. Red Scare moves on. Mid-American Unity packed it up to go home. Survive and advance.

Ohio State’s alumni team, “Carmen’s Crew” are the defending champs

Photo via @CarmensCrew Twitter

Last summer, the squad made up of mostly Ohio State alum were able to rip off six straight wins, including a win over the four-time defending champion Overseas Elite in the semi-final, to win the sixth annual TBT Tournament. The prize of $2,000,000 was then split between the team and its coaches, Evan Turner, Dallas Lauderdale, and Jared Sullinger. 10% of the winnings ($200,000) is divided up among the fans who register on TBT’s website as “fans of Carmen’s Crew”.

Notable Ohio State alumni who will be playing this summer include Aaron Craft, David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and William Buford. Turner and Sullinger will return as coaches, while Lauderdale will transition from coach to player, providing interior depth for Carmen’s Crew,

To make it even better, Carmen’s Crew will host the first regional, with their first three games (assuming they win their first three) being played at the Covelli Center on Ohio State’s campus the weekend of July 23-26. The previous two years, the Columbus regional was held in the gym of Capital University in nearby Bexley. Tickets for those games sold out each day, so get there early! You can find more information on regional locations and dates on the TBT website.

Current NBA players are not permitted in TBT

Wait, you’re telling me I should watch because the best basketball players in the world aren’t allowed to play?

Yes, that’s what I’m telling you. Nothing can match the electricity and excitement of college basketball, but this is the next best thing. While there are plenty of players participating in TBT who have previous NBA experience, current NBA players do not participate. Sullinger, Jimmer Fredette, and Austin Daye all have NBA experience and have participated in TBT, to name a few.

What makes TBT almost as exciting as the NCAA Tournament is that none of these men and women are current pros in the United States (some do play professionally overseas, however). Quick math tells you that splitting $2 million by 10-15 players on a team would still dole out somewhere between $100,000-$200,000 per player when all is said and done. Maybe these guys aren’t in a position where they need the money, but few are in a position to turn their nose away from a six-figure paycheck.

Photo via @thetournament Twitter

On top of that, some of the participants’ playing careers are either over or will be soon. For example, Aaron Craft has already stated that this past season was his last playing overseas. Following The Basketball Tournament, he will enroll in medical school at Ohio State for the fall semester and transition away from basketball. His basketball career will come to a close whenever Carmen’s Crew stops playing this summer.

If you love feel-good stories, The Basketball Tournament is for you. If you love March Madness, The Basketball Tournament is for you. If you love experiencing the passion of different collegiate fan bases, The Basketball Tournament is for you.

If you just miss sports and want life to start going back to normal soon, The Basketball Tournament is for you. The Basketball Tournament is for all of us.