There’s some good news for college basketball fans in the U.S. Virgin Islands — the Paradise Jam tournament will return to the territory this fall.
Tournament organizers Basketball Travelers Inc. revealed that bit of news Friday, as well as the eight-team field for the 2021 Paradise Jam men’s tournament.
Former Jam champions Creighton and Colorado will be joined by six new teams — Bradley, Brown, Colorado State, Duquesne, Northeastern and Southern Illinois — for the 2021 event, which will be held Nov. 19-22 at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Sports and Fitness Center on St. Thomas.
“We’re so excited to return to the islands in 2021 after having to host the event away from the territory in 2020 for the second time in four years,” Paradise Jam executive director Nels Hawkinson said in a prepared release.
“The hurricanes in 2017 and COVID-19 last year have presented us a ton of challenges, but the U.S. Virgin Islands is where this tournament belongs and we can’t wait to be back home with a men’s field as strong as this one.”
Creighton, from the Big East Conference, won the 2016 Paradise Jam title in its first tournament appearance, while Pac-12 Conference member Colorado won the 2017 title in its first appearance. The 2017 tournament was played at Liberty University’s Vines Center in Lynchburg, Va., due to damage the territory sustained from hurricanes Irma and Maria two months earlier.
The 2020 Paradise Jam was also held off-island due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a four-team field playing at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Belmont won the tournament title over Howard, George Mason and NCAA Division II contender Queens (N.C.).
Bradley was scheduled to play in last year’s Paradise Jam tournament before the pandemic made a mess of sports event scheduling worldwide. However, school athletic officials opted to push the Braves’ participation back a year.
With Southern Illinois — like Bradley, a member of the Missouri Valley Conference — also participating in this fall’s Paradise Jam, both schools had to get approval from their conference and the NCAA to take part in the tournament. They will be placed on opposite sides of the bracket.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming a competitive group of men’s teams to St. Thomas next fall,” Paradise Jam tournament director Jennifer Ashby said in a prepared release.
“This was a difficult year, deciding to relocate the 2020 tournament, but ultimately it was the safe and responsible decision for everyone. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the USVI community and especially the [Virgin Islands] Department of Tourism. Now, we’re excited to return to the territory and bring Paradise Jam back to the U.S. Virgin Islands.”
All of the Paradise Jam’s games will be broadcast on either ESPN3 or ESPN+, both part of ESPN’s online streaming service. This will be the second year the ESPN networks will carry the tournament as part of a three-year deal Basketball Travelers Inc. reached early last year.
Both the brackets and schedules for the men’s tournament, as well as the field for the Paradise Jam women’s tournament, will be announced at a later date.