This weekend, the men’s Final Four wasn’t the only college basketball tournament action in San Antonio. The debuting 3x3U tournament was a lot of fun, playing out over three days and featured college seniors who have already exhausted their NCAA eligibility playing under 3×3 rules.
It made for a breezy, loose, and relatively enjoyable viewing experience. The 3×3 rules are coming to the Olympics in 2020 as another basketball variant, and essentially it’s how you likely grew up playing pickup ball but with refs calling fouls. First to 21, 1s and 2s, clear the ball after each make or miss, etc. (No check after a make, though, which really helps the flow of the game feel more like a full-court contest.)
Here’s a bit of how it flowed:
But most importantly, it was for real money. The entire thing was sponsored by Dos Equis, and featured a pot of $100,000 being doled out; $1,000 to each team upon a win in the pool rounds, the quarterfinals, the semis, and the consolation game. The team that won the championship round took home $50,000 on top of that. All of it was divvied up equally among the four-player teams, and the teams were aligned by conference affiliation.
For example, the Big Ten’s team consisted of Robert Johnson (Indiana), Vince Edwards (Purdue), Nate Mason (Minnesota), and Jae’Sean Tate (Ohio State).
They went through pool play unbeaten, earning $3,000, and then ran through the SEC, the SWAC, and the Big West to take home the championship, courtesy of this bomb from Robert Johnson:
Throughout, it was kind of odd to see players who literally just ended their careers be showered with money.
Total winnings of $55,000. That works out to $13,750 per player. Not bad for a weekend of work. https://t.co/nNILHOEJJj
— Alex Bozich (@insidethehall) April 1, 2018
And while that’s certainly good, and everyone who earned it deserved it, it was also informative, because if a staged event with no history and little exposure (most of it was streamed on Twitter, until the quarterfinals today on ESPN2) can generate enough revenue in just three days to both sustain itself and dole out a $100,000 portion to the players, think about what they’re worth when they’re actually playing NCAA games for their schools over the course of a season? It’s tough to figure, but it’s a hell of a lot more than the cash value of their scholarship.
It was jarring and refreshing to see that so clearly exposed. Hopefully it’s instructive, and hopefully this event is back next year.