With sports on hold due to the coronavirus, Syracuse fans shifted their concerns to The Basketball Tournament’s fate. The SU alumni team, Boeheim’s Army, competes in the winner take all, single elimination tournament every summer. Boeheim’s Army is scheduled to host one of the regions at SRC Arena on the campus of Onondaga Community College in late July and early August. Nobody knows if fans will be allowed to attend the games. Nobody knows if the tournament will be played. But if it is, the quarantine will only help The Basketball Tournament and Boeheim’s Army in the long run.
The demand for live sports has never been greater. Baseball fans from across the country are itching for new competition that they have resorted to watching Korean Baseball. The demand for basketball might be even stronger because fans were left on a cliffhanger with the NBA’s playoffs about to begin and the NCAA Tournament cancelled.
There’s nothing else for sports fans to consume besides old games. Fans have watched more games from the 1980s than they did when swatch watches were popular. So if The Basketball Tournament is held over the summer, even without fans in attendance, TV ratings will be through the roof.
Ever since its inception in 2014, ESPN has carried the games on ESPN radio and largely the ESPN3 online platform. This year’s tournament would likely get promoted to ESPN and ESPN2.
With even more of a national spotlight thanks to an even larger investment from the Worldwide Leader of Sports, the tournament has the platform to develop a national fanbase, a step up from today’s regional cult following. On top of that, unlike past years, TBT won’t be competing with baseball or any other sporting event for national attention.
TBT won’t just take off out of desperation. Once it is discovered it will likely stay popular, even after the social distancing sanctions are lifted. The alumni teams like Boeheim’s Army, Cassell Guardians (Virginia Tech), Best Virginia (West Virginia) and Fear the Spear (Florida State) automatically have fanbases. Much like the NCAA Tournament, there are Cinderella teams, like a Division-III alumni squad, and there are plenty of stories to follow.
Boeheim’s Army’s story is one of a revamped squad. After an early exit last season in the Regional Final, General Manager Kevin Belbey added Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson, two vibrant former first-round NBA draft picks who are set to make their Boeheim’s Army debuts. They join returning alumni stars Brandon Triche, Eric Devendorf and Demitris Nichols.