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If 2020 TBT tips off, Team Colorado expects to be part of field

Buffs basketball alums once again plan to compete for $2 million prize

Team Colorado coach Nate Tomlinson talks ...
Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
Team Colorado coach Nate Tomlinson talks to players during basketball practice at the CU Events Center in Boulder on July 22, 2019.

Sports fans starved to watch actual competition might be given a reprieve in July with the 2020 edition of The Basketball Tournament. And if the TBT unfolds as planned, Team Colorado once again expects to be part of the 64-team field.

As of this week, the annual $2 million winner-take-all basketball tournament remains on schedule for its July 23 tipoff, though certainly that status could change in a hurry given the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

The annual TBT has gained traction over the past few years while featuring ever-improving competition and unique quirks such as the Elam Ending and the winner-take-all format. Holding the tournament at a time when the only live-action competition is midseason games in the WNBA and Major League Baseball hasn’t hurt either, and with all other sports on hiatus, the ESPN-backed The Basketball Tournament could command an even bigger spotlight in July.

If TBT 2020 happens, the former Buffs on Team Colorado are likely to compete. But, as former Buffs player and Team Colorado general manager Josh Repine explained, it won’t be done at the expense of risking any player’s professional career. Much of how Team Colorado gets organized will be determined in the coming weeks, after local stay-at-home orders are eased beginning on Saturday.

“The guys love the tournament,” Repine said. “The main reason obviously is we’re going to try to win the tournament. But the other thing is, it’s a time for those guys who played across multiple coaches to come back to the university and see the current guys. It’s a great experience. While we go in to win, it’s a great experience for those guys.

“Once May 8 passes, we’ll be able to maybe slowly get back to life and we can really ramp up our stuff.”

Once again, former Buffs player and CU’s current director of player development Nate Tomlinson is expected to coach Team Colorado. Tomlinson and Repine might have to make adjustments to the pre-tournament routine Team Colorado has experienced in past summers.

For instance, the alumni team typically gathers in Boulder for a three-day training camp, but given the possibility of CU’s campus being closed and other travel entanglements, Team Colorado might not get together until the days ahead of its first-round date in one of TBT’s eight opening-round locations. That, of course, might require more assistance from team boosters. Those donors have been generous in past seasons, but such donations may no longer be a given due to the financial fallout from the pandemic.

Regardless, once Team Colorado hits the floor, it likely will be with an even younger roster than last season. The 2019 squad featured a slew of younger, first-time Team Colorado members like Dom Collier, Xavier Johnson, and Tory Miller-Stewart alongside seasoned TBT veterans like Richard Roby, Chris Copeland, and Marcus Hall. Expect a few more recent CU basketball alums on the 2020 roster.

“All the older guys bring experience and they’ve played overseas, so they know a lot of the guys that we play against,” Repine said. “The game in the TBT has gotten a lot younger with the competition. The pace of the game has picked up a little bit.”