The first weekend of the NCAA tournament lived up to the hype of March Madness.

Mid-majors, upsets, buzzer beaters, and crazy finishes ruled the Big Dance's second and third round. Dayton, Stephen F. Austin, North Dakota State, and Mercer showed they can play with college basketball's best.

Meanwhile, Duke, Kansas, and Syracuse became victims of upsets and won't be playing the rest of the tournament. Fans of these teams may have watched the last of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Emblid, Jabari Parker, or Tyler Ennis before they potentially move onto the NBA in the summer.

It's disappointing because it's difficult for collegiate programs to build championship-caliber teams in one season. Teams need more than one year to mesh, and build chemistry. Mercer started five seniors in their win over Duke in the first round, three of Dayton's four seniors played in their win over Syracuse, North Dakota State had six seniors who played significant minutes, and Stephen F. Austin had three seniors.

In the past, collegiate teams have leaned on senior experience and leadership when cutting down the nets in April. In 2005, North Carolina's upperclassman was led by Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, Jackie Manuel, David Noel, Sean May, and Jawad Williams when they beat Illinois (upperclassman Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, James Augustine, and Roger Powell, Jr), another experienced team for the title.

In 2008, upperclassman Brandon Rush, Russell Robinson, Darnell Jackson and Mario Chalmers helped guide the Kansas Jayhawks to a national championship. These four stars helped provide balance to a talented class of sophomores and freshman (Cole Aldrich, Darrell Arthur, Sherron Collins, and Tyrel Reed).

In 2010, Duke was led by upperclassman Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, Lance Thomas, and Brian Zoubek when they won the title. Miles and Mason Plumlee were key underclassman on that team.

Same can be said with Louisville last year. Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng, and Luke Hancock (tournament MVP) were all upperclassman when the Cardinals beat Michigan for the title. The Wolverines had a great group of freshman (Mitch McGary, Glen Robinson III, Nick Stauskas, Spike Albrecht, and Caris LaVert), but juniors Jordan Morgan, Tim Hardaway, Jr, and sophomore Trey Burke provided stability for the Wolverines.

On the flip side, one major college basketball team that has had success today with freshman players is Kentucky. The Wildcats won the 2012 championship with first-year players Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, and Marquis Teague. Coach John Calipari had experienced players like Terrence Jones, Darius Miller, and Doron Lamb, but Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis were the main playmakers on that team.

Calipari did it with Memphis in 2008 with freshman Derrick Rose, and has had success in this year's tournament, as all five starters from Sunday's win over Wichita State were freshman (Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle, James Young, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison). Caliapari's freshman were preseason No. 1 with high expectations, and it took them time to work together.

Here's my point: teams can win with freshman, but more experience equates more success, usually. Coaches and upperclassman can go a long way in helping a team find their one shining moment at the end of a season.

Wouldn't you agree as a fan? Isn't it more exciting to watch the game's best players on the best teams late in March, and early April?

Mid-majors are great for the smaller universities, but at the same time, not having the biggest programs, and names competing for a national championship hurts Duke, Kansas, Syracuse, North Carolina, i.e. Teams with one and done players have to rebuild and reload every year. Do you think an NBA team could win a championship in one year after drafting No. 1 or signing a big free agent? LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh didn't win a title in their first year.

Two, it can hurt the player. Players can attend school, and do it because they have to. They know their future lies in the NBA, so why waste it in college? Why waste getting injured? It happened to Wiggins this year, as he was hyped on ESPN the Magazine in the preseason, and likely the best pro prospect. He had a great season, averaging 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds a game, and was only Division I player to have five steals and four blocks while scoring 41 points late in the year against West Virginia. Yet, he never flashed his true potential at times. In the tournament, he disappeared in their third round loss against Stanford when he took eight total shots, and made one. For players, like Wiggins, they need to realize it takes time to adjust, and learn systems. College is about preparation.

Three, it creates a lack of interest for the fan, and students who attend the same university of the major superstars. As a fan, don't you love watching the 'next big thing?' Watching Wiggins, Emblid, Parker, and Ennis was a treat during the season, but this could be the only year. There are stars like Ohio State's Aaron Craft, or Michigan State's Gary Harris or Adrien Payne who stay in school, but it's very few. Why do you think college football's fan base is so widespread? Perhaps it has a better following because players cannot leave until after their junior seasons.

So, how could college basketball and the NBA work together?

One, get rid of the one and done rule, or make players play in the NBA Developmental League. At least in the NBADL, players are getting paid to play basketball. In early March, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the NBADL would be a better option for the college basketball's players. 

One reason I think college is behind the NBA game is because professional basketball has showed players can compete right out of high school, i.e. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and Dwight Howard.

Two, make players stay in school for at least two years. Like I mentioned earlier, teams cannot build chemistry in a year, and it would give players time to mature and develop. Players could work on their games, and get stronger in the weight room in the offseason. The best college coaches, like Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, Jim Boeheim, and Roy Williams could let their systems work, and develop their player's talent.

I think if Wiggins, for example, knew he had to stay another year in college, maybe his outlook would have been different at Kansas? But, I don't know because look at Jadeveon Clowney. He took out an insurance policy if he would have got injured last fall at South Carolina. In fact, he said he would have gone pro if the rule allowed him to last year. 

That being said, the NBA and NCAA need to find a way to maximize the potential of their players. While the NBA has proved high school players can compete right away at their level, I don't think the college game can be successful if the best programs and players aren't playing late into March and early April, and then have to reload in the offseason.

What do you think?


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