Sure, it sounds like a movie plot.
A wide-open, free-to-enter, 32-team 5-on-5 single-elimination basketball tournament. $500,000 on the line. One shot at glory.
But this is real life, and squads from around the country are gearing up to participate in The Basketball Tournament (TBT, for short). Although you might half-expect Jackie Moon and the Flint Tropics to show up, the tournament, in its inaugural year, will bring out a whole lot of guys you might remember.
The 2009 Villanova Final Four team? Check. That 2010 Cornell squad that won your heart and shot its way into the Sweet 16? They're in. A group backed by Barstool Sports that somehow includes erstwhile NBAers Ryan Gomes and Dahntay Jones? Yep. It's a novel concept that will reunite old teammates, bring together new ones, and result in some high-level pro-am basketball this summer.
Other notables emerging from semi-obscurity to lace up their sneakers include Sean Singletary (Virginia) and the duo of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman (Georgetown). Sides led by alums from Notre Dame, Wisconsin, LSU, Siena and Maryland have entered the fray.
Halil Kanacevic, who you probably remember as the dominant St. Joseph big man that nearly helped knock off eventual national champion UConn in this year's tournament, has pledged his services. And believe it or not, YouTube sensation and diminutive hoop nomad Aquille Carr is actually supposed to suit up.
There are also charitable efforts taking place. A crew of grads from longtime basketball factory St. Anthony (NJ) will compete as a non-profit to raise money for their struggling high school and legendary coach Bob Hurley. Former NBA player and St. Anthony's alum Terry Dehere has signed on as the team's general manager.
Held at Philadelphia University June 6-8, TBT is open to anyone—male, female, ex-professionals, the crafty old guy at your local gym—that can drum up the online support. Despite the heavy D1-caliber slant, Team Pup N' Suds (yes, that's a reference to the Disney channel original movie Brink), led by a former walk-on football player at Pitt, currently sits Top 10 in fan base and should obtain a berth. This is democracy at its finest.
All this, and it's not even Throwback Thursday yet.
Registration will close and rosters will lock on May 1, and the 24 teams with the biggest fan bases on TBT's website will receive auto-bids (more than 100 have signed up). Eight wild-card spots will then be filled from the remaining teams, based on their talent level and intrigue in their backstories. The winners are free to split the pot any way they choose, as designated before the May 1 deadline.
To spice things up further, teams looking to bolster their rosters are allowed offer bids to players in a free agent pool, offering a portion of the hypothetical winnings in order to woo a mercenary or two. So hypothetically, if Michael Jordan decided he wanted to play, he could lend his services to the highest bidder.
As of now, the games will not be televised, but there's been talk of live-streaming the final, to be played June 28 at a location voted on by fans.
If you still get chills re-watching moments like this one, stay tuned.