What Rocks: Age matters in the clutch

December 2, 2010

New is always exciting. But sometimes seeing someone new perform can be a burden. We set lofty expectations, even elevate their performances, to mythical proportions that he or she can’t match on a consistent basis.

It happens all the time in college basketball. Ever since Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to an NCAA title in 2003, freshmen have been revered in college basketball. Michael Beasley, Kevin Durant, and most recently, John Wall, were all considered saviors at their respective schools.

Despite their cult-like followings, though, no freshman since Anthony has led their team to  a National Championship.  In fact, none of those three collegiate First-Team All-Americans led his team past the Elite Eight.

College basketball has been and will continue to be a veteran’s game.

Last year, the Duke Blue Devils beat the Butler Bulldogs in the NCAA championship game. Duke was the weakest number-one seed in the tournament and had experienced some big losses earlier in the season. But when senior center Brian Zoubek entered the starting lineup, the team’s play started to pick up. With Zoubek’s rebounding, senior Lance Thomas’s defense, and senior Jon Scheyer’s leadership at the point, the team rolled to another national title.

Duke’s victory was more of the same. The year before, Tyler Hansborough, one of the greatest players in North Carolina history, was finally able to secure a championship in his senior season. In 2008, the Kansas Jayhawks were led by juniors Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush and seniors Russell Robinson and Darnell Jackson. The trend continued with Florida in 2007, North Carolina in 2005, Connecticut in 2004, Maryland in 2002, Duke in 2001, and Michigan State in 2000.

It seems likely that the trend will continue this season. The best freshmen in the country—North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Syracuse’s Fab Melo, and Kentucky’s Brandon Knight—all play for mostly inexperienced teams, which will make it difficult to win a national championship. However, other stellar freshmen, including Duke’s Kyrie Irving and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, have an experienced cast of characters playing around them and will have a chance to chase glory in the tournament.

Luckily, the Hoyas have the necessary experience to compete for a national title. Much has been said already about whether or not the Hoyas can account for the loss of Greg Monroe. Can the Hoyas’ experience make up for the skill Monroe took with him to the NBA?  As we’ve already seen this season, seniors Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Julian Vaughn have answered the call and have shown the ability to play crucial roles that other schools had their seniors play over the last decade.

In the game against Missouri on Tuesday, the Hoyas played extremely well against a very talented team, but found themselves down late in the game. It was the experienced backcourt that came to the rescue, though, as Wright hit a game-tying three with less than a second left on the clock. Without that experience, there was no way Georgetown would have won that game—against a top ten team in a hostile environment.

Seven games into the season, the Hoyas have been impressive. If we can draw any conclusions about the Hoyas, it is that they have the experience to succeed. New may be exciting, but old is more reliable.


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