The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

MUBB forms alumni team for “The Basketball Tournament”

Winning team earns $2 million, top 100 fans who vote take share of money
Jerel McNeal is one of three players committed to the Basketball Tournament team. Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

For the first time in history, Marquette men’s basketball fans can actually make money by simply supporting their team.

It’s not a matter of cheering on current or future Golden Eagles but rather a team comprised of basketball alumni.

The athletics department asked former Marquette forward Dan Fitzgerald to compile a team for The Basketball Tournament, a single-elimination tournament with a grand prize of $2 million.

“When they asked me to do it I said, ‘Of course,’” Fitzgerald said, who retired from his international career in 2015. “I’ve been out of the game for about a year, but they couldn’t keep me away for long.”

As general manager, Fitzgerald is tasked with operating the team page and recruiting at least seven players. Anybody 18 years or older can enter as long as they give up their amateur status; in other words, anyone besides high school and college players. The rosters can have a maximum of 11 players for the tournament, which takes place between mid-July and early August.

Fitzgerald, who played at Marquette from 2004-’07, said he’s reached out to former Marquette teammates and more recent alumni. The difficulty has been getting players to commit while they’re still competing in leagues in the U.S. and overseas.

“I haven’t talked to a player who hasn’t been interested,” Fitzgerald said. “Most guys are just focused on their playoffs for their current teams right now.”

As of Wednesday, the Golden Eagles Alumni had commitments from three former players: guard Jerel McNeal (2005-’09), the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,985 points, forward Dwight Burke (2005-’09) and guard Trent Lockett (2012-’13). Fitzgerald hopes to hear from more players as they figure out their summer playing plans.

Once the players are recruited, the team has to worry about ensuring itself as one of 64 teams in the bracket. Twelve teams from each of the four regions receive automatic berths via most fan votes, while the remaining 16 teams get at-large bids. The Golden Eagles Alumni team has been gaining steam in recent days and ranked fourth in the Midwest region as of Wednesday afternoon behind the Kansas State alumni team, the Kentucky alumni team and a team called “The Region.”

Although Fitzgerald ruled out the possibility of Marquette’s current NBA alumni – Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, Wesley Matthews, Steve Novak and Jae Crowder – playing in the tournament due to the risk of injury, he hopes to recruit one or two of them as “boosters” to help promote the team. The team could also tap other Marquette celebrity alumni; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, for example, is currently a booster for Boston College’s alumni team.

As an incentive for fans to vote, $200,000 of the $2 million prize is allocated for the top 100 fans who vote. Fans can move up the rankings and receive more money if they recruit others via email or social media. The team’s fate relies on the fan vote to keep it in the top-12 until June 1.

“Marquette’s got a pretty extensive fan base so that kind of helps with the fan vote portion of it,” Fitzgerald said. “We have a lot of players playing at a high level, not just the NBA but overseas and in the D-League, so I think they can get excited to watch some old familiar faces.”

The Midwest region begins play July 16 at St. Xavier University in Chicago. The Super 16 will be held in Philadelphia and will air on ESPNU and ESPN2, and the semifinals and finals will be in New York July 30 and Aug. 2 on ESPN.

To vote: Sign up as a fan through the Golden Eagles Alumni page. After your first vote is cast, share the team page with others to garner more points.

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