Have you ever wondered what would happen if the 2009 Villanova Final Four team faced off against the 2011 Cornell Sweet Sixteen team in a basketball tournament?
Probably not, but the world might just find out this weekend.
Beginning on Friday, Philadelphia University will be overrun with teams and fans from across the country as The Basketball Tournament (TBT) comes to town with possibly the most unique tournament concept to date.
The premise is simple.
32 teams, one weekend (and a final on a later date), and the winning team takes home $500,000.
Who can play? Pretty much anyone. Who is playing? Pretty much everyone.
Beginning on March 1st, teams could be created on the tournament’s website, where GMs and coaches assembled their rosters and recruited fans.
Fans are the other way that the tournament is unique. Teams recruited friends, family and others to join the website as fans for their team.
The number of fans recruited by each team played a large part into their selection for the tournament, as the 24 teams with the highest number of fans were automatically selected into the field of 32. The eight additional teams were selected by the tournament organizers.
As one might expect with a tournament with such open team creating policies, the players have a variety of backgrounds and reasons for teaming together.
For some, the tournament is an opportunity for a reunion of sorts.
That’s certainly the case for 2014 Penn graduate Fran Dougherty, who will get together with players from his high school alma mater, Archbishop Wood, along with a number of players from UVA. Among the many notable players on the team is three-time first team All-ACC guard Sean Singletary, whose jersey number was retired by UVA.
Dougherty’s team, the Philadelphia Patriots, brought together the second-most fans of any team competing and has likewise earned the second-seed in the tournament. The team takes its name from an AAU team that GM and Archbishop Wood graduate Fran McGlinn played on.
For others, the tournament provides an opportunity to raise money for charity.
Though only two of the entered teams are non-profit by designation, a few other teams have pledged to donate some quantity of their winnings to charity. One team, DMV’s Finest, formed their team with the purpose of raising money for the Zaching Against Cancer Foundation, which was formed in honor of former University of Maryland men’s basketball manager Zachary Lederer.
Most of all, it’s an opportunity for players to have unique experiences playing against top-level talent and with teammates both old and new.
Among the most mercurial players in college basketball the past few years, Ole Miss standout Marshall Henderson has teamed up with ex-NBA players like Hakim Warrick as part of one team that’s certain to turn heads.
Now, some of the early action may be a bloodbath on paper, not every team is boasting the NBA-caliber players that a number of teams have. But it’s certainly clear that from the bottom on up, there’s an incredible amount of talent descending on Philadelphia University.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from March Madness each year, it’s that anything can happen in a tournament. After all, who’s to say a team like Cornell can’t have another Cinderella story?