WVU, Marshall alumni teams square off in 1st round of TBT

Juwan Staten, left, goes up for a layup around Tarik Phillip in a WVU alumni game at Joe Retton Arena. Both Staten and Philip are members of team Best Virginia in this summer’s The Basketball Tournament.

FAIRMONT — The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has scrapped a bit of the state of West Virginia’s luster and appetite for the seventh annual The Basketball Tournament. The tournament’s alterations due to the virus have scrapped Charleston as a regional site and axed the Underground Kings — a squad of Mountain East Conference alumni — from the field.

The Basketball Tournament’s recently released schedule, however, may have restored West Virginia’s appetite for the event as the TBT first round will feature a head-to-head meeting between the state’s two teams in “Best Virginia” and “Herd That.” Best Virginia is WVU’s alumni team, while Herd That mostly consists of Marshall alumni.

The two teams are set to meet in the first round of the 24-team TBT on July 5. The time of the game and TV information have yet to be released.

The winner of the Best Virginia and Herd That matchup will advance to TBT’s second round to face Floyd Mayweather’s “The Money Team” on July 9. In all, 24 teams will be compete in the single elimination TBT with Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, serving as the host site.

The tournament was originally slated to have 64 participating teams, including the MEC’s Underground Kings, compete across eight different regional sites, including Charleston, but COVID-19 forced major changes to the format. The MEC’s Underground Kings squad was set to feature several Fairmont State alumni, with Jamel Morris — the team’s creator — Thomas Wimbush and Matt Bingaya on the active roster, while alumnus Shammgod Wells Jr. was the team’s coach and Warren Doles was the team’s GM.

In the Best Virginia versus Herd That showdown, Best Virginia will enter as the favorite. Best Virginia, which first debuted in TBT last summer, is the tournament’s No. 10 seed, while Herd That is the the No. 23 seed in its first ever TBT after many of Marshall’s alumni played for the West Virginia Wildcats in last year’s tournament.

Best Virginia’s roster consists of players as far back as the 2010 Final Four team in Da’Sean Butler, John Flowers and Kevin Jones, to recent graduates, such as Logan Routt. The team’s full roster is made up of Butler, Flowers, Jones, Routt, Juwan Staten, Nate Adrian, Jaysean Paige, Jonathan Holton, Tarik Phillip, Teyvon Myers and Daxter Miles, Jr., according to the TBT website. The team’s coaches are Jarrod West, Dave Tallman and Greg Richardson, while Flowers is also the team’s GM.

Marshall’s Herd That squad is led by the Elmore brothers, Ot and Jon. Ot Elmore is both the team’s GM and an active member of the roster, while Jon Elmore is the team’s perhaps most well known player. The rest of the roster is made up of Stevie Browning, Ryan Taylor, C.J. Burks, and Rondale Watson as former Marshall players, with Ryan Luther (Pittsburgh/Arizona), Zach Smith (Texas Tech), JaCorey Williams (Middle Tennessee State) and Chris Cokley (UAB) also on the active roster, according to TBT website.

All rosters can be amended until TBT’s start date, including adding or subtracting players.

The top seeds for this year’s TBT are No. 1 Carmen’s Crew (Ohio State alumni), No. 2 Overseas Elite, and No. 3 Boeheim’s Army (Syracuse alumni).

The winning squad of the 24-team TBT will receive $1 million. The tournament tips off July 4 and will conclude with the championship game July 14.

Email Bradley Heltzel at bheltzel@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.

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