Boeheim's Army hoping to ride home court advantage to first TBT title

 

By: George Abunaw


Will home court advantage propel Boeheim's Army to $2 million?

While it may not seem like it on the surface, a lot has changed for Boeheim’s Army over the years. Players have come and gone, the team underwent a coaching change in 2016, they’ve experience both thrilling victories and devastating defeats. With that being said, one thing has remained true since the team’s inception almost five years ago: Orange fans really want to bring their favorite Syracuse legends back home. 

That dream will finally become a reality. After years of watching the Orange faithful pack arenas around the country, TBT announced that it will be taking one of its eight regionals to Syracuse from July 26-28 at SRC Arena.

“This is something I’ve been talking about for a long time, but this year all the stars aligned where it felt right,” said Boeheim’s Army GM Kevin Belbey. “Over the past four years, our fans have had a great track record of being the most passionate, diehard fans in all of TBT. I think it was just one of those things that made too much sense to bring it up to Syracuse, so I’m very glad we were finally able to do it.”

 

As excited as the fans are (they’ve bought nearly $40,000 worth of tickets in an under a month), for the players it brings back a small sense of stability that is rarely seen in professional basketball these days.  

“I had a lot of guys text me right away,” said Belbey. “I think they’re going to be excited to come back to campus and just be around people they used to know, be around their former favorite restaurants. These guys all had tremendous times at Syracuse. Honestly, it’s going to make my job of recruiting even easier because these guys will want to get up there.”

While the competition promises to be tougher than ever, the home court advantage also presents Boeheim’s Army a golden opportunity to catapult itself towards a first-ever TBT title.  In the team’s four-year history, they have reached the Super 16 every year and even made a run to the Semifinals in 2017. The one goal that remains is taking home the $2 million check.  

TBT Northeast Basketball Tournament

 

“When you’re playing for $2 million, you’re going to take any advantage you can get,” said Belbey. “For us, as long as we win, to have ideally three home games up in Syracuse, it’s going to change the equation for us.”

“When we’re playing up in Syracuse in front of a ruckus crowd and they’re wearing orange and the arena’s going crazy, it’s going on be very special for everybody.”

Playing in Syracuse also presents Boeheim’s Army an even greater opportunity to stay active within the Central New York community. In the past, the team has organized basketball clinics, engaged in community events and even signed autographs at Syracuse Mets games during their two-week training camp leading up to TBT. Additionally, a percentage of merchandise proceeds have been donated to the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation.

“None of this would happen without the support and blessing of Coach Boeheim and his wife Juli,” said Belbey. "This year, I’m excited that by bringing the tournament back to Syracuse we’ll be able to partner with that foundation even more.”

 

With just under six months to go until tip-off, the focus now turns to building a team that can contend for the $2 million. While we do know that Ryan Blackwell is slated to return as head coach, the rest of the roster will be fleshed out in the coming weeks and months.

As much as playing in Syracuse has helped Belbey with recruiting, he still faces the same challenges as every other TBT GM.  

“These guys, some of them will play overseas 9-10 months a year and they’ll be honest and say, ‘the summer is usually the time I go to Disney World with my kids, but this is something I’m excited about, this is something I want to do,’” said Belbey. “We practice on the 4th of July, guys are giving up vacations with their families, so I absolutely understand this is a sacrifice.”

“There is no guaranteed money in this. There’s no glory in this except for winning that $2 million check, so I’m hopeful this is the year we can do that.”