JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Basketball Tournament tipped off Saturday afternoon, marking the first nationally televised team basketball in the United States since the NBA suspended its season in March.
The Southern Smokies, a team comprised of mostly former ETSU basketball players, was supposed to play in the tournament, but due to COVID-19, the squad missed the cut.
Smokies general manager Dillon Reppart said there was a good chance if the tournament didn’t shrink from 32 teams to 24, the squad would’ve made it, but that doesn’t mean the Smokies are taking a step back for 2021 tournament.
“Next year’s team could be bigger and better, the TBT is pretty much guaranteeing us a spot,” Reppart said.
The Smokies had a solid fan following leading up to the tournament and the organizers for the event know Johnson City could possibly play a big role in next years selection process.
“We’ve even had a few conversations with ETSU and TBT as potential host site for regions, whether that’s next year or the year after, so that’s exciting,” Reppart said. “It’s all good news. This year we’re going to watch and educate ourselves.”