In recent years, college basketball fans have often been split over the issue of how to win championships. Fans of continuity and senior leadership will point to recent titles from Duke and Kansas, who were carried through the tournament by upperclassmen. The argument for talent over experience essentially boils down to the recent Kentucky title, though good showings were made from Derrick Rose's Memphis and Greg Oden's Ohio State squads as well. This year definitely has the feel of a talent over experience year, and tonight's Champions Classic could be the early season showcase for that claim.
Kentucky has the best class of freshmen in the history of the NCAA. Their top eight players have a combined two years of prior college experience, as Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein are the sophomores who will garner playing time, but likely won't start, on the most talented roster in college. The five star recruits they brought in are Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, James Young, and potential number one draft pick Julius Randle. That's insane. Michigan State doesn't have an elite freshman recruit, but instead has four returning starters, and is led by sophomores Gary Harris Jr. and Denzel Valentine, as well as senior(!) Adrien Payne. Also, have I mentioned that these teams are the top two teams in the country? This could be a preview of the national title game, and while the matchup then would obviously be different than it is now, this is still on the shortlist for best game of the season.
Though I put (4)Duke and (5)Kansas in the class of senior leadership before, this year is poised to have a different feel for these teams. Jabari Parker was the top recruit in the country before Andrew Wiggins became Maple Jordan, and Parker's Blue Devils take on the Jayhawks in the earlier game. Duke may actually be the most experienced of the contenders, starting multiple seniors(!), while Wiggins is flanked by two other elite recruits in Wayne Selden Jr. and Joel Embiid. The amount of freshmen on these top five squads is ridiculous, and this is shaping up to be one of the most talented years in college basketball history.
Though celebrating these freshmen with Busch Light and Natty Ice would seem to be most appropriate, we like to avoid drinking things that we are only marginally sure are legally considered beer. Looking locally in Lawrence, Kansas, we find a not so subtle reference to Kansas basketball in the Crimson Phog. From the 23rd Street Brewery, this Irish Red Ale has a "crisp malt flavor with an assertive caramel character," and it's definitely a beer we'll be on the lookout for.