Top seed Best Virginia set for TBT opener against Virginia Dream

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — All but two of eight regionals in The Basketball Tournament had either started or finished by Saturday.

The remaining two begin Sunday, including four games at the Charleston Coliseum for the beginning of the West Virginia Regional.

The fourth and final game features host and top seed Best Virginia against No. 8 Virginia Dream at 7 p.m. in a game that’ll be shown nationally on ESPN2.

“The first game is the most difficult because you don’t know what the other team is going to do or who the best players are going to be,” Best Virginia head coach James Long said. “You have an idea and you have film and stats, but there’s so much uncertainty. Plus there’s a big TBT buildup the last two weeks without much else going on in sports right now. We have been watching all the other regionals, but we’re just trying to control who we are and be the best version of ourselves.”

While Long is back as head coach for a second straight season, only four of Best Virginia’s 11 players are holdovers from the 2021 TBT — forwards Kevin Jones and John Flowers, guard Juwan Staten and wing Jamel Morris, a former standout at Fairmont State.

Of the seven new additions to Best Virginia, five played under Bob Huggins at WVU: guards Jaysean Paige, Jermaine Haley and D’Angelo Hunter and Teyvon Myers and versatile forward Devin Ebanks, who like Jones and Flowers, was a key part of the Mountaineers run to the Final Four in 2010.

Buckhannon native and former Division II All-American Tanner McGrew of West Virginia Wesleyan and late addition Tamon Scruggs, a South Charleston native who starred for Long at WVU Tech, fill out the roster.

“The biggest difference in this year’s team to last year’s team, last year it was more speed and pressure and this year there’s more physicality and length,” Long said. “We also have a lot of guys that know how to play well off other people — Jermaine, D’angelo, Jamel, Tanner. They can play with the ball in and out of their hands and they’re switchable.

“We have a good basketball team and the most important thing is winning the first one, because if we can win the first one, we have a group that’ll continue to get better through the tournament.”

With Long himself a former player for Huggins in Morgantown, the Charleston believes he has a good understanding of what it will take for Best Virginia to be successful in its quest for the $1 million winner-take-all prize.

“Anytime you get a group of Bob Huggins guys together, you can bet that we’re going to hang our hat on the defensive end,” Long said. “We have a lot of length, physicality and experience. We’re going to bank on the defensive end and rebounding. That’s what we have to do if we want to win six games.”

While Best Virginia brings a 3-2 all-time mark over two TBT appearances into Sunday’s matchup, Virginia Dream is making its TBT debut. The squad features players from various schools, including Radford, VCU, Towson, Hampton and a pair who played at Bluefield University.

“We don’t know much about them, but they’ll be playing in front of thousands of Mountaineer fans on ESPN and they’re going to be ready to go, no question,” Long said. “We’re all at the point after a week or so of practice where we want to play. Regardless of their seed, they’re a group of professional basketball players. All we can control is how we show up and execute.”

All four Sunday games in the West Virginia Regional will be carried by the MetroNews radio network with a live stream available on Select affiliate stations across the state will also carry the games live, including the one that precedes Best Virginia’s TBT opener — No. 4 Herd That vs. No. 5 Founding Fathers.

Jon Elmore fires one up from deep. Photo by Mike Lawrence/TBT

The Marshall-based alumni team opens battles the James Madison-based alumni squad at 5 p.m. in a TBT opener that will be shown on ESPN3.

Like Best Virginia, Herd That has a 3-2 all-time mark in TBT. A year ago, Herd That won its opener before falling to Team 23 in the second round. Team 23 went on to defeat Best Virginia in the round of 16 and ultimately finished TBT runner-up.

Guard Jon Elmore, Conference USA’s all-time leading scorer, keys Herd That, which features eight returning players and three new ones.

Should Herd That and Best Virginia both win Sunday, the two teams would square off at 8 p.m. Tuesday for the right to play in the regional final Wednesday.


First Round

Game 1: Sunday, July 24 – (2) Bucketneers (ETSU) vs. (7) Fully Loaded, noon

Game 2: Sunday, July 24 – (3) WoCo Showtime (Wofford) vs. (6) War Ready (Auburn), 2 p.m.

Game 3: Sunday, July 24 – (4) Herd That (Marshall) vs. (5) Founding Fathers (James Madison), 5 p.m.

Game 4: Sunday, July 24 – (1) Best Virginia (West Virginia) vs. (8) Virginia Dream, 7 p.m.

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