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The Basketball Tournament 2017: Ram Nation and Gaelnation advance to Sunday

All three mid-major alumni teams saw their first-round matchups decided in the final three seconds

SF Austin v VCU Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The main bracket portion of the fourth annual The Basketball Tournament is officially underway. For those of you who are unfamiliar with TBT, it is an annual tournament featuring a number of former college and international basketball stars. The weekend began with 64 teams vying for the $2 million cash prize, which is awarded to the winner. Saturday saw that dream die for 16 teams in the northeast and south regions.

One of the staples of TBT is the alumni teams. Alumni teams are exactly what you think they are — teams composed primarily of alumni from a Division I basketball program. There are nine mid-major alumni teams in this year’s TBT, and three of them were in action on Saturday. Here’s how they fared:

Ram Nation avoids catastrophe at the buzzer

The VCU alumni team was touted as one of the top contenders in the field entering the tournament, but for most of Saturday’s contest, it looked as if their TBT run would be a brief one. Ram Nation trailed Showtime almost the entire game before clawing its way back into it in the final minutes. They needed a miracle to clinch the victory after three Showtime free throws in the final 10 seconds tied the game. Jamie Skeen (2011) answered with a pull-up free-throw line jumper with 0.3 seconds left on the clock to give Ram Nation an 82-80 win.

Skeen led all players in scoring with 25 points, and it turned out his team needed every last one of them. Reggie Williams (VMI ‘08) chipped in 19 points and Brandon Rozzell (‘08) added 18 of his own. Ram Nation will take on Primetime Players at 4:15 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Gaelnation edges out City of Gods in final seconds

In one of the more surprising upsets of the day, the Iona alumni team knocked off No. 6 seed City of Gods 88-86. Steven Burtt Jr. (‘06) and D’Angelo Harrison (St. John’s ‘15) each contributed 23 points in the win. Burtt Jr., whose 2,034 career points rank second in Iona history behind only his father Steven Burtt Sr., hit a game-winning layup with 2.8 seconds remaining to solidify the upset.

The road to $2 million does not get any easier from here for Gaelnation as they will take on Boeheim’s Army, a team of Syracuse alumni, at 2:45 p.m. ET on Sunday. I know at least one editor of this site will have a vested rooting interested in that one (ed. note: it me, the Syracuse hater).

Blue Zoo drops a heart-breaker to Primetime Players

In the same way that Ram Nation and Gaelnation (someone really needs to work on developing more original team names) experienced the thrill of victory, Blue Zoo, a team of Middle Tennessee alumni, was left to wallow in the agony of defeat. That agony came at the hands of Sean Barnette’s off-balance jumper with one second remaining to seal the 79-77 victory for Primetime Players.

Bruce Massey Jr. (‘13) had a stellar game posting 17 points and seven rebounds, but it ultimately was not enough to carry his team to victory. Adonis Thomas (Memphis ‘13) and Stephen Hurt (Kansas State ‘16) added 17 and 15 points respectively. Sadly, Blue Zoo’s loss spoiled a second-round date with Ram Nation that would have been a mid-major alumni matchup made in Heaven.