After a season full of fan votes, celebrity endorsements and team managers clashing on the court, it all came down to the 2017 Manager Games Final Four. Because of financial constraints, the opening-round matchups of the 64-team bracket relied heavily on Twitter voting, with six schools making it to Phoenix until just Western Kentucky and Missouri were left (other finalists included Texas, Georgia, Missouri State and Dayton). Seven games with 12-minute halves were played on Friday at the Final Four Fan Fest. Despite the Tigers playing the whole day with just six players, the Hilltoppers had a tougher road, playing three straight games, culminating in the final.
Missouri managers take a moment of reprieve before playing Western Kentucky for the title at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Western Kentucky players are all business as their team is introduced during the Manager Games final at the Phoenix Convention Center. Rules allow any team staff to play, so Western Kentucky assistant coach Shammond Williams (who played at North Carolina and in the NBA) suited up.
With Mizzou’s lone loss coming against Western Kentucky earlier this season, revenge was fresh on players’ minds at tipoff.
“We wanted to play [Western Kentucky] in the end. It was meant to be.” — Andrew Kimball, Missouri manager
Missouri defense pressures a Western Kentucky player in the first half. Missouri came out strong with a 12-0 lead.
A Western Kentucky player looks for a put-back.
“A lot of us wish we were playing D-I; it kind of gives us that moment of feeling like we’re there.” — Cole Mattingly, WKU sophomore
Missouri’s No. 40 goes for a loose ball in the second half.
Missouri’s point guard (50) looks to pass. Western Kentucky came back strong in the second half, getting to the rim on offense and creating turnovers on defense.
No. 40 takes the ball to the basket.
“We have a lot good shooters, we knew we could beat anybody.” — Kimball
A Missouri point guard gets fouled as he goes to the basket.
The Manager Games tournament trophy is presented to Missouri after the Tigers managers defeated Western Kentucky 51-46. Recently fired Missouri coach Kim Anderson was in attendance.
“Western Kentucky was the one loss we had all year. We knew the road went through Western Kentucky, and it’s great to come out on top. It means a lot we could win it for Kim.” — Danny Frazier, Missouri manager
Western Kentucky players look dejected after their loss to Missouri.
Players from Missouri and Dayton congratulate each other after the tournament. Many players relied on a combination of their own money and fundraising to get them to Phoenix. Some coaches pitched in, including Georgia coach Mark Fox, who forked over $ 1,000 to get his squad there.