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Seniority

The end of the journey is coming all too quick for seniors and their dreams. The senior has often been overlooked in college basketball as impact freshmen and talented sophomores command more and more attention before leaving for the NBA.

Baylor's Quincy Acy is one of many seniors around the country who will be heard from in late February and into March Madness.

How unbalanced is it these days? Consider that not one senior is projected to be in the first 20 picks of the NBA draft.

But if you look around the country, with the season on the line for many teams in their most important games, it is often seniors who are carrying their teams. These four- and five-year players are “all-in,” so to speak, as evidenced by the sense of urgency they display, their focus and their leadership.

There is Quincy Acy, who had 22 points and 16 rebounds to lift Baylor over Texas. A former walk-on, Austin Thornton is playing the best basketball in his career with 17 points to help Michigan State dismantle Purdue.

The list goes on with recent performances such as Drew Gordon, whose 27 points and 20 rebounds paced New Mexico’s thrashing of UNLV, or the effort of Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder in combining for 53 points to lead Marquette over UConn.

Kentucky’s Darius Miller, on a team laden with star freshmen and sophomores, came up big with three 3-pointers in the second half to help erase a 13-point deficit at Mississippi State.

As we roar into March praising the dynamic youth in the college game, let us not forget the seniors who do whatever it takes to advance, whether it is how they hit a big shot or battle a big rebound.

Don’t be surprised come tournament time if the attention turns to seniors such as Kim English and Marcus Denmon at Missouri;, Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph at Syracuse; Tyshawn Taylor for Kansas, or lastly, a Draymond Green for Michigan State. There is no substitute for the experience of having played in big moments and big games and learned.

Senior experience – the fact that these players have been in the conference tournament or even the NCAA Tournament – is an asset and a major factor in March upsets. Nothing is new for these players who have experienced the big stage, the media attention, the strange signs and sounds. They have been there, done that. The consummate senior has played under this scrutiny, has shot on a court in a stadium built for football, and understands the care needed during this grueling stretch.

Everything is familiar and routine; not so for the wide-eyed freshman who is tasting the truly big stage for the first time. And lest we forget that the senior not only understands the pressure and the moment, he appreciates it a bit more.

This, after all, might be his last time on the basketball court.

As the clock winds down, in the most important game to date, who do you want to have the ball? Most coaches look on the court for the senior to once again lead his team to victory just as he’s witnessed and done before, time after time. Experience is the great equalizer this time of the year.

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Leigh Klein is the owner of Five-Star Basketball Camps and formerly on staff at Texas and Rhode Island. Each year at Five-Star, he trains hundreds of future college basketball and NBA stars such as Michael Jordan, Grant Hill, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He will be blogging for 247Sports on college basketball and recruiting.

Follow Leigh Klein on Twitter @leighalanklein and let him know what you think about the blog.

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