MORGANTOWN—“Best Virginia,” the West Virginia University alumni basketball team, will be replaced in the field of 24 at The Basketball Tournament after a team member tested positive for COVID-19.
On Thursday, TBT was informed by Best Virginia that one of its players had tested positive for the coronavirus. TBT immediately launched its pre-tournament protocol under the guidance of medical advisor Dr. Tom Hospel. Although it was determined that due to the timing of the positive test, the remainder of the team could have entered into a 14-day self-quarantine and frequent-testing protocol and still entered the event, Best Virginia ultimately decided to withdraw from tournament.
“This is a safety-first event,” said TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar. “We’re disappointed for the Best Virginia players and fans that they won’t get an opportunity to compete in TBT 2020, and our thoughts are with the player for a speedy recovery. While the virus remains a persistent threat, we have confidence in our health and safety plan and the many safeguards we have put in place to run this year’s tournament.”
“Playing for Jimmy V” will now play “Herd That,” the Marshall alumni team who was originally scheduled to play Best Virginia.
Playing for Jimmy V is led by former Philadelphia 76ers’ forward Haywood Highsmith (who helped with the Toothman Ford Free Basketball Camp last summer at the St. Augustine Social Center), former Gonzaga star Josh Perkins, and Loyola-Chicago’s Marques Townes.
The Basketball Tournament is an open-application, single-elimination tournament played each summer in the United States, currently featuring 24 teams and offering $1 million in winner-take-all prize money and broadcasted by ESPN.
Teams in TBT are arranged by a general manager, sometimes based on which schools the players attended and which teams they may have had experience competing. While the tournament has had as many as 97 teams, is has rapidly decreased in registration, with 72 teams in 2018, 64 teams in 2019, but only 23 teams this season, with the recent withdrawal of Best Virginia.
In its current format, which was adopted in 2019, the teams are divided into regionals, all of which are seeded. The 2019 edition was the first in which each regional was hosted by one of the participating teams, as these teams were pre-selected before the open application period. The championship prize money was originally $500,000 in 2014, was increased to $1 million in 2015, again to $2 million in 2016, and then back down to $1 million for 2020. The prize money goes to the winning team’s personnel, and an additional 10% of that amount goes to its top fans. The 2019 tournament was the first to offer prizes other than the main $2 million prize as each regional winner received 25% of their region’s ticket proceeds.