The name is simple: The Basketball Tournament. Now in its 6th year, this tournament has grown leaps and bounds from its humble beginnings. A tournament that was started which would allow any team to participate and win prizes that were based on ticket sales has grown up indeed.
TBT has now grown to 64 teams playing the first 2 rounds of The Tournament in 8 different regions. This event has now attracted national sponsors (Puma, Zelle, Genius Sports) and this year, all games are being covered by ESPN (most of the first 2 rounds are being shown on ESPN3). It is also drawing some pretty impressive NBA talent in the form of coaches, boosters, and/or general managers.
Sitting in Frederick Douglass High School for nearly 8 hours Friday, I got to witness some pretty decent basketball and see a few familiar faces as well. It was also interesting to see games played using the “Elam Ending.” In a nutshell, the Elam Ending works like this: at the first dead ball when 4:00 or less remains in the final quarter, the game clock is then shut off. A target score is then set, which is the leading team’s current score plus 8. The first team to reach the target score wins. I’ll leave my opinions about this rule for another time but will say this rule does eliminate overtime games and ensures every game ends on a made shot.
There were 2 teams, in particular, I was there to see. First was team Loyalty is Love. Headed by General Manager DeMarcus Cousins, LIL was seeded #1 in the Lexington Regional. There was another Kentucky connection on Loyalty is Love, former Wildcat Daniel Orton. While it appeared they would win their game easily the Elam Ending segment got interesting and a 24-point lead shrank quickly as LIL continued jacking up 3’s in an attempt to end the game quicker. Eventually, the did prevail 107-98. They also won their 2nd round game on Saturday, playing KBC (another team with some Kentucky faces, Chris Lofton, AJ Slaughter (WKU) and Nick Mayo (EKU). Loyalty is Love will play in the regional finals against Ft. Wayne on Sunday at 2pm on ESPN.
Of greater interest to me was the host team, The Bluegrass Boys. This is a team comprised of several former Wildcats and was looking to avenge a rather embarrassing loss in 2016’s TBT when, as a #1 seed, they lost to a 16 seed, ending their run prematurely. General Manager Mark Krebs had worked hard to put together what he called a “complete team” for this year’s tournament.
The Bluegrass Boys entered the weekend as the #2 seed and were the region’s host team. There were great expectations for this team as it did appear Krebs had achieved his goal of forming a complete team that could compete. Unfortunately, two of the stronger players, Josh Harrelson (leg injury) and Derek Willis (personal reasons) ended up not playing. While Dominique Hawkins and Marcus Lee put forth a valiant effort (scoring 22 of the team’s 62 points), the team eventually fell to 7-seed D2, 77-62.
You can view highlights of The Bluegrass Boys here: