By John Borelli
Duke’s surprising loss to Mercer illustrates the vulnerability of highly ranked teams being led by freshman.
It is no secret that this year’s college basketball season has been highlighted with one of the most talented and exciting freshmen classes in recent memory. Potential NBA lottery picks Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Julius Randal created much of the media buzz this year. However, the media spotlight on young talent certainly does not translate into NCAA tournament wins.
College basketball has dramatically changed in recent years with the most talented college athletes jumping into the NBA after their freshman year. The new “one and done” culture provides an extreme advantage for teams, including schools with less name recognition, lead by seniors in the NCAA tournament.
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Take for example that the almighty Duke fell yesterday to a 14 seed Mercer. Everyone is saying this was a dramatic upset but in my eyes it’s no surprise when you factor in experience. Mercer is lead by five seniors with an average age of 22 years.
On the other hand, Duke is led by 18-year-old freshman Jabari Parker. Not to mention two other sophomores are also in the starting five. While Duke’s players might have more talent individually, Mercer’s team has been playing together for four years. In the end, it was a game of experienced veterans versus untested teenage boys.
If the seduction of exciting freshmen drove your bracket selection, be prepared for disappointment. Next year, make sure experience is a factor in your bracket selection.
Accordingly, I expect senior led squads Florida, Michigan State, and Louisville to continue to win. Kansas, on the other hand, is my prediction to go down next.