Behind The ScenesNCAAB

Semifinals of The Basketball Tournament showcase familiar names, exceptional talent

ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla (L) stands with Kyle Fogg (21), a shooting guard for Overseas Elite, and friends. (Photo courtesy of Fran Fraschilla/ESPN)

Four teams remain in the 2017 edition of The Basketball Tournament (TBT), but just one squad will take home the winner-take-all, $2 million prize.

After 60 TBT games and regional events in different parts of the country, the Final Four tips off tonight from Baltimore with back-to-back semifinals on ESPN (and streamed live on the ESPN App) – Team Challenge ALS versus the Ohio State alumni squad Scarlet & Gray (7 p.m. ET) and Boeheim’s Army/Syracuse alumni versus two-time defending TBT champion Overseas Elite (9 p.m.).

ESPN is carrying 150 live hours of TBT, now in its fourth year, featuring top professional, ex-college and international players in the 64-team, single-elimination, 5-on-5 tournament.

ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who is calling the semifinals and Championship (Thursday at 7 p.m., ESPN) with play-by-play voice Doug Sherman and reporter Jen Hale, discusses this year’s TBT with Front Row.

What makes this year’s tournament different than previous years?
The tournament keeps getting stronger and stronger. What makes this so much fun is that it puts reality television on a basketball court. The emotions range from exhilaration to depression; it is part of the dynamic of TBT. It’s hard to put your arms around the concept where there are 64 teams and 63 teams combine for zero dollars and prize money, but only one team gets the whole $2 million dollar prize. That’s what makes it so compelling to watch. There’s so much at stake.

What can viewers expect from players?
Ninety-five percent of the players in TBT from the Super 16 to the Final Four are professional players who are either trying to get into the NBA or have lucrative careers overseas. Fans recognize them from their college days, but they are far better players from when they were 19 and 20-year-olds.

We have two alumni-based teams left — Boeheim’s Army and Scarlet & Gray. The top six players from Scarlet & Gray’s roster are from the No. 1 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament and played overseas in Europe or, in Jared Sullinger’s case, the NBA. That’s the level of competition that we’re going to see. We have two-time defending champions in the Overseas Elite team that has terrific players as well. Team Challenge ALS not only has an astounding team, but they are playing to raise money and awareness for former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates who has been stricken with ALS.

Bill Hofheimer contributed to this post.

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