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Emergency Post: A College Basketball 3 on 3 Tournament is here and the A10 needs a team

This is an off-schedule emergency post because I just found out about the 3X3U National Championship and now I can’t stop thinking about who should represent the A10. To familiarize yourself with the tournament you can read about it here and here:

https://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2017/8/22/16184342/college-basketball-3×3-tournament-final-four-2018-prize-money

https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/how-the-100k-3-on-3-tourney-for-college-seniors-held-at-the-final-four-will-work/

Quick summary: it’s a 3 on 3 basketball tournament where the teams are comprised of seniors who are no longer playing (it’s Final Four weekend, so if your team is in the Final Four, you can’t play), each team represents a conference, and all 32 conferences are represented. The A10 gets to put together an all-star 3 on 3 team and I’d like to humbly (okay, not so humbly) submit my recommendation.

First, it’s important to know the rules of the tournament. As far as I can tell, the big ones and the ones that affect roster construction are:

  • Rosters are four players. All players must be seniors, and you can have a maximum of two players from one school.
  • Games are halfcourt and played for ten minutes, or until a team scores 21
  • Shots inside the arc are 1 point, outside the arc 2
  • Possession alternates after a made basket
  • Teams are coached by the players

Before we get to the pool of players, let’s talk strategy. In 3 on 3 in general you want two strong ballhandlers who can attack the rim. Preferably these guys will also be knock-down shooters and high caliber athletes to boot. In 3 on 3 the better athletes really stand out when there are tough rebounds to be had or there’s a scrum for a loose ball. The need to be a strong, versatile two-way player is also emphasized. You won’t get many stops, but as in 5 on 5, being able to put the clamps on your opponent can be the difference between winning and losing.

Outside shooting is valuable in this format. The three ball is revolutionizing the college and NBA game because it’s worth 1.5 times as many points as a two. In this format the deep ball is worth twice as many points as a shot inside the arc. Our guards need to be shooters and the debate ends there.

Let’s move on to our player pool. I’ve narrowed it down to eight realistic options. Plenty of fine seniors aren’t included here because I don’t think they have any case to replace the players ahead of them. The pool, many of whom you might recognize from our A10 Player of the Year watch:

Jared Terrell, Rhode Island

EC Matthews, Rhode Island

Peyton Aldridge, Davidson

Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure

Matt Mobley, St. Bonaventure

Justin Tillman, VCU

BJ Johnson, La Salle

Yuta Watanabe, GW

First – I need Jaylen Adams on this team. He’s my floor general, my coach on the field, and on a self-coached team I want his basketball IQ. He’s shooting 48% from three and just capped off a 40-point outburst by hitting a sweet buzzer-beater to beat Duquesne. He’s got a top-100 assist rate and I’m salivating imagining the filthy passes he’ll throw in a 3 on 3 format. We’ll let Jaylen run pick and rolls all day long. I’m worried about his ability to finish at the rim – 41% at the rim this year according to hoop-math.com – but he checks all the other boxes I want from a guard, including being able to make his teammates better. Keeping him off this team would be negligence.

Next – I want Justin Tillman as my big. He can offer up some rim protection, he’s lanky and athletic enough to be disruptive with his wingspan, and he’s quick enough that it’s not the end of the world if he gets switched onto a guard. He’s also a tenacious rebounder – top 100 in both offensive and defensive rebound percentage, according to kenpom – so he does all the things I want out of my big in this format. He averages almost 19 points in conference so we know he can score. He can step out and hit threes, but in this format I want him for his ability to finish in the paint (64% at the rim this year). He’s clearly a better option for 3 on 3 than the other bigs. Peyton Aldridge is a fantastic scorer but he’d get torched on defense. Footspeed isn’t a strength of his and you can’t hide that in this format. BJ Johnson is a gunner, a lower caliber defender and rebounder, and I’m not trying to rely on my big to carry the scoring load.

Sorry Peyton and BJ, but you’re cut.

These next two spots are agonizing. We’re down to Jared Terrell, EC Matthews, Matt Mobley, and Yuta Watanabe. Each are excellent players, and there’s an argument for every one of them. I don’t know if I’d argue very hard against any combination. Adding Terrell and Mobley gives you big guards with quickness, shooting, and scoring in spades to rotate around Tillman. Adding Matthews gives you a little more length, if a little less shooting. Adding Yuta gives you a destructive defensive player that can credibly defend five positions. Most of the other guys who are 6’9” and have his footspeed are in the NBA.

I’m adding Yuta Watanabe. Yuta can lock up guards, so if the opponent puts three point guards on the floor Yuta comes in for Tillman. He has a better block rate than Tillman and can provide weakside help. If opponents go big, his ballhandling is good enough that he can be on the floor with Tillman. He’s a spotty shooter (34.3% from 3) but he’s hitting over 60% at the rim this year. We gain too much in lineup flexibility to keep Watanabe off this team.

That leaves one more spot. Since I’ve already got Justin Tillman, Jaylen Adams, and Yuta Watanabe, I want another scoring guard that can shoot threes and get to the rim. We’ll drop EC Matthews from consideration since he’s 33.3% from deep this year. We’re down to Jared Terrell and Matt Mobley. These two are damn close in rebounding percentage, assist rate, turnover rate, steal rate, block rate, and true shooting. Terrell stands out because he shoots about 4% better from 3 (42% vs 38%) and he’s over 63% at the rim where Mobley is at 52%. I also like him a little bit more as a one-on-one defender. He’s the same height as Mobley but about 30 pounds heavier, and he understands how to use his size to his advantage.

Final 3X3U roster:

Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure

Jared Terrell, Rhode Island

Yuta Watanabe, George Washington

Justin Tillman, VCU

This team can attack the rim, defend the paint, shoot the lights out, and maintain matchup flexibility. I’m happy rolling with this group. Whatever the A10 team turns out to be, I’ll be rooting like hell for it and this tournament is sure to be crazy fun.

Who’s your A10 3X3U team? Let’s see it in the comments.


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