There’s nothing like NCAA March Madness to bring out my school spirit. Of course, there’s nothing like a soul-crushing March Madness loss by my alma mater to drain me of all interest in basketball. Alas, I already started the research for this post, so I’ll fake it.
A 16-team 3-on-3 tournament composed of current NBA players. The teams are determined based on college attended. Seeds are based on the quality of players available for each team (specifically, teams were ranked based on each individual’s value over replacement player, VORP, summed across all positive VORP players available to each college, see plot below). There are no substitutions, each college picks three players and sticks with them throughout the tournament. There are no specific requirements for positions, but there is obviously a checklist for things a team might want: rim protection, perimeter shooting, an ability to create off the dribble and initiate the offense by forcing help. The most traditional way to obtain those ingredients for a successful team might be to include a point guard, a wing, and a big, but there would be other possibilities, too.
The Qualified Teams
To enter the 3-on-3 tournament, a college need only have three alumni playing in the NBA. There are currently forty-three such teams, as listed below.
Colleges qualified for the alumni 3-on-3 tournament, ranked by positive team VORP
There are four tiers of teams in this plot: the hopeless losers (like I said, I’m still feeling a bit jaded about my school at the moment), the one-star teams, the burst bubbles, and the 16 tournament teams.
There are eleven teams in this lowliest category; seven of them had the minimum of three players available. In total, there were 39 NBA players that were alumni from these eleven schools. Of these 39 players, only 10 (26%) had a positive VORP and the highest VORP was a meager 1.0. Here’s the complete list of hopeless losers, with players listed from highest to lowest VORP (to be clear, I’m not saying that these individuals are hopeless losers, it’s just that, as teams, they wouldn’t stand much of a chance of winning the alumni 3-on-3 tournament):
- California: Ryan Anderson, Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez
- Colorado: Andre Roberson, Alec Burks, Spencer Dinwiddie, Chris Copeland
- Missouri: Jordan Clarkson, DeMarre Carroll, Phil Pressey
- Alabama: JaMychal Green, Alonzo Gee, Mo Williams
- Virginia: Mike Scott, Justin Anderson, Joe Harris
- St. John’s: Mo Harkless, JaKarr Sampson, Metta World Peace
- NC State: T.J. Warren, J.J. Hickson, Lorenzo Brown
- Michigan: Jamal Crawford, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Glenn Robinson, Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary
- Nevada: Ramon Sessions, JaVale McGee, Luke Babbitt
- UNLV: Christian Wood, Joel Anthony, Lou Amundson, Anthony Bennett, Rashad Vaughn
- Maryland: Alex Len, Steve Blake, Greivis Vasquez
The next ten teams have more-or-less one star player, but not much else. On these teams, no more than one player had a VORP above 1.0. Here are the one-star teams, with players listed from highest to lowest VORP:
- Louisville: Gorgui Dieng, Montrezl Harrell, Russ Smith, Terry Rozier
- Utah: Andrew Bogut, Andre Miller, Delon Wright
- Tennessee: Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, C.J. Watson, Jordan McRae, Jarnell Stokes
- Creighton: Kyle Korver, Doug McDermott, Anthony Tolliver
- Memphis: Will Barton, Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, Elliot Williams; this team would be pretty interesting with a healthy Derrick Rose (I bet he’s tired of hearing that), if not a little undersized.
- Pittsburgh: Steven Adams, Lamar Patterson, DeJuan Blair
- Oklahoma State: Tony Allen, Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, James Anderson.
- Arkansas: Patrick Beverley, Joe Johnson, Bobby Portis, Coty Clarke, Sonny Weems
- LSU: Brandon Bass, Garrett Temple, Marcus Thorton, Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey, Johnny O’Bryant
- Wisconsin: Frank Kaminisky, Jon Leuer, Devin Harris, Sam Dekker
These six teams were the nearest misses, the teams that came closest to making the tournament without getting in. The selection committee (me) found their resumes lacking. Here’s the list of burst bubbles, with players listed from highest to lowest VORP:
- Ohio State: Mike Conley, Jared Sullinger, Evan Turner, Kosta Koufos, D’Angelo Russell; the Buckeyes have a nice team balance with a point guard, wing, and big, but they don’t have enough talent after Conley to compete with the tournament teams.
- Stanford: Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, Dwight Powell, Anthony Brown; the Lopez twins could cause some real matchup problems inside, but this team wouldn’t have enough speed or shooting to keep up.
- Georgetown: Greg Monroe, Otto Porter, Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, Hollis Thompson, Henry Sims; again, this team is lacking a bit of speed and shooting.
