Having been a part of four NCAA tournament teams at both University of Rhode Island and the University of Texas, I can tell you that the roller coaster is just beginning.
Since preseason conditioning in September, all efforts were put forward to one goal -- the NCAA tournament. It was six months of hard work and abuse both on your body and mind. A complete unwavering commitment. During the stretch you are navigating peaks and valleys from big victories, to injuries to hot and cold streaks and squeezing in all the other facets of life into the few off seconds. The season is draining, and often your success is how you manage the intangibles -- chemistry, egos, getting people to understand their role in the system.
For 68 teams, they ride an adrenal rush entering March Madness where matchups and focus takes over.
This year's NCAA tournament has an interesting dichotomy. You have teams led by seniors and upperclassmen who have earned this opportunity. This is the pinnacle of their basketball career. They are "all-in" for this. They face evolving teams with fragments of upper class leadership blended with exceptionally talented youth. Can they come together as a cohesive unit and fully commit for the team and win six games in a row?
As fans, we have followed players like Jimmer Fredette, JaJuan Johnson, Corey Fisher, Kevin Anderson and Kyle Singler throughout their careers and prior NCAAs. They are a cast of characters we know and love. Can they make a magical run and stamp their college careers? The other piece of the puzzle are these impact freshmen that have become stars on their team and the x factors. They are evolving before our eyes and none of them have been here before. Players like Brandon Knight and Terrance Jones leading Kentucky, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall leading North Carolina, Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft for Ohio State and Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph for Texas. These guys play integral roles on high major programs who hope to make a deep run. Can the talented youth maintain focus and stay "all-in" despite the pulls of NBA draft status, game tickets and this new unknown pressure?
Each coach is staying up all night thinking not just of the matchups and strategy, but can the commitment of “We” overcome the disease of “Me”? That’s the question come this time of year. Stay tuned.
Leigh Klein is the owner of Five-Star Basketball Camps, which Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant all attended in high school. Klein and has overseen the development of more than 100 players in this year's NCAA tournament. Check Metro daily during March Madness for more of his ramblings.
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