Ot Elmore pretty much encapsulated the spirit of The Basketball Tournament when, after helping Herd That to a surprising second-round win in last summer’s event, uttered the quote that has become legendary in TBT circles.
“Those guys played in the NBA, I play at the Y,” Elmore deadpanned.
“Those guys” Elmore and Herd That defeated last summer played for The Money Team, the TBT squad put together by boxer Floyd Mayweather, which indeed included three former NBA players.
Herd That? Well, they were led by Ot’s younger brother, Jon, who has some pretty nice credentials on his resume — he’s Conference USA’s all-time leader in points and assists, and he’s earned paychecks playing professionally overseas — but fell a step short of playing at basketball’s highest level.
Despite those long odds — not to mention an 18-point deficit in that second-round game — Herd That advanced and, overnight, became last summer’s version of “America’s Team,” with Ot Elmore as its hero and spokesman.
As they say in pickup games at the Y: Who’s got next? Remember, TBT is a single-elimination, lose-and-go-home tournament, with no tomorrow for the losers.
It’s all happening right here at the Charleston Coliseum, starting Saturday afternoon when Herd That, the Marshall University-based alumni team, tips off the 16-team TBT West Virginia Regional at noon against Team DRC.
West Virginia University’s alumni entry in the tournament, Best Virginia, is up next at 2 p.m. against WoCo Showtime.
First-round games continue into Saturday night and all day Sunday, followed by the second round on Monday and the West Virginia Regional semifinals Wednesday night. The winners there move on to the TBT’s Elite Eight, starting Aug. 3 in Dayton, Ohio.
The Basketball Tournament is hardly the top rung of the game, but it’s proven to be an entertaining showcase of former college stars, several of whom have NBA credentials and many of whom are, or were, playing professionally somewhere.
Most are playing for the love of the game and a chance to get together again with old teammates and/or rivals.
But there’s also that one undeniable carrot dangling from the stick: The team that emerges from the 64-team field with the championship walks away with the $1 million, winner-take-all prize money.
That might be spare change for NBA superstars, but for TBT players, it’s like hitting the lottery.
Some questions will be answered over the next few days at the Coliseum, such as:
- Which team will attract a bigger following, Herd That or Best Virginia? Sure, Huntington is much closer to Charleston than Morgantown, but my guess is that there will be more old gold and blue in the building than kelly green and white.
- Ticket sales have been brisk, especially for Saturday’s opening session, but how much will the crowds dwindle if (when?) Herd That and Best Virginia are eliminated from the competition?
- Will Herd That and Best Virginia both win two games to force a showdown of the state’s two major institutions of learning? The way the regional bracket is set up, with Best Virginia as the No. 2 seed and Herd That as the No. 3, that won’t happen until Wednesday night’s regional semifinals. Now that would be a hot ticket.
- How will the implementation of the
- be received by fans? It’s a whole ’nother way to finish basketball games, aimed at eliminating the constant trips to the foul line that usually mark the end of games at all other levels. Will it be a peek into basketball’s future, or just a novelty?
There is a parallel to be drawn, I think, between The Basketball Tournament and our other summertime sports diversion here in Charleston: the West Virginia Power’s inaugural season in the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
Both can boast of players who have risen to the highest level of their respective sports but are past their prime and are not quite ready to hang up their sneakers or spikes, or remove themselves from the highest level of competition they can find.
That’s what we can look forward to seeing at TBT — some serious competition on a completely different stage.
And when it’s over, well, there’s always the Y.