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Experience Matters

After watching the CBS Selection Sunday telecast, I turned to ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary, Requiem for the Big East, and took an enlightening journey down memory lane.  During the show I was able to reminisce my teenage years when college basketball was in its prime and 4 year letterman like Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and Rony Seikaly were cult heroes. The stars stayed in school at least three years and you knew if your favorite team had a phenomenal freshman, your team was going to be good for the next three years!

Now elite programs scour prep schools for the next '1 and done' player that will keep them relative and competitive.  Every summer the competition becomes who can deliver the top recruiting class, which all but guarantees the coaching staff two extra years on their contracts.

Since the Fab Five of Michigan, only Kentucky has been able to develop a championship cohort of dominant freshmen and have created a program standard that has been elusive to duplicate in subsequent seasons.

The dependency on freshmen by top programs who normally go through a steep learning curve to adjust to the pace of men's college basketball, have unwittingly opened the door for mid-major schools with veteran players to seriously compete in the Tournament.  Teams like Butler, VCU and Wichita State have grown to become formidable opponents for Duke, Syracuse, Michigan State and Kentucky.

This Thursday, powerhouse Duke will play Mercer in a game summed up as David and Goliath. Duke, with 4 underclassmen in their starting lineup, that includes projected '1 and done' freshman sensation Jabari Parker, will face the only all senior lineup in the entire 68 team field.

Mercer will be led by their brilliant lead guard Langston Hall, whose experience with his fellow senior starters will prove to be the 'slingshot' needed to knock out Goliath.  And as individually talented as Duke's underclassmen are, this game will once again prove that "Experience Matters".

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