Ah, the spoils of victory. In addition to last year's half-a-million dollar prize, the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni earned a pass directly to this year's The Basketball Tournament Super17 Regionals. The former Irish greats were able to snack on some tasty cheeseburgers while their competition toiled away across four regional competitions. With all that sorted out, we're down to the final 17 teams in this year's winner-take-all million-dollar extravaganza. In our first episode, we gave you a rundown of the tournament, the field, and the Fighting Alumni roster. Now, let's take a peek at the path to a repeat.
The defending champions open play on Thursday 7/23 at 7:00PM Central Time versus the 14th seed from the Midwest Regional, the Midwest Dream Squad. Featuring players from the Chicago and Indianapolis areas, Midwest Dream Squad will likely have a good deal of hometown support in the stands. I'm not exactly sure what to make of the first opponent. They appear to be a high-scoring bunch, notching 99 points in their first round upset of Bad Boys and 82 to advance to the Super17. Don't put too much stock in the team description on their TBT page. Looking at the box scores from their games, this is a balanced 7-man roster who has jumped on opponents early and held on to win. They're shooting 56% eFG for the tournament so far with Eric Palm and Joel Box leading the scoring so far. The Midwest Dream Squad has benefitted from 12 and 16 opponent turnovers in their first two match-ups. It stands to reason that the Fighting Alumni will take good care of the ball and should be able to use their size advantage in the opener.
One thing to watch for in this game on ESPNU is whether or not Luke Harangody, who's Summer Suns lost in the Vegas Finals Monday evening, will join the Fighting Alumni. Harangody only appeared in the first 2 games in Vegas, averaging only 11.5 minutes per contest. He was DNP after 7/12, so he should be on fresh legs if he does appear for the Fighting Alumni.
Should the Fighting Alumni prevail over Midwest Dream Squad, they'll have 24 hours to get ready for round-of-16 opponent, Ants Alumni at 7:30 Friday evening. The Ants Alumni rolled through the Midwest bracket with a roster that sports a lot of size with NBA and D-League experience. The versatility and bulk of the Fighting Alumni will be challenged by the Ants Alumni side.
If the Fighting Alumni earn a third contest in Chicago this weekend, they will face either the Midwest Region's 8-seed, Illinois Hoopville Warriors or the Midwest's 3-seed, Armored Athlete. While the Warriors were tested in their previous 2 contests, the Armored Athlete side mostly breezed their way into the Super17. The most recognizable name on the Armored squad is former Indiana buzzer-beating-hero Christian Watford.
If you take time to peruse the entire bracket, a few interesting things jump out. First, the Grantland side is nowhere to be found. Plagued by mysterious no-show's and guys picking up contracts with pro teams, Michael Rapaport's hoops dreams were squashed by a buzzer beater before they were able to get to the Super17. Garrick Sherman scored 17 and 13 in Grantland's two games, but it wasn't enough to keep tWWL's darlings in the field. Second, the only top seed to survive regional play was the Northeast's number one, Boeheim's Army. The Fighting Alumni wouldn't see the former Orange greats until the million-dollar game, but they loom large as the only top seed to advance. Of course, it wasn't a cake walk for the Syracuse side. They eeked out a one-point victory in Philly to advance.
Mike Brey is headed over to Chicago to take in the festivities this weekend, and if you'd like to meet the Irish head coach, be sure to head over to the UA brand house Thursday afternoon.
You can follow the Fighting Alumni on TBT's website, and tune in to ESPNU Thursday evening to catch former Irish greats reliving the glory days.