Sunday, April 3, 2011

Freshmanitis

This year's NCAA tournament featured some of the more remarkable upsets in the history of the tournament with #8 seeded Butler and #11 seeded Virginia Commonwealth each advancing to the Final Four. Moreover, not one #1 seed made it to the Final Four. This obviously came as a surprise to many of us filling out our brackets this year, but in the future I think we will continue to see mid-majors and low ranked teams advance deeper and deeper through March Madness. Because of the popularity of "one and done" players in NCAA basketball, powerhouse major conference teams no longer have any team chemistry and often have very little NCAA tournament experience. This opens the door for teams like Butler and VCU to make deep runs in the NCAA tournament.

Look at a team like Butler or VCU. Both have previous tournament experience, and both are stocked primarily with upperclassmen. These teams have been playing together for years and are a cohesive unit. They trust one another and know where everybody is going to be on the court at all times. Contrast that with a team like Ohio State or Kentucky that may recruit more talented players, but are essentially just reloading every year and have freshmen in key leadership roles. These teams are winning on talent alone, not really developing any team chemistry and starting to get upset more and more in the NCAA tournament. Is it any surprise that a UConn team that at least has a few players (including Kemba Walker) that have been to the Final Four before beat a Kentucky team that should still have John Wall manning the point and DeMarcus Cousins in the low post? Or that Ohio State could look so good for one game and then play so badly the next and lose? This man says no.

We are treading into dangerous waters with the evidence that we are being shown here. Clearly, more veteran teams are beginning to outstrip their more talented, youthful counterparts. I will not go into whether or not players should have to play all four years of college, but do you think Butler and UConn would be playing in the finals this year if Ohio State had a roster of Greg Oden, Jared Sullinger, Evan Turner, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook; or if Kentucky had John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton, and Brandon Knight? I may be wrong, but I doubt it. Good things happen when you stay in school, kids.