FIRST LOOK: 2018 Vegas National Tournament

 Ball So Hard after winning the 2016 National Tournament

Ball So Hard after winning the 2016 National Tournament

The Las Vegas National Tournament is just three short months away, and we saw 25 teams register. The biggest name to register a team was Adam Bickerstaff, meaning Ball So Hard is back to defend their three-straight championships.

We haven't seen a different winner since 2014, meaning Ball So Hard will be the favorites to take home their fourth national championship, but we still have no idea what each team's roster is going to look like. Ball So Hard have gotten better each year they've come out to the tournament, and if that trend continues, I don't see many teams with the talent or depth of Ball So Hard to make a run for the championship.

It's always fun to speculate though, so let's see which region will be the biggest challengers to Ball So Hard's crown. 


Arizona

 Danny Dziedzic of Str8 Ballin and Terrell Suggs of Ball So Hard

Danny Dziedzic of Str8 Ballin and Terrell Suggs of Ball So Hard

The most logical place to start is the region that Ball So Hard represent, Arizona. They will be bringing out seven teams again this year, so it doesn't look like they will combine to form one to two super teams, but will stick with the guys they want to play with.

That makes it unlikely that there is another Arizona team that will have a chance against Ball So Hard, but they do have the advantage of playing against the defending champs in their regular open league.

Str8 Ballin had the most success of the six Arizona teams not named Ball So Hard in last year's tournament, as they made it to the semifinals before they lost 80-49 against the eventual champs. 


Colorado

 Jonathan Carter of The Decision

Jonathan Carter of The Decision

The only region with a defending champ in this tournament besides Arizona will be Colorado, as it looks like The Decision, the 2014 champions, will be back for the tournament this year. The Bulls out of Minnesota (champions in 2012 and 2013) and the Thundercats out of New York (2017 New York National Tournament champions) will not be coming to Vegas.

The Decision were knocked out of the tournament last year by Str8 Ballin in the quarterfinals. 


California

 Josh Childress of Reincarnated

Josh Childress of Reincarnated

California presents the biggest competition to Ball So Hard because of the talent they bring out every year. Laguna is back with two teams (presumably Reincarnated and SoCal Select) and Roseville and Folsom have combined to bring out two teams as well (Cali's Best and Sactown Select).

With talents like Josh Childress, Jamal Sampson, Justin Dentmon, Michael Cox and more, California brings a tough test for Ball So Hard. This region's biggest issue has always been a lack of depth, as injuries and no-shows have continually plagued their chance for a title. Last year, SoCal Select made it to the semifinals, where they were knocked out by Reincarnated.

Reincarnated eventually lost to Ball So Hard in the championship game 76-53, as they didn't have much left playing in their fourth game of the day. Battle, who represented Roseville last year, made it to the first round of elimination games, where they were bounced by Villains. Battle's John Pichon led the tournament with a 25.7 PPR last year. 


Las Vegas

 Reggie Jackson of Flight Villains

Reggie Jackson of Flight Villains

I'll end with the home region, who have yet to win a national tournament that they've hosted. They have four teams playing at home this tournament, and maybe this is the year they can finish as the kings of Ultimate Hoops. The region has continued to gain more and more talent as the years have gone by, but they've distributed the wealth evenly across their teams.

An interesting story to follow will be where Robert Swift ends up playing in the tournament. He won the tournament last year with Ball So Hard, so my early guess would be that's where he ends up, but he's been playing in Summerlin and Green Valley for the past couple seasons. Will we see him in a Vegas Ballers jersey? A Villains jersey? Will he be playing for one of the Roseville teams? Only time will tell.

The most successful Vegas team in last year's tournament was Flight Villains, who lost in the quarterfinals 66-63 to SoCal Select.  


Top Performers of the Week

Points: Jenna Halaby - 49 (Graden City, Draft) 

Rebounds: Mike Mastro - 31 (Garden City, Draft)

Assits: J.J. Reed - 19 (Laguna, Draft) 

Steals: Two tied with 7 - Jordan Grant (Gaithersburg, Open), Cory Gregersen (Folsom, Draft)

Blocks: Connor Fineran - 6 (Des Moines, Draft) 

 Halaby set a Garden City record with 49 points on Thursday.

Halaby set a Garden City record with 49 points on Thursday.


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