The 2012 national tournament is the last time that the UW-River Falls men’s basketball has been on the national scene. This summer, some members of that year’s team will be reuniting to again try to make some noise on the national level.
Five members of that squad, along with 2004 UWRF alumnus Rich Melzer and UW-Superior alumnus Jake Smith, will be joining forces to play in The Basketball Tournament this summer in Philadelphia. The team will be competing under the name “Minneapolis Elite.”
“We came across this tournament through social media and it definitely caught a lot of interest from us. We’ve been wanting to get some of our championship team back together for a tournament or two and we thought this would be the perfect one,” said team general manager and UWRF alumnus Wade Guerin. “It is a winner-take-all tournament and take all being $500,000. We just couldn’t pass that up so we decided to go ahead and enter the tournament.”
The opportunity to win $500,000 at a basketball tournament has attracted plenty of attention from other players across the nation as well.
“Some of the competition consists of former Div. I and NBA players,” Guerin said. “The field is already full of stiff competition, but we think we have put together an elite group of guys to go out there and compete with the best of them.”
Some of the competition includes the entire Cornell University basketball squad, which reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2010, as well as an alumni team consisting of players from the University of Virginia.
Jonathan Mugar, the founder of The Basketball Tournament, said the idea to have a tournament like this was thought up three years ago. He said that the winner-take-all format is in place to increase the level of intensity.
“The prize money was all about raising the stakes of the competition. March Madness games, and game sevens in the NBA are played at such a high level of intensity and the emphasis is placed squarely on winning,” Mugar said. “Those types of contests deliver a unique value to the fan because the stakes are so high. TBT wants to deliver high stakes games to fans, while delivering an unforgettable experience to players year in and year out.”
Thirty-two teams compete in the tournament, but an unlimited amount can enter to become eligible. To become eligible, a team must have over 100 fans and have seven to 10 players on the roster.
“The top 24 most popular teams on the website (in terms of how many fans they have) receive berths into The Basketball Tournament. The other eight teams will be The Basketball Tournament’s choice,” Mugar said.
Minneapolis Elite currently have seven players on the roster, and has 250 fans, which is good enough for 10th overall. To recruit fans for the team, Guerin came up with a unique incentive.
“[Guerin]’s also pledged to pay every Fan on Minneapolis Elite’s Fanwagon a proportionate share of $55,500 if his team wins the tournament,” said Tournament Commissioner Dan Friel on The Basketball Tournament’s website.
When the 32-team field is selected, the teams will play a single elimination tournament from June 6-8, meaning that to claim the prize, a team must win four games in three days.
Guerin said that the Minneapolis Elite has just as good of a chance at winning as any of the other teams.
“We think we have a good shot at the grand prize and it will definitely be an interesting run.”