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TBT Preview: Big East Edition

The Basketball Tournament (TBT for short) is one of my favorite events going on every summer. I absolutely love this tournament, there’s nothing like seeing the guys you loved watching in college play together for a chance at a million dollars. All of the causes in this tournament are just awesome, it’s truly an excellent event and I’m really glad it gets all the press it does.

Let’s not forget, the TBT was the first event that pulled off a tournament bubble! Pandemic sports would not have been the same without the TBT. At a time when we all needed something to watch/take our minds off of whatever the hell that was, the TBT was there and it was awesome.

So, with all that said, let’s take a look at the two Big East teams in this event (Sorry Marquette you aren’t here, though shoutout to the Golden Eagles for winning the whole thing in 2020) and project their journeys, followed by any additional Big East guys playing in this event.

Xavier: Team Zip ‘Em Up

Man, what CapX has done with this team is awesome. Nothing shows the power of the interwebs quite like a burner Twitter account bringing a community together for an awesome event. This Xavier team is pretty damn good too. Bringing back Trevon Blueitt, JP Macura and Semaj Christon is quite a feat. They’ve brought back some damn good players from those Xavier squads, but will it be enough to make it through the regional?

Their first-round matchup is against the Georgia Kingz, a team of guys from the Peach State. Just recognizing a couple of names on this team shows me that they will be really tough. If you’ve watched the TBT before you know that this tournament is really physical. Seth Greenberg loves talking about how “no marshmallows” are allowed in this tournament, and he’s absolutely right, at least about this. Chris Cokley is a 6’8” wing who will likely be the leader for the Georgia Kingz, and is someone who I think can cause some matchup problems for this Zip Em Up squad, but I think they have far too much offensive firepower to go out Round One.

In Round Two, Zip Em Up plays either the Cincinnati alumni team in a big-time rivalry game or The Money Team, Floyd Mayweather’s squad. Personally, I think it’s the Money Team. It would have been awesome for the first-round matchup to be Cincy vs X again, but alas I think the Money Team plays spoiler here.

Mayweather always has a team in this tournament and they are always incredibly talented. This year's team will be headlined by longtime NBA Vet Trevor Booker, former Portland Trailblazer CJ Elleby and Devin Booker.

It’s not that Devin Booker, but I like to think I scared someone for a second or two.

The Money Team is the more talented team. They are one of the most talented teams in this tournament every single year. I didn't mention any of their guards or bench players, but those guys are absolute walking buckets too, most of them averaged around 15PPG at high-level D1 teams. The problem with them every time is that they have absolutely 0 team chemistry. If they can play as a team they will make a long run in this tournament. They will have a huge advantage inside over Zip Em Up. But these Zip Em Up guys know each other so well. Some of them played together for four years and that really pays off in this tournament. I think this is a fairly 50/50 game, but I will side with the chemistry of Zip Em Up here. This one should be a battle.

If Zip Em Up makes it to the final of this regional, they could match up with last year's runner-up, The Program for Autism. The Program for Autism plays for Autism Awareness, with multiple players on this team having kids with Autism. This initiative is being combined with The Program NYC, a 13,000-square-foot facility in NYC, designed to grow grassroots and youth basketball in the area and give kids more opportunities to play the game that we all love.

The causes in this tournament make it so hard to root against like 90% of these teams, even while wanting to support your favorite alums. It’s awesome seeing these causes get so much awareness on ESPN networks and on all sorts of socials, coming from the game we love.

But these guys made a deep run last year for a reason. Delroy James was an absolute problem in this tournament, he was the leader of this Autism Army squad a year ago, and he’s an absolute force inside. Joining these guys are ex-Oklahoma State wing, McDonald's All-American and Second team all-Big 12 member Le’Bryan Nash, and two DePaul alums in Eli Cain and Femi Olujobi. This team is back to make a statement as the #1 seed in this region and can cause problems.

In the end, I will be picking Zip Em Up to win this region, because if I don’t and they do I will be berated on Twitter and I don’t want that. But seriously, they have a very talented team that knows how to play well together and have a trio of dynamite guards in Christion, Macura and Blueitt who will cause problems for just about everyone they face. I definitely worry about how they will compete inside potentially against a Trevor Booker/Mike Scott/Delroy James, I think that could be their downfall. None of these games will be easy, but I can tell you that all of them will be fun.

Zip Em Up plays Game One Friday, July 21 at 8 PM in Cintas, broadcasted on ESPN+.

