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Experience Wins Titles

By LARRY VAUGHT

A recent trend in college basketball that has certainly pleased many fans is for more experienced teams either winning the national title or being in contention to win the championship.

However, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas — who will be in New York Tuesday when the season opens with No. 1 Michigan State playing No. 2 Kentucky and No. 3 Kansas facing No. 4 Duke — says it is a trend that is easy to understand.

“I think having an experienced team is just good, period. But as you know, not many programs can bring in a haul of five super talented freshmen. It’s nobody’s choice,” Bilas said.  “If you actually look at who’s winning the most games and who’s winning the most tournament games, since 2010, the teams that have won the most tournament games are Duke and Kentucky, but they’ve also had the most freshmen.

“So I’m not arguing with anybody that says, ‘Hey, you can’t win a title just with freshmen.’ Of course you can. Like in 2012 there were older players around Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. In 2015 there were older players around (Duke’s) Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones, all that stuff. You’re always going to have that.

“But if you’re looking just at results, like how many teams are consistently with experienced players going to Elite Eights and Final Fours like Kentucky and Duke have been doing, and both of them have won a championship in the last, what, eight years, it’s hard to argue with their success.”

Yes it is and both start this season in the top five despite relying heavily on freshmen again. That’s why Bilas says while it is easy for some fans to assume one-and-done players aren’t winning, that’s not necessarily a correct assumption.

“Yes, they are. Like the last two years Duke was a bucket away from the Final Four and so was Kentucky, doing it with young players,” Bilas said. “We’ve seen some older teams flame out in the first and second round.

“Because Virginia was really experienced the year before and got beat by UMBC. The results are a little less — I mean, they’re a little different than sometimes the narrative takes us.”

Larry Vaught
Larry Vaught is a seven-time winner of the Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year award and has covered University of Kentucky sports since 1975. Larry now has a syndicated UK sports column appearing in 34 newspapers across the state as well as http://www.yoursportsedge.com/, and http://www.cameronmillsradio.com/. Larry also joins Mark Buerger and Anthony White on WLAP Sunday Morning Sports each week in Lexington as well as appearing each Tuesday with Tom Leach on The Leach Report.

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