As college basketball marches into the Madness there are players that can be catalysts for their basketball teams.
College basketball players are being consumed by the lust to play in the NBA. These Freshman one-and-dones are overwhelming NCAA basketball and this season is no different. We are watching a top 10 play every time we tune in to watch the best freshman in the country: Josh Jackson, Lonzo Ball, Malik Monk, Jayson Tatum and Lauri Markkanen. While, these freshman may light up the box score their teammates are just as important.
In a world where Freshman phenoms are luring more and more viewers to college basketball. The forgotten guys are the veterans of these championship contending teams. These veterans may not light up the stat sheet – or maybe they do – but they have what it takes to push their team from being good to being a champion. The seniors and juniors take on an even larger leadership role during March.
Veterans are an asset to any team hoping to contend for the NCAA title. Teams like Duke, UCLA, Kansas, Gonzaga, and Kentucky have the luxury of having young, freshman superstars on their team. Superstars that expect to be taken in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. Some veterans like Amile Jefferson may never play in the NBA but he looks to lead his young Duke team by example. He will get the big rebound, be involved in hustle plays and ultimately show the young guys how to win through hard work and grit, not just talent.
UCLA has arguably the best point guard in the country in Lonzo Ball along with one of the most talented big men in college basketball in T.J. Leaf. But they will look to Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton to lead them when it matters most and to express their maturity along with the calm confidence needed to be successful. Kansas has one of the most athletic freshman to ever grace NCAA men’s basketball but there are concerns about his character off the court along with his inconsistency on the court. Frank Mason will be the man to look to when the chips are down or they are on the other end of a run to gather the troops and get them over the strenuous atmosphere of the NCAA tournament.
Then there are teams that are compiled with upperclassman but there is still that alpha-dog catalyst that will look to lead. West Virginia is one of those teams. Jevon Carter, Big 12 defensive player of the year, is always calm, cool and collected no matter if he is making a game tying 3 or creating turnover after turnover he stays poised. The Mountaineers, filled with junior college transfers and many unknown high school players, always play with a chip on their shoulders and Jevon uses that chip to fuel himself and his teammates. The team most notably filled with veterans are the reigning National Champions and overall number 1 seed the Villanova Wildcats. Josh Hart is the alpha, he wants the ball when it matters most and he believes he is the best player in the country. Josh Hart will look to lead his team to back to back National Championships.
Veterans have always been important when it comes tournament time. Senior Ryan Arcidiacono won the NCAA tournaments most outstanding player last year. Small in stature but with the biggest heart Arcidiacono led his team throughout the entire NCAA tournament. In 2015, senior Frank Kaminsky led Wisconsin past the dominant freshman phenoms that consumed the Kentucky roster. Lastly, one of the most heroic and infamous seniors to ever play in the NCAA tournament UCONN’s Shabazz Napier. Shabazz put his team on his back and led them to the 2014 to a national title.
Freshman phenoms are truly spectacular. With that said, the veterans bring maturity, experience and an eagerness to win. These seniors take pride in wearing their university’s name across their chest. They do not want to take that jersey off for the last time without a championship. The trials and tribulations of these upperclassman emanate through their will to win attitudes. That desperate will to win may be what it takes to win after all….it is March Madness.