Veteran leadership. Four-year players. Experience.
Coaches and fans alike seem to view each of these as positives when measuring the advantages of their team. A seasoned starter is usually the man you want to draw up a play for at the end of a big game, and the guy who’s been around for a while tends to find multiple ways to contribute even when his shots aren’t falling.
At least, that’s what you may think.
While there are benefits to finding players who stick around for three, four or even five years, the numbers suggest that other factors play an even bigger role. The three oldest rotations (any player who played in at least half their team’s games this year and averaged at least 10 minutes was considered part of the rotation) in the ACC this year belonged to Miami, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame—three teams that didn’t even make the NIT. The two youngest, on the other hand, were N.C. State and North Carolina, both of which won a game in the NCAA tournament.
So what explains all of this? Well, recruiting quality talent is a starting point. ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren, who was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, was undeniably better than any seniors in the league this year and led the conference in scoring. Tar Heel Marcus Paige was another sophomore who impressed throughout the season, and although Duke had just sixth-oldest rotation in the conference, the Devils were led to a third-place finish by freshman Jabari Parker.
Untimely injuries and dismissals also affected some of the more experienced rotations. Georgia Tech was plagued by both, with Robert Carter Jr. missing a chunk of the season with a knee injury and Solomon Poole getting kicked off the team in the middle of conference play. Notre Dame’s season also took a turn for the worse when Jerian Grant was forced out of school for an academic issue.
As the NCAA tournament comes to a close over the next couple weeks, coaches will harp on the importance of having juniors and seniors in the lineup this time of year. Keep in mind, though, that there’s more to it than that.
Here’s a breakdown of the oldest and youngest rotations in the ACC:
Team (with average years of D-I experience entering 2013-14)
1. Miami - 2.00
2. Georgia Tech - 1.88
Notre Dame - 1.88
4. Syracuse - 1.86
5. Virginia - 1.75
6. Duke - 1.71
Pitt - 1.71
8. Wake Forest - 1.63
9. Maryland - 1.56
Virginia Tech - 1.56
11. Boston College - 1.44
12. Clemson - 1.38
13. Florida State - 1.33
14. North Carolina - 1.29
15. N.C. State - 1.00