I am here to let you know that there’s more to college basketball this season than Zion Williamson, his shoe, and the one-and-done stars currently at Duke.
In a year dominated by headlines about Duke, their freshmen stars, and a shoe, is it possible the Blue Devils might not get a one seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament?
A week away from selection Sunday, it appears that might be the case. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Blue Devils are currently on the two-line, but that could change in the given week depending on their play during the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament.
For a team that people thought could beat the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, however, is this year a failure? It seems to be National Championship or bust for Coach Krzyzewski and his squad of freshman.
There has been much made about the one-and-done era in college basketball, but it continuously amazes me that the top teams in the country generally feature juniors and seniors more prominently than freshman.
Look at Lunardi’s top three seeds as of now: Virginia, Gonzaga, and North Carolina.
Virginia is led by sophomore DeAndre Hunter and junior Kyle Guy. You have to go to their #7 scorer in order to find their first freshman.
Upstart junior Rui Hachimura is leading Gonzaga by scoring over 20 points per game. He is joined by fellow junior Brandon Clarke and sophomore guard Zach Norvell Jr. That doesn’t even mention senior guard Josh Perkins, often looked at as the ‘Zags best player, and junior Killian Tillie, who is just beginning to make his way back from injury and is looking to play in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Tar Heels might be the most interesting, as their roster blends upperclassmen talent with a pair of uber-talented freshman.
By now, you’ve heard the story of senior Luke Maye, who began his career without a scholarship from North Carolina, and barely played as a freshman. He rose to national fame by hitting the game-winning shot over Kentucky in the Elite Eight on the way to the Tar Heels’ sixth championship. Last year, he was a third-team All-American and first-team All-ACC selection, and this year he has continued to build on it.
What is crazier? He and fellow senior starter Kenny Williams were the only two commits to UNC four years ago as they were in the midst of an academic scandal. They were the 70th ranked recruiting class in the country.
Four years, two final fours and a National Championship later, that duo is joined by senior Pittsburgh transfer Cam Johnson, who currently leads the team in scoring, along with the strong freshman duo of Coby White and Nassir Little. That group is helping those seniors take one more crack at a National Championship.
Winning two would put that class in rare air, as it’s something that rarely happens across the country, but has never happened in Chapel Hill.
Weird to think the Tar Heels flew a little under the radar this year, but that’s exactly what has happened, largely thanks to their Tobacco Road counterparts who wear the darker shade of blue.
While the one-and-dones seem to dominate headlines, it’s actually the upperclassmen who might have the more interesting story to tell.
Even in 2019, there’s something to be said for growth across multiple years, culminating in something bigger.
Just ask UNC, who’s seniors were cutting down the nets, celebrating their share of the ACC regular season title while Duke’s superstar freshmen watched from the locker room.
It should be a fantastic NCAA tournament here in a few weeks. I will be watching anxiously to see who wins out: The talented freshmen, or the battle-tested seniors. looking at the winners of the last few years, my money is going on the seniors who have won the last few.