The Basketball Tournament: Founder promises to return to UD Arena if fans pack stands

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The Basketball Tournament press conference: July 29, 2021

TBT games start at noon Saturday with first quarterfinal

Jon Mugar lost track of how many fans told him over the years he needed to bring The Basketball Tournament to UD Arena. In his estimation, “hundreds and hundreds” of people suggested the location — enough that it became annoying after a while.

In February 2020, the TBT announced it would play its final three rounds — seven games in all — at UD Arena that summer. The plan changed when the pandemic forced TBT organizers to hold the tournament in a quarantined environment in Columbus. At that time, Mugar promised to bring the tournament, which he founded in 2014, back to UD Arena in 2021, a promised he lived up to April when the TBT made the plan official.

Through all that, Mugar had never been to Dayton until this week. On Thursday, he spoke at a TBT press conference at UD Arena with TBT signs and logos all over Tom Blackburn Court two days before four quarterfinal games.

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“It’s a great pleasure to finally be here,” Mugar said, “and the reason I always cite (for picking Dayton) is there’s a sophisticated fan base here that loves basketball. We’re ready to put that to the test.”

Mugar then promised to bring The Basketball Tournament back to Dayton in 2022 if fans pack UD Arena on Tuesday for the championship game. That will be more of a challenge because the teams that would have been expected to have the biggest crowds in Dayton, the top three seeds in the Columbus Regional — the Ohio State alumni team Carmen’s Crew, the Dayton alumni team Red Scare and the Xavier alumni team Zip Em Up — all failed to advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.

Despite that, Mugar said it’s been “awesome tournament.”

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“It’s been a record attendance year, which is very surprising considering two months ago we didn’t know if we’d have fans at all,” Mugar said. “In every single region, our host team made it to the final day, so the atmosphere everywhere has been incredible. Watching the Ohio teams duck out early, it’s frustrating. On other hand, it’s the most honest open competition format ever. I used to beat myself up over stuff like that years ago, but at this point, it is what it is. We hope they come back next year and find a way to get here next year.”

Experiencing UD Arena for the first time this week, Mugar compared it to Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“It’s a great atmosphere,” he said. “Fans are close to the action. There are no skyboxes interrupting that. It looks like a very loud environment and a great home environment.”

TBT at UD Schedule

Saturday quarterfinals

Noon, ESPN: AfterShocks (Wichita State alumni) vs. Florida TNT.

2 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: Golden Eagles (Marquette alums) vs. Boeheim’s Army (Syracuse alums).

7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2: Sideline Cancer vs. Team 23.

9 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2: The Money Team vs. Blue Collar U (Buffalo Bulls alums).

Sunday semifinals

Noon, ESPN: AfterShocks or Florida TNT vs. Golden Eagles or Boeheim’s Army.

2 p.m., ESPN: Sideline Cancer or Team 23 vs. The Money Team or Blue Collar U.

Tuesday’s championship

9 p.m., ESPN: Semifinal winners.