When those old tournament highlights come on and they show mid-major heroes from over the years, the question is often raised: where are they now?
This summer, they’re probably in The Basketball Tournament.
This is the third iteration of the event, which pits 64 teams from around the country against each other with a $2 million prize on the line. Virtually every team that earned entry into the event has at least one mid-major alumnus playing, and several are alumni squads, comprised almost entirely of former players from one school.
You can take a look at the full bracket here. The Tournament tips off on July 9 and culminates Aug. 2 with a winner-take-all title game at Fordham University. Every round from the Sweet 16 forward will be shown on ESPN’s family of networks.
So with tip-off just a week away, here are some of the fan favorites who will be playing for their shot at the big prize:
Casey Calvary (Gonzaga, A Few Good Men): Calvary is on Gonzaga’s alumni team, and while he joins names like Dan Dikau, Micah Downs and Jeremy Pargo, Calvary holds a special place in the hearts of Bulldogs fans. It was his tip-in that won that classic Sweet 16 game against Florida in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. It was Gonzaga’s formal entrance onto the national stage — a spot the team still has not relinquished. Oh, and John Stockton is their coach. Of course.
Cuttino Mobley (Rhode Island, Launfd): Mobley spent a decade in the NBA, where he was named to the all-rookie second team and amassed nearly 12,000 points. However he is also known for his role in leading the Rams to the 1998 Elite Eight as the team’s leading scorer — and that’s a team that also included Lamar Odom. Mobley scored 17.2 per game that year, shooting 42 percent from three and 86 percent from the line.
Justin Sears (Yale, 120 Sports): Two-time Ivy League Player of the Year Sears is mere months removed from his 18-point performance in Yale's upset win over Baylor in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and next he will team up with former Purdue star Robbie Hummel to lead 120 Sports. As a senior for the Bulldogs, Sears averaged 15.7 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game, as he helped Yale win the Ivy League for the first time since 1962. Next season, Sears plans to join the Giessen 46ers in Germany, but hopefully not without his share of $2 million.
The 2011 VCU Rams (Ram Nation): They say you don’t want to go to war with the Rams, and when the team felt disrespected over the uproar made about their inclusion in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, that became especially true. The 11-loss Rams, out of the CAA, tore through the opening rounds of the tournament, beating USC in the First Four, then pounding Georgetown and Purdue to reach the Sweet 16. After beating Kansas in the Elite Eight, VCU completed one of the most improbable Final Four runs in history. Five players from that team are on Ram Nation: Jamie Skeen (the team’s leading scorer), Bradford Burgess (the second-leading scorer), Joey Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell and Darius Theus. Try doubting them in this tournament. They dare you.
Chris McNaughton & Co. (Bucknell, PA Roadwarriors): Remember those two years when Bucknell was really, really good and beat Kansas and Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years? Yeah, they’re back. Led by center Chris McNaughton, who averaged 12.8 points per game on their 2006 team, the Bison return four players from those teams. One of the most accomplished squads in the field, the PA Roadwarriors also have five guys (if you include booster Mike Muscala) from Bucknell’s 2011 Patriot League championship team. This is a group that’s used to single-elimination 64-team fields.