Georgetown: DawgTown

These guys are everyone I loved watching back from my childhood. Former McDonald’s All-American Chris Wright is the captain of this team, and he made sure to bring a squad with him. Former NBA players Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson and Greg Whittington join Wright, and his squad is loaded with legit guards with Jason Clark, Rodney Pryor and D’Vanutes Smith-Rivera, rounded out by Julian Vaughn, Trey Dickerson and fan-favorite Jagan Mosely.

These guys playing together again is peak electricity, I'm sorry it just is

I loved watching all of these guys play, so I’m so excited to see them join forces in this tournament. Their first-round matchup is an incredibly tough one though, matching up against the merger of two TBT Titans with Florida TNT and Challenge ALS. Challenge ALS was founded by Sean Marshall, roommate of Pete Frates at BC, who wanted to spread awareness for that awful disease, and he decided to merge with another TBT Titan in Florida TNT.

This Florida TNT team has played together for years and was the team that knocked off the second iteration of Zip Em Up behind this incredible shot from Chris Warren. Warren is definitely the leader of this team and one of the best guards in this tournament, and he’s joined by bully-ball guard Marvelle Harris, guard Kenny Boynton, TBT force inside Keith Clanton, sharpshooter Fletcher Magee and Head Coach Darren Collison.

Make no mistake, these Hoyas got an incredibly tough first-round draw, but I’m a homer at heart, I will pick them to secure the upset. I know a lot of these Hoyas played ball overseas this year and are still in playing shape, plus after their absolute beatdown of Maryland in the ABL last year, they showed that they’ve got this. These guys can still play, and if Henry Sims and Julian Vaughn can compete inside with Clanton, the guards will be enough to contain Warren and Harris, and get enough going on their own. They will have some FGCU guys too, so I’m considering this a revenge game and will not elaborate further on this point.

Their second-round matchup likely is Sideline Cancer. To say I hate this draw might be an understatement. Sideline Cancer has been my team in this tournament since they first joined. I looooove this team. Sideline Cancer plays to raise awareness, advocate and find the resources to research Pancreatic Cancer and has used the TBT to donate over 300K to research and supplied 20 families with over 50K as they faced the financial burden caused by fighting cancer.

Marcus Keene was an excellent scorer at Central Michigan, leading the nation in scoring in 2017. Mike Daum is an incredible offensive weapon, his jumpshot has a high release point, making it impossible to contest and he just doesn’t miss. They’re without some of the wings that made them so dynamic the past few seasons, but bring in elite guards in Tyrese Rice and Dominique Jones. The Hoyas will need their guards to really lock up to compete in this one, but Whittington and Thompson should cause legit problems on the wings for Sideline Cancer.

In the end, Sideline is one of the brands of this tournament and it’s hard for me to pick against them.

Hoping the Hoyas can go far, but this draw is incredibly tough. The first game for these Hoyas is on Tuesday, July 25, tipping off at 2 pm.

Other Big East members in this tournament:

The AfterShocks (Wichita State Alumni) - Alterique Gilbert (UConn)

Air Raiders (Texas Tech Alumni) - Tariq Owens (St. John’s)

Big 5 - Clifton Moore (Providence), Markus Kennedy (Villanova), Mo Watson (Creighton)

Boeheim’s Army (Traitors) - Dwight Buyucks and Jamil Wilson (Marquette)

Bucketneers (ETSU Alumni) - Bo Hodges (Butler), Keyshawn Feazell (Creighton)

Gutter Cat Gang - Trent Lockett (Marquette)

Herd That (Marshall Alumni) - Luke Fischer (Marquette)

JUCO Products - Noah Horchler (Providence)

Living the Dream - Daniel Hamilton and Joey Calcaterra (UConn)

Purple & Black (Kansas St. Alumni) - Marcus Foster (Creighton), Curtis Kelly (UConn), Jevon Thomas (Seton Hall)

Ram Nation (VCU Alumni) - Brendan Adams (UConn)

Shell Shock (Maryland Alumni) - Darryl Morsell (Marquette)

Team DRC - Steve Taylor Jr. (Marquette)

Team Gibson - Bashir Ahmed (St. John’s), Vander Blue (Marquette)

The Commonwealth (UMass Alumni) - Luwane Pipkins (Providence)

The Enchantment (New Mexico Alumni) - Vance Jackson (UConn)

The Program for Autism - Eli Cain and Femi Olujobi (DePaul)

Zoo Crew (Pittsburgh Alumni) - Greg Elliot (Marquette)

All 11 Big East teams are represented in some way, shape or form in this tournament. Whether the guy played one minute or four full seasons for their BE team, they played there and so they get put on the list.

And you could technically say all of the Syracuse/Louisville teams should be on here because they were in the Big East when they played college ball. You could say that if you want to be a stickler. Jerk.


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