Fourth Year College Basketball Stars -

"You're STILL Here?" (Fourth Year Stars)


by Andy Force
Senior Writer,
February 24, 2005


“Go pro. You are the best in the world--get paid.” Despite the nonstop urging of uninformed, self-serving peers several players bucked the system the past few years. Playing as senior stars in college basketball is no longer the status quo, but Wayne Simien, Hakim Warrick, Lawrence Roberts, Julius Hodge, Daniel Ewing, et al. are doing just fine thank you.

This is not an editorial focusing on staying in college. It is ridiculous to begrudge a man ready to succeed financially and professionally for bypassing his moderately unnecessary training. However, as a selfish college basketball fan it is great to see the maturation of players within the college ranks.

For various reasons bigtime players returned over the off-season. Friends and scouts may view it as a reflection of their ineptitude. Regardless it is a treasure to behold players with both talent and experience competing on the national scene. “Savor the flavor because it sure as hell won’t happen again. (Ray Zalinsky in Tommy Boy)” Eight high school players were drafted in the first round of the 2004 NBA Draft. The number increases yearly as the amount of stud seniors dwindles conversely.

Twenty of Athlon’s 2001 Preseason Top 35 Freshmen are still playing in the NCAA. Each and every one helps enhance the fabric of college basketball. The inevitably thrilling postseason should include outstanding execution and heady play from experienced playoff performers.

Last season's runner up, Georgia Tech, has struggled frequently this season but should slip into the field. Dotting their roster are five senior contributors: Will Bynum, B.J. Elder, Anthony McHenry, Isma’il Muhammad, and Luke Schenscher. After battling nightly in the brutal ACC regular season and conference tourney, GT will be a harsh draw in the Big Dance.

Senior leadership is great to see and Kansas has that in abundance. Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles, Keith Langford, and Michael Lee have a gaudy career record of 107-25. They have won 12 NCAA tournament games. A recent three game losing streak is causing KU fans to ask such ludicrous questions as “Has Self lost these guys?” and “Is Langford a liability?” Never mind the hysteria in Kansas, this Jayhawk team will assuredly make the Elite 8. The real question is, is that enough?

Wishful thinking to be sure, but imagine a North Carolina team a year into the future with three seniors leading the way. Next year Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton, and Sean May would be creepy good. It won’t happen, but here’s to an implausible yet glorious scenario.

Talented senior leadership has the potential to be an enjoyable lead story summarizing the 2005 NCAA field. That said it would be wise to avoid counting on reason when analyzing the madness that March holds.

Table scraps: Three teams are still undefeated within conference play. Pacific, Illinois, and Davidson all are attempting to sneak through their conferences unscathed.

This season has not seen Saint Joseph's fall off of its perch atop of the Atlantic-10. Despite the loss of National Player of the Year Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, the Hawks sport a fashionable 12-1 conference record. For the 5th consecutive season, the conference championship is theirs. But 3-8 out of conference?! At 96 in some RPI estimates, Phil Martelli’s bunch is not even the first saint. That honor goes to St. Mary’s out of the West Coast Conference.

Cinderella stories crop up every year, thank goodness but often the teams feature under appreciated seniors who lead a cohesive, under-the-radar unit. Vermont. Write it down and keep it close to your pen when studying the bracket. Vermont.