The Basketball Tournament 2022 is shaping up to be the year of West Virginia as the state’s regional is set to tip-off on July 24.
Co-hosts Best Virginia took the top seed in the regional and will face Virginia Dream, a team making its first appearance in the event. With a win, the WVU alumni team could square up against co-hosts Herd That — the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
The squads nearly faced in 2021, the first year of the West Virginia Regional, but Herd That fell to Team 23 in the second round. This year’s bracket is much more conducive to bringing that in-state rivalry to the hardwood.
“It’s very exciting,” said Best Virginia forward and team co-founder Kevin Jones. “We haven’t gotten to play them yet, so I know that’s the game that everybody’s looking for.”
Buzz has already built around that potential matchup around TBT. Best Virginia’s John Flowers and Herd That’s Jon Elmore made an appearance on the live bracket reveal, and in between answering questions from the commentators, they made some friendly jabs at one another.
Still, that matchup is far from guaranteed as each team has a first-round game in the single-elimination tournament. Best Virginia’s first opponent is Virginia Dream, a squad made up of talent from all over both Division I and II basketball. Of course, all their players are professionals, competing in overseas leagues.
With a month to go, Best Virginia coach James Long admits that he doesn’t know much about his team’s first-round opponent yet.
“TBT thought they were good enough to play in there, so obviously, they’re good enough to beat you if you’re not ready,” Long said. “I’ve coached against I think two of the guys here at [WVU Tech]. There’s one NAIA guy from Bluefield College, Niquan Cousins, and he’s good everywhere….So just from seeing him on the roster and other guys, you know that they’re going to have guys that can go out there and compete.”
Be for the ball bounces, Best Virginia can hang its hat on earning the top seed in the region. In 2021, it was a two-seed, so it appears the team is earning some more respect in its third trip.
At the same time, Best Virginia knows its seed is no more than a number. The first-round matchup last year was against 15-seed WoCo Showtime — which returns to West Virginia in 2022 — but Best Virginia barely squeaked on by a score of 70-67.
Like WoCo Showtime, Best Virginia does not expect its first-round opponent to roll over.
“We can’t look past anybody,” Jones said. “That first game is always an unknown. we don’t know how we’re going to gel as a team, we don’t know how good the other team is so we’ve got to focus on that first game. We almost got out of the tournament last year, we won on an Elam Ending buzzer-beater kind of, but I think we got better from that first game on.”