Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

TBT a return to NCAA tournament format for Best Virginia

FAIRMONT — Truck Bryant’s eyes lit up with the thought of dribbling down the floor with Joe Alexander on one side, Kevin Jones on the other and Devin Williams running hard as a trailer.

The question: Who does the former West Virginia standout point guard pass it to?

“Whoever is hot,” Bryant said Saturday before participating in the annual WVU Basketball Alumni Game held at Fairmont State. “The thing about it is we could really have three or four guys hot at the same time. We really have a bunch of guys who can fill it up.”

Best Virginia’s entry into the $2 million winner-take-all The Basketball Tournament (TBT) — the team’s first-round game is July 26 in Richmond against an alumni team from Old Dominion — will certainly have its share of potential.

It also will have to adjust to an NCAA tournament format that some of the players haven’t experienced in nearly 10 years.

“You would hope the format will keep us more mentally prepared,” said Da’Sean Butler, who last played in the NCAA tournament during West Virginia’s 2010 Final Four run. “Playing in the pros overseas, the playoffs are set up as a series like in the NBA. You lose the first game and you’re still thinking, ‘Well, there is still going to be a Game 2, Game 3 or whatever.’ Believe me, that’s always in a pro’s mind.”

Best Virginia’s 10-man roster features nine pros who are either playing overseas or in the G League. Only Nathan Adrian, who last played for WVU in 2017, has not played professionally.

“The biggest difference with the (NCAA) format is we’re not going to know the other team in a one-and-done situation,” Alexander said. “In college, you have the scouting report. You’ve seen the other team on film. You know who you’re going up against.

“Some of the guys in the TBT we may have played against in Europe, but we’re not going to know the whole team. The biggest thing is can we make adjustments in the first half and second half? That’s the big key.”

Alexander, Butler, Jones, Adrian and John Flowers are the group of forwards who offer a mixture of scoring and defense, while Williams will be the big man in the middle.

Bryant will be joined at guard along with Juwan Staten, Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip.

“I’m real confident and feel really good about our team,” said Jones, who led the Big East in scoring and rebounding as a senior in 2012. “We have a lot of like-size guys who can all do a little bit of everything. What I’ve learned over the years is the best teams are the ones who have the most guys who can contribute in different ways.”

TBT’s format differs from the NCAA tournament in that it has eight regions instead of four.

Best Virginia earned a No. 4 seed in the Richmond Regional, meaning it could match up with Overseas Elite — the four-time defending champion — in the second round.

“I think we’re being underestimated a little bit, just like when we were in college,” Butler said. “Nothing’s changed.”

Overseas Elite’s roster includes former St. John’s standouts Paris Horne, D.J. Kennedy and Justin Burrell, as well as former Marshall and Iowa State point guard Deandre Kane.

“I’ve played against a lot of their guys in Europe and they’re real studs,” Butler said. “The thing is, we can’t even worry about them right now or we’ll get beat in the first game. That’s one thing you learn quickly in the NCAA tournament is that you can’t look ahead.”

The last thing to settle with Best Virginia: Who is the starting five?

“I couldn’t care less,” Butler said. “We don’t have selfish guys. I don’t think anyone cares if they come off the bench.”

“In college, you care about that stuff,” added Bryant. “We’re all pros now. We’re just going to work. This is a job for us now, so I don’t think anyone cares if they start or not.”
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