After months of anticipation it’s finally here. The Baketball Tournament tips off tomorrow. 24 teams. 23 games. $1 million at stake. The Fighting Illini’s alumni team House of ‘Paign is an entrant for the first time and is the No. 16 seed in this year’s field.
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HoP’s opening round opponent is War Tampa (formerly known as Tampa 20/20), a team made up of Auburn University alumni and friends. So, in a small way, Illinois can exact some revenge on Bruce Pearl, which would make a certain segment of the Illini fanbase very happy.
War Tampa is a very skilled offensive basketball team. This is a roster full of bucket-getters, seemingly tailor-made for this tournament format. House of ‘Paign is the more balanced squad and has a definite size advantage — HoP has only two players shorter than 6-foot-6 (Andres Feliz, Kyle Vinales), and two (Nnanna Egwu, Michael Finke) 6-feet-10 or taller. This is a true “pick ‘em” game and should be a fun one to watch.
Names To Know
Bryce Brown is Auburn’s all-time leader in threes (382). Brown was named Most Valuable Player of the 2019 SEC Tournament and was a key cog in the Tigers’ run to the Final Four. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard spent the 2019-20 season with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA G-League, finishing his rookie year averaging 16.1 points per game and 42.4% from outside the arc.
Walter Hodge was the starting point guard for the Florida Gators’ back-to-back national title teams in the mid-2000s, playing alongside future NBAers Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. Hodge finished the 2006-07 season hitting 50% of his three-point shots and connected on 176 triples during his time in Gainesville. Since graduating in 2009, Hodge has played overseas, most recently in the Lebanese Basketball League.
Scottie James began his collegiate career in Peoria with the Bradley Braves. After a relatively blah freshman year the 6-foot-9 big man transferred to Liberty and scored 1,321 points in three seasons with the Flames. James was one of the most efficient post scorers in college basketball, finishing at 65% from two-point range.
Fletcher Magee was a two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year at Wofford and a damn good long-range shooter. How good? The 6-foot-4 guard was a career 43.5% three-point shooter at Wofford and holds the NCAA’s all-time record with 509 treys. After going unselected in the 2019 NBA Draft, Magee spent the 2019-20 season playing for Monbus Obradoiro of Liga ACB, the top Spanish pro circuit. Coincidentally, one of Magee’s teammates in Spain, Mike Daum, is suiting up for House of ‘Paign. Daum is one of just four NCAA Division I players to accumulate 3,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Check out the complete War Tampa roster below (name, position, alma mater):
- Bryce Brown (G - Auburn)
- Shaheed Davis (F - Central Florida)
- Justin Gray (G - Texas Tech)
- Walter Hodge (G - Florida)
- Brent Jackson (G - Columbus State)
- Scottie James (F/C - Liberty)
- Fletcher Magee (G - Wofford)
- DeSean Murray (G/F - Western Kentucky)
- Tayler Persons (G - Ball State)
- Horace Spencer (F - Auburn)
- Shaun Willett (G/F - Queens University of Charlotte)
Each game of The Basketball Tournament will be held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, and aired on the ESPN family of networks from July 4-14.