The Basketball Tournament TBT
Screenshot from YouTube: The Basketball Tournament

$1 Million, Winner-Take-All Tournament Coming to Columbus, Ohio

Basketball's official season runs from October to June. It's a grueling haul, but nine months of the year haven't sufficed fans these days. The explosion of social media has made players and personalities more accessible than ever. Highlights are at our fingertips. Off-the-court drama of some sort is always lingering. It's no wonder basketball has turned into a year-round affair.

Vin Martelli and Jonathan Mugar noticed this trend and capitalized by creating an event entirely unique to the sport. They called it, simply, The Basketball Tournament.

What Is The Basketball Tournament?

Martelli and Mugar created The Basketball Tournament — abbreviated as TBT — in 2014. The concept was simple: an open-application, single-elimination tournament with a winner-take-all cash prize and social media interaction.

In the first year, 32 teams competed for $500,000. In 2015, the tournament tripled in size to 97 teams and the cash increased to $1 million. Since 2016, 64 teams participate—save for 2018 when the field was 72 teams—for $2 million.

The Basketball Tournament Format

The 64-team tournament is single elimination and divided into eight regionals. The eight winners are then invited to a selected site for Championship Week. Starting in 2019, regional winners receive 25-percent of their regional's ticket proceeds. Games are televised across ESPN networks.

TBT primarily follows NCAA Basketball rules with a few exceptions:

  • Quarters are nine minutes each
  • Players are disqualified on their sixth personal foul
  • Bonus free throws occur after a team's 5th foul of the quarter as well as subsequent non-shooting fouls
  • Basket interference is permitted on any shot except free throws. Once the ball hits the rim, any player on either team can touch the ball. This rule aligns with FIBA's basket interference standard.

TBT separated itself from other basketball events because of the Elam Ending. The Elam Ending was devised by Ball State University professor Nick Elam. Instead of playing an entire timed fourth quarter, the Elam Ending plays to a target score. The clock is turned off after the first whistle under four minutes, however, the shot clock is still in use. The target score is eight points more than the leading team's score, or if the game is tied. Replay reviews are allowed if either team is within three points of the target score. Games can be won on any field goal or a free throw. A recent rule change eliminates the likelihood of intentional fouls; if a team commits a foul while in the bonus, the other team gets only one free throw, then retains possession. Due to the Elam Ending's format, there is no overtime.

The Elam Ending was used in the fourth quarter of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.

Teams are organized by a general manager — who is also responsible for the distribution of the money shall their team win — and handles registration. Players from college basketball, the NBA, WNBA, and international leagues have participated in TBT. Multiple former players from Notre Dame, Ohio State, Marquette, Kansas State, and Iowa's four NCAA Division I programs have competed. Notre Dame's alumni team won the inaugural tournament in 2014. The next four years were won by Overseas Elite — a team comprised of pro players who play across the pond. Last year's champion, Carmen's Crew (the Ohio State alumni team), beat Overseas Elite in the semifinals 71-66. Carmen's Crew went on to beat the Golden Eagles (Marquette's alumni team) in the championship game led by former Buckeyes guard Aaron Craft.

TBT gets fans in on the fun too. The top 1,000 fans of the winning team share an additional 10-percent ($200,000) of the pot. The top supporter of the team receives $10,000. Fans reach the top 1,000 by signing up and accumulating points.

The Basketball Tournament 2020

Before the coronavirus pandemic and spread of COVID-19 changed everything, the eight regionals for the 2020 tournament were set for Las Vegas, NV, Wichita, KS, Columbus, OH, Jackson, TN, Florida, Charleston, WV, Washington D.C., and Syracuse, NY. Championship Week would be held at the University of Dayton with the tournament starting July 23 and running through August 11.

However, the TBT revised its plan, announcing that 24 teams will play a 10-day tournament beginning on July 4, 2020, with the championship game set for July 14. All players will be quarantined in Columbus, Ohio, and games will be played at Nationwide Arena.

Any fans who previously purchased tickets will be given a full refund.

Martelli and Mugar's creation is unlike any major basketball event. Its openness mimics hopping in a pick-up game at a local court. Fan engagement has a tangible reward in addition to the personal satisfaction that accompanies your team winning. It brings a new twist to the way games finish. Innovation from TBT has even made its way to major sports, such as the bracket celebration in the NCAA Tournament.

The Basketball Tournament has carved out a place on the basketball calendar. Come the dog days of summer, it's still time for hoops.

This article was originally published March 4, 2020. It was updated to reflect editorial corrections on the revised TBT plan for this year's tournament.

MORE: Cameron Crazies: Meet College Basketball's Wildest Student Section