Sweet 16 Betting: Experience is Key
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 3/24/2010
The word experience gets a lot of play around this time of year in college basketball. March Madness has a very unique format that sees teams playing games in rapid succession and you are dealing with the psyche of 19 and 20 year olds, so experience is one of the best things a team can have in its corner.
Experience alone will not get you to the Final Four nor will it keep you out, but in close to even matchups, it could end up being the difference. Considering the experience of the players, both in college and in the March Madness setting, and the experience of the coaches, here is a ranking of the Sweet 16 teams based solely on the experience factor.
The Big Red is loaded with seniors and everyone on the team knows this is their last chance to make a run. They have nine seniors, including four starters and two who are their first players off the bench. Cornell has also been to the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. The nine seniors also live together in an off-campus house. When it comes to chemistry and experience nobody matches Cornell.
2) West Virginia
Two of West Virginia’s top playmakers, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones are sophomores, but they are surrounded with seasoned veterans. Ebanks and Jones were starters last year on an NCAA Tournament team but their experience pales in comparison to the rest of the team. West Virginia’s leading scorer and team leader, senior Da’Sean Butler, has been a part of two Sweet 16 runs. Senior Wellington Smith has too, and he is fourth on the team in scoring and third in rebounding. The injury to Daryl “Truck” Bryant actually makes this a more veteran team. It thrusts fifth-year junior Joe Mazzulla into the picture. He was out with a medical redshirt last season but before that he played on two Sweet 16 teams. Oh yeah, and Bob Huggins has been to his fare share of NCAA Tournaments.
Coach Krzyzewski has as much tournament experience as any coach in the field and his big three have been around the block too. Senior Jon Scheyer and juniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith makeup nearly the entire offensive output for Duke. This is Coach K’s 26th NCAA Tournament and 17th Sweet 16. What is keeping Duke from the top spot is their struggles the last two seasons -- Scheyer, Singler and Smith have been a part of two teams who were bounced during the first weekend of the tournament.
With a senior-dominated front line, Tennessee relies on seniors Wayne Chism, Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince. They are three of the top four scorers on the team. Coach Bruce Pearl has taken the Volunteers to the Dance each of his five years at the school and Pearl has been to four Sweet 16s since 2005 including his time at UW-Milwaukee.
If Purdue had Robbie Hummel right now they might be considered the most experienced team. Even without him they still have plenty of guys who know a thing or two about the NCAA Tournament and that starts with Coach Matt Painter, who is making his fourth consecutive trip to the dance and fifth overall. The Boilermakers reached the Sweet 16 last year and senior Chris Kramer along with juniors JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore were big contributors. Those three are the top three active leading scorers for Purdue.
6) Northern Iowa
The Jayhawk ousters are short on NCAA Tournament experience but they have plenty of senior leadership in the starting lineup. They reached the NCAA Tournament last year after a long hiatus and this year they have three seniors in the starting lineup, including the hero of the Kansas game, Ali Farokhmanesh, leading scorer and rebounder Jordan Eglseder and second-leading scorer Adam Koch. Also in the lineup are two starters from last season, junior Kwadzo Ahelegbe and sophomore Johnny Moran, the all-time leading scorer at Harry D. Jacobs High School.
7) Michigan State
The last of the remaining Final Four teams from last season, Michigan State is battle-tested but ailing without its leading scorer, junior Kalin Lucas. In his place will be senior Raymar Morgan, averaging 11.6 points per game and junior Durrell Summers, averaging 10.7 points per game. Sophomore Draymond Green saw limited time last season during the title game run but is nearly averaging a double-double. Only Coach K rivals Spartan coach Tom Izzo’s experience. Izzo has been to 15 consecutive tournaments and eight rounds of 16 since taking over in 1995.
In his first year as head coach at Xavier Chris Mack has a group of players who have seen the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight before. Senior Jason Love has been to three NCAA Tournaments and top player sophomore Jordan Crawford had to sit out last season but started for Indiana’s NCAA Tournament team in 2007 before transferring. Junior Jamel McLean and sophomore Terrelle Holloway are two other returning starters back for the Musketeers.
9) Ohio State
Ohio State is another case of a NCAA Tournament-tested coach with a younger team. Thad Matta has no starters back from the team who made a run to the National Championship Game in 2007. Three-year starter and National Player of the Year candidate Evan Turner is a three-year starter averaging 20 points and nine rebounds per game. Two other juniors, David Lighty and Jon Diebler, score 13 points per game. Sophomore William Buford is the second-leading scorer on the team. The players’ tournament experience is limited to a first-round exit last season and a trip to the NIT in 2008.
Baylor has a big three similar to that of Duke. Junior LaceDarius Dunn (19.4 ppg), senior Tweety Carter (15.1 ppg and 9.7 rpg) and junior Ekpe Udoh (13.9 ppg) account for most of the scoring and rebounding for the Bears. Last season Baylor went to the NIT Championship Game, but that experience helps playing in a single-elimination format with a grueling schedule. The year before they went to the NCAA Tournament, it was the first trip for coach Scott Drew.
11) Kansas State
Three juniors in the starting lineup join Senior Denis Clemente: Jacob Pullen, Curtis Kelly and Dominique Sutton. The three are now in their second NCAA Tournament and combined they account for more than 50 points per game. This is also coach Frank Martin’s second NCAA Tournament. Only sophomore Jamar Samuels is a starter with limited experience but the Wildcats have very little experience coming off the bench.
12) Saint Mary’s
Three seniors start for the Gaels, including Omar Samham, who has burst onto the NCAA scene with his performance against Villanova. Before that he was averaging 20 and 10 a game. Seniors Wayne Hunter and Ben Allen also score in double figures. Last season the Gaels went to the NIT but they were March Madness bound in 2008. Coach Randy Bennett has been to three NCAA Tournaments.
Jim Boeheim accounts for just about all the tournament experience on this team. Last season the Orange went to the Sweet 16 but point guard Scoop Jardine did not play and Big East Player of the Year Wes Johnson was sitting out after transferring from Iowa State. Senior Andy Rautins, averaging 12 points per game, is the only play who saw considerable tournament time in his career. Before last season the Orange went to back-to-back NITs.
Coach Brad Stevens may look like he is 20 years old but the coach is now in his third NCAA Tournament in his three years at the school. Three years ago he guided the team to the Sweet 16, but they have been unable to reach that level with this group since. Sophomore Gordon Hayward is the leading scorer and fellow sophomore Shelvin Mack is right behind him. Junior Matt Howard provides the most experience in the starting lineup.
Senior Quincy Pondexter is Washington’s go-to guy but around him is a younger team, including sophomore point guard Isaiah Thomas, who is a major catalyst for the offense. Lorenzo Romar has been to five NCAA Tournaments but just one in the past four years. Pondexter is the lone senior that contributes, and before reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season Washington was in the CBI in 2008 and did not go to the postseason in 2007.
In terms of talent, Kentucky could be considered the top team left in the tournament. However, in terms of experience they are at the bottom of the list. The Wildcats are now the favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis, but the fact remains their top three players are freshmen. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe elicit memories of the Michigan Fab Five. Junior forward Patrick Patterson has three years of starting experience, but Kentucky went to the NIT last season and was one and done in the NCAA Tournament in 2008. Calipari has been to 12 NCAA Tournaments and two Final Fours, both of which have since been vacated.
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