For the first time in recent memory, it's not a diaper dandy's tournament. Sure, Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger has drop-stepped his way into POY convos that center on one-name upperclassmen -- Nolan, Jimmer and Kemba. But -- counting Sullinger and his top-seeded Buckeyes -- the three (if Kyrie Irving's toe cooperates) frosh phenoms starting for the top eight seeds haven't exactly instilled confidence that they can shoulder an entire offense for a deep tourney run. Kansas G Josh Selby and North Carolina G/F Harrison Barnes have had their ups and downs this season, and Duke's Irving hasn't hit the pine since December. That's a far cry from past Marches when players such as Greg Oden, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant or Blake Griffin were shaking up brackets.
Back then, the talk was how far a freshman-laden team could reasonably be expected to go in the tournament. We resolved last year that experience didn't much matter in the early rounds; at that point, it's a slightly less useful predictor than mascot name and jersey color. But it does matter. Veteran savvy and upperclassman know-how do matter once the Sweet 16 has been reached, a stage when pro-level talent, turnover margin and 3-point shooting have already evened the field.