The 2018 edition of The Basketball Tournament tips off a little early this year with a pair of first-round games on the west coast Friday night. Three mid-major alumni teams and the Utah alumni team play in the Hoopfest West pod in Spokane, one of two early pods that start two weeks before the rest of the bracket. Four Big East alumni teams also play this weekend.
The full Hoopfest West schedule can be seen here, and you’ll notice that a Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga showdown could happen Saturday night:
The winner of this pod will advance to the Super 16 in Atlanta in late July.
Gael Force vs. Air Force Bomb Squad
Gael Force is back and better than ever, buoyed by some recent and familiar grads. Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson join a squad that was an 11 seed last summer and won a game before falling to Boeheim’s Army in a close contest. NCAA Tournament hero Omar Samhan and point guard Joe Rahon are the two other names that casual fans will tune in to see. Gael Force should have enough to beat an Air Force Bomb Squad team that lost by 42 in its first-round game last year. But don’t count out the Air Force alumni just yet — comprised of mostly active service members, the team has appeared in every TBT and this time adds former G-Leaguer Michael Lyons.
Few Good Men vs. Team Utah
A 2 seed last year, Few Good Men advanced to the regional semifinals before falling to 6-seed Team Challenge ALS. Blake Stepp, Casey Calvary, and Sam Dower all return, but the team will be down some key contributors. Jim Meehan of The Spokesman cites Kevin Pangos’s summer wedding (how inconsiderate) as the reason, but fear not: Few Good Men has brought in some replacements. Washington State’s Davonte Lacey, Washington’s Robert Upshaw, and Eastern Washington’s Jacob Wiley are all expected to suit up for the Zags’ alumni team. Wiley will only play in the second round or later, according to Meehan, and Drew Barham and Connor Griffin will miss potential regional games for the wedding. While Team Utah may not have the most creative name in the world and might be an alumni team for a Power 5 club, there is some mid-major representation there as well. Nick Covington (Weber State), Danny Berger (Utah State), and Akolda Manyan (Utah Valley) are all on board.