LOUISVILLE, KY. — This year’s NCAA Tournament has been marked by some strange and startling sights, the likes of which we thought we never thought we would see again:
One year after March Madness was powered largely by one-and-done freshmen at national champion Duke and semifinalist Kentucky, the brackets have been impacted by players who have reached the ancient age of 20, or more.
“It’s kind of neat to see this year that the older guys are kind of dominating, or showing that we can play too,” said Rasheed Sulaimon of Maryland, whose team will play the graybeards of Kansas in the Sweet 16 here tonight.
Kansas coach Bill Self does not necessarily see this as a trend. He had his share of first-year players in 2013-14, another year of the freshman, and said, “I think we’ll see it again.”
Still, there is something to be said for hanging around campus for a while. “I’ve grown each year as a player. I’d say each year I’ve gotten better,” said Kansas senior Perry Ellis, who had 21 points and eight rebounds in the rout of Connecticut Saturday. “So much experience, so many people you meet, that’s what makes it so great. You definitely grow as a person. Coming in, I was a real quiet guy. Now I’m speaking up a lot more.” Senior teammate Jamari Traylor said, “You’ve got guys who are hungry and we know how it feels to take losses.”
Besides, what’s the rush? In the words of Sulaimon, a high school honor student who played three years for Duke and is pursuing a masters in business administration at Maryland: “College is a great place. It’s a place where you can grow. Me personally, I’ve loved college and I think I needed every year to be where I am today and I’m 100 percent happy with my decision to stay.”