- Washington: Isaiah Thomas, Terrance Ross, Spencer Hawes, Justin Holiday, Nate Robinson, C.J. Wilcox, Tony Wroten; an intriguing 1-2-3, but I’m not sure Hawes could provide enough rim protection to keep this team afloat.
- Syracuse: Carmelo Anthony, Jerami Grant, Wesley Johnson, Dion Waiters, Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, Chris McCullough; no bigs here and not much defense on the perimeter either. I might let MCW run the point.
- Indiana: Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Eric Gordon, Noah Vonleh; I think this team along with perhaps, Memphis, would have been the snubbed teams with the best chance at tourney success.
Here are the teams that I would put in the 3-on-3 alumni tournament. Once again, seeds were based on the positive VORP for all available players (not just the three that were included on the team). There were four regions with four teams each; four teams of each seed, 1 through 4. I showed the players I would pick for each team, as described below.
Alumni 3-on-3 tournament bracket
No. 4 Seeds
The four seeds were a varied group with as few as three available players and as many as 18. A bit over half of the players from these four colleges had positive VORP (22 of 41, 54%). Here’s the list of four seeds, with players listed from highest to lowest VORP, stars indicate players selected as team members:
- Texas A&M: DeAndre Jordan*, Khris Middleton*, Donald Sloan*; the Aggies had the bare minimum number of NBA alumni, but it worked out pretty well for them, with a point guard, wing, and big available for the tournament. Jordan and Middleton are both elite players at their respective positions.
- Kansas: Marcus Morris*, Mario Chalmers, Andrew Wiggins*, Darrell Arthur, Cole Aldrich*, Jeff Withey, Brandon Rush, Nick Collison, Paul Pierce, Tarik Black, Kirk Hinrich, Ben McLemore, Kelly Oubre, Thomas Robinson, Sasha Kaun, Cliff Alexander, Markieff Morris, Drew Gooden; that’s 18 alumni available; unfortunately for the Jay Hawks, they mostly stink, as 16 of the 18 had VORP less than 1.0 and 11 of 18 had negative VORP. Wiggins, Morris, and Aldrich would give Kansas a useful mix of size, creativity on the offensive end, and a stingy defense.
- USC: DeMar DeRozan*, Taj Gibson*, Nikola Vucevic*, Dewayne Dedmon, Alex Stepheson, Nick Young, O.J. Mayo; Vucevic and DeRozan can be offensive machines. Gibson would provide some balance on the defensive end. They might have trouble guarding on the perimeter, especially against shifty guards.
- Arizona: Aaron Gordon*, Andre Iguodala*, Jordan Hill, Derrick Williams, Channing Frye*, Richard Jefferson, Jerryd Bayless, T.J. McConnell, Chase Budinger, Solomon Hill, Jason Terry, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; another team with only two players above the 1.0 VORP mark. I might include Frye with the two obvious picks, Gordon and Iguodala. He could add some useful perimeter shooting while still providing some help around the rim on defense.
No. 3 Seeds
More than any other NBA player, Michigan State alumnus, Draymond Greeen, might be the one who would most enjoy actually playing in this tournament. Here’s the list of three seeds, with players listed from highest to lowest VORP, stars indicate players selected as team members:
- UConn: Kemba Walker*, Andre Drummond*, Rudy Gay*, Jeremy Lamb, Caron Butler, Shabazz Napier, Charlie Villaneuva; a good mix of one-on-one offensive creation from the point guard and wing combined with great rim protection and rebounding at the center position.
- Michigan State: Draymond Green*, Zach Randolph*, Gary Harris*, Alan Anderson, Branden Dawson, Keith Appling, Adreian Payne; some teams just won’t lose in the first round, ever, just lock it in. Right? Seriously though, Draymond loves Michigan State way too much to let his alma mater down. Draymond’s flexibility will help a lot and Randolph is the prototypical bully that will punish any team without a true big man. But, Gary Harris might struggle to generate enough offense off the bounce to drive this team to victory.
- Georgia Tech: Chris Bosh*, Derrick Favors*, Thaddeus Young, Anthony Morrow, Iman Shumpert, Jarrett Jack*; all lot of options for big guys on this team. I think you’d need to add Jack to the mix to keep the offense flowing, but it’s tough to decide the best combination to play with Bosh.
- Villanova: Kyle Lowry*, Dante Cunningham*, Darrun Hilliard, Randy Foye*; Lowry’s huge VORP (6.3) carried Villanova to the 3 seed. I’m not sure if he has enough help to stay competitive in the tournament.
