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Big West quartet falls short in the 3x3U Championships

Despite losing in the finals, Team Big West won $5,000.

NCAA Basketball: UC Riverside at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Big West is the (second) best (3x3U) conference. Everyone should know this. Granted, this proclamation might not mean much coming from the person who wrote about the No. 19 conference on KenPom all season.

But now it’s official.

Victor Joseph, Leland King II, Chance Murray and Gabe Vincent dropped 13 points in the first-ever 3x3U National Championship, but ultimately fell the (checks notes) the Big Ten. (Or is it the “Bee-One-Gee?” Ah, forget it.)

On paper, Team Big West was in a good position to win. It had arguably the most versatile roster of the mid-major teams that made it out of league play. Chance Murray (an ASU transfer) and Leland King II (a Nevada transfer) have high-major talent. Gabe Vincent is atop the Gaucho leaderboards for made threes, yet he became a distributor in his senior season. And of course the roster had to have Joseph, who not only was the David to UC Santa Barbara’s early season Goliath, but also is one of the craftiest, most fearless guards in the Big West.

Crucially, everyone could hit the outside shot: These seniors shot 35.8 precent collectively from three this past season.

Yet against Team Beeonegee, the Big West’s shots weren’t falling. The championship game turned into a gritty, nearly-unwatchable slog of rebounding and missed shots. The Big West was 3-11 from the field at one point, which might seem okay from a team like Hawaii, UC Irvine or any Big Ten team, but was well off the mark for Murray and Co. Then with King out, the Big Ten took advantage of their athleticism, crashed the boards and pulled away handily.

Although the results weren’t ideal — I’m not a numbers guy, but the $5,000 purse is significantly more than winning five, $1,000 prizes — the Big West made an impressive run in San Antonio.

Fans got several more chances to watch some of the conference’s biggest stars. Everyone on the Big West’s four-member team didn’t play in the postseason — Cal Poly and UC Riverside were well below .500, whereas UC Santa Barbara (puzzlingly) declined all postseason invitations — so who could object for more highlights from Joseph, King, Murray and Vincent?

Without the 3x3U, the nation wouldn’t see Joseph put defenders on skates and finish gracefully at the rim…

…or Murray’s hurl timely buckets all the way from Austin...

…or even King’s impossibly-long arms stroke shots and grab boards:

Throw out all cliches about second place, because at least this quartet of Big West seniors who finally got paid some of their dues. All four deserve a payday for representing the conference well on the national stage.

Sure, the outcome certainly wasn’t what they wanted, the 3x3U run could pay dividends later. After all: Several NBA scouts were in the building for their five-game run. There should be more bag-dropping on the horizon for this Big West quartet. Besides, someone has to sponsor Gabe Vincent so he can replace these: