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Southern Smokies don’t make the cut for TBT

Joe Avento • Jun 24, 2020 at 1:31 AM

The novel coronavirus cost the East Tennessee State men’s basketball team a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament this year. It also cost a group of former Bucs an opportunity to play some tournament ball as well.

Dillon Reppart, a former ETSU player, had put together a team of Southern Conference grads — with a heavy emphasis on ETSU — to play in The Basketball Tournament, which was to be a 64-team, $2 million winner-take-all tournament.

Last week, the tournament, known simply as TBT, announced it was cutting the field to 24 teams and reducing the purse to $1 million.

Reppart’s team, the Southern Smokies, did not make the cut.

“It was disappointing,” said Reppart, the team’s general manager. “They told us the whole time we were a top 30 or 35 team. I wasn’t worried if they were taking 64. When I thought it might get cut to 32, I still thought we’d be in. When they went to 24, I knew it was going to be close.”

As a consolation, Reppart said his team is guaranteed a place in next year’s TBT when the field goes back to 64.

This year’s event has been cut to a 10-day tournament, and the whole thing is being held in Columbus, Ohio. It starts July 4 and everyone involved will be quarantined for the entire tournament.

ETSU officials were engaged in talks with TBT organizers to hold the tournament in Johnson City, and apparently that was a definite possibility until Ohio State got involved at the last second. Last year’s TBT champion, Carmen’s Crew, is made up of former Ohio State players.

ETSU became an immediate candidate to host one of next year’s eight regionals.

Reppart’s team had former ETSU players T.J. Cromer, Isaac Banks, Jalan McCloud and Devontavius Payne. They would have joined Justin Tuoyo, Makinde London and Greg Pryor of Chattanooga and Western Carolina’s Carlos Dotson.

“The good thing is next year when they need a host location for one of the eight regionals, the connection is now there between TBT and ETSU,” Reppart said. “I really thought that would have helped us get in this year, but they’ve been nothing but great to us. I think we’ve built a good relationship with them and hopefully we work out a pretty neat partnership.”

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