HUNTINGTON — When COVID-19 took hold of the nation in March, it brought an unexpected cancellation to a time when everyone is looking forward to the NCAA tournament.
As basketball returns to the courts, it will fittingly be an event full of high-level former NCAA players that marks that return.
On Thursday, The Basketball Tournament — also known as TBT — announced that Columbus will host a 24-team event from July 4-14 for a $1 million winner-take-all prize.
“Being the first basketball event to play in the U.S. since March is a monumental task that is only possible with great partners,” TBT founder Jon Mugar said. “We can’t thank the State of Ohio, Columbus Sports Commission, The Ohio State University and Nationwide Arena enough for their support.”
The event’s announcement and approval of Columbus as the site of the games comes after the city and state approved health care measures set forth by TBT organizers.
Those measures include TBT 2020 shrinking its normal 64-team field down to 24 teams, all of whom will be in a quarantined environment.
Fans will not be allowed at the event, and teams and staff will arrive five days prior to competition for multiple rounds of COVID-19 testing. Once competition starts, a single positive test by a team member would result in the removal of that entire team.
Charleston was originally supposed to host a regional for The Basketball Tournament from July 24-26, but that was when the event was scheduled to have 64 teams and a $2 million purse.
To accommodate health safety standards, the decision was made by TBT officials to move the tournament to one location and shrink the number of teams from 64 to 24.
Two of the teams who have applied are alumni-based teams from within the state of West Virginia. ‘Best Virginia’ is a compilation of former West Virginia standouts while ‘Herd That’ is a team centered around former Marshall basketball players, led by brothers Jon and Ot Elmore.
Jon Elmore, Marshall and Conference USA’s all-time leading scorer, said that TBT is special because it allows former teammates to reunite.
“To us, this is the main event,” Elmore said. “It’s as big as it gets. You get to play with your guys and there’s money on the line. It’s a lot of fun and you want to call yourself champion at the end.”
The safety measures met the approval of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who offered his thoughts through the release on Columbus serving as host.
“Hosting TBT in Columbus is another step forward in our state’s efforts to responsibly restart Ohio,” DeWine said. “We’re looking forward to having live sports back in a safe way we all can enjoy.”
According to release, there have been more than 120 teams apply for a spot in the 24-team field, meaning many teams will not get in the field.
It is expected that the bracket will be announced early next week.