North Carolina played Brigham Young University over Thanksgiving weekend, and the Cougars from BYU nearly pulled off an upset of the number one team in the country. What struck me about this game was how much older BYU was than the Tar Heels. North Carolina starts three sophomores and two juniors; BYU on the other hand starts two seniors, two juniors, and one sophomore. This illustrates a change in the landscape of college basketball. Since David Stern’s decision to raise the NBA’s age minimum to 19, we have seen a burst of talented youth in college basketball.It started last year with Kevin Durant and Greg Oden and is continuing this year with O.J Mayo, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, and Eric Gordon. Teams are getting younger as high profile players are now forced to go to school before making the inevitable jump to the NBA. This has affected college basketball tremendously. First of all, teams are becoming younger and less disciplined. They are relying on pure talent and athleticism instead of well-disciplined team play. Coaches are now committing to players for one or two years, and hoping to win quickly, this completely defeats the idea of college athletics.
A college athlete, or student athlete, attends college with the intention of getting a degree and being able to play a sport or sports, while accomplishing this task. It is well known that Division I athletes receive certain perks for playing sports at the biggest schools. There are many documented cases of boosters giving “gifts” to the athletes (think Maurice Clarett and the current Reggie Bush investigation). However, everyone looked the other way, because at least the athletes were getting an education and most of them a degree. Now with the age restriction, college has become a detour to the NBA, and another media outlet in which to market the players. Receiving an education has become secondary. O. J. Mayo has made that obvious when he was quoted saying that he chose USC because of its close relation to Hollywood and the stars.
Thankfully, the veteran experience has not been overshadowed and completely lost during this youth movement. The senior and junior dominated teams are still the ones that win in March, and this will always be the case. So come March, be sure to watch the Butlers and Brigham Youngs.
Milwaukee Bucks will go 3-0 this week, and the ACC will continue its dominance over the Big 10, starting with Duke defeating Wisconsin.