No. 2 Seeds
Which one of these teams is not like the other? Duke, North Carolina, and Florida have combined to win 6 of the last 11 NCAA championships. Marquette feels like a bit of a surprise here, but look at their alumni list! Here’s the list of two seeds, with players listed from highest to lowest VORP, stars indicate players selected as team members:
- Duke: J.J. Redick*, Luol Deng, Mason Plumlee*, Rodney Hood, Kyrie Irving*, Jabari Parker, Justise Winslow, Gerald Henderson, Miles Plumlee, Lance Thomas, Jahlil Okafor, Austin Rivers, Josh McRoberts, Kyle Singler, Mike Dunleavy, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Tyus Jones, Elton Brand; with all these choices it’s pretty easy to find a trio that fits well together. I’d have Irving at the point creating, Redick on the wing spreading the court and shooting threes, and Plumlee patrolling the paint and helping out on defense. I’m not convinced that their defense would hold water against the elite teams of the tournament.
- North Carolina: Marvin Williams, Ed Davis*, Harrison Barnes*, Danny Green*, Raymond Felton, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Vince Carter, Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock, Tyler Hansbrough, James-Michael McAdoo, P.J. Hairston, Brandon Wright, Ty Lawson, Kendall Marshall; I give Barnes the nod over Williams, due to his quicker feet on the defensive perimeter and his superior ball handling. This team would have plenty of three point shooting, size, and an interior presence, but who would be the primary ball handler initiating the offense?
- Marquette: Jimmy Butler*, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade*, Wesley Matthews*, Steve Novak; what a fun sleeper pick. You don’t really think of Marquette as a basketball power house, but they’ve produced some fantastic wings. These guys wouldn’t have any size inside, but they might score enough to keep it interesting.
- Florida: Al Horford*, Chandler Parsons*, David Lee, Bradley Beal*, Marreese Speights, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Matt Bonner, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller; I’ve included Beal to share the ball handling responsibilities with Parsons, but neither is a point guard. Horford’s positional flexibility would allow Florida to match up with multiple roster types.
No. 1 Seeds
Kentucky has the most current NBA alumni — 22 players in the league. Here’s the list of one seeds, with players listed from highest to lowest VORP, stars indicate players selected as team members:
- Kentucky: Antony Davis*, Karl-Antony Towns, John Wall*, DeMarcus Cousins*, Rajon Rondo, Willie Cauley-Stein, Patrick Patterson, Nerlens Noel, Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Terrance Jones, Julius Randle, Brandon Knight, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tayshaun Prince, Archie Goodwin, James Young, Chuck Hayes, Nazr Mohammed, Aaron Harrison, Jodie Meeks; Yikes! These guys could have an all-rookie team that would be tournament-worthy. What an embarrassment of riches. That’s the great equalizing power of the 3-on-3 format though, only three of these players can contribute to the team. Cousins, Davis, and Wall would be the overall #1 seed and the team to beat in this tournament. One possible weakness of this team (as with some real-life Kentucky teams) would be perimeter shooting. Davis’ foot speed would also be tested against smaller shooting guard types.
- UCLA: Russell Westbrook*, Kevin Love*, Trevor Ariza*, Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Arron Afflalo, Kyle Anderson, Matt Barnes, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Ryan Hollins, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jordan Farmar, Kevon Looney, Normal Powell, Jordan Adams. Westbrook and Love are easy picks, but there are many intriguing possibilities for the third roster spot. I went with Ariza for his shooting and defensive toughness. On the other hand, since Love isn’t going to provide much rim protection, it’s tempting to throw in Shabazz and just forgo any semblance of defensive effort. They could just score the first basket and never give up the ball for the rest of the game.
- Texas: Kevin Durant*, LaMarcus Aldridge*, Tristan Thompson, Avery Bradley*, Cory Joseph, Myles Turner, P.J. Tucker, D.J. Augustin; another team with a clear one-two punch and a more ambiguous third option. I’m selecting Bradley to support KD with the ball handling load and for his stifling perimeter defense. These guys could be very good.
- Wake Forest: Chris Paul*, Tim Duncan*, Jeff Teague*, Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson, Ish Smith; one could make an argument for including a bigger wing — “who’s going to guard K.D.?” — but I’m going with the play-your-best-player strategy. Anyways, Paul + Duncan + any NBA player would be a pretty good trio.
I’ll fill in a bracket with my own results next week, but I want to hear your thoughts. Who are your final four picks? Who’s your champion? Can anybody stop Kentucky? What’s the biggest upset? Which colleges were left out? Which players should be replaced and who should be inserted into their college’s lineup? Leave a comment and earn a chance to win a free t-shirt with custom CPJ art!
Note: VORP stats provided by Basketball-Reference