The Make Up of a Champion…

1998 National Champion Kentucky Wildcats

So what does it take to make a National Championship Team in Division 1 Basketball? UKBBN takes on the theory that you must have at least some seasoned veterans to win a title.

Okay, let’s define a seasoned veteran. To me, we are looking at a Junior or above. Players that have the quote-unquote experience to handle the tough situations. Below are three teams, that won the National Title, that debunk that definition.

All season long I heard comparison of the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats and the 2003 Syracuse Orangemen. How Syracuse won the title with a one and done in Carmelo Anthony. The comparisons continued, time after time, to talk about how Carmelo was surrounded with veteran or “seasoned” teammates.

Kentucky Sports Radios comparisons, although weighing heavily in favor of seasoned veteran teams, also gives some hope and credence that Freshmen and Sophomore heavy teams, can win the title. Here are three underclass dominated teams who won it all…

2006 (Florida)
Corey Brewer (Soph, 3-year player)
Taurean Green (Soph, 3-year player)
Lee Humphrey (Junior, 4-year player)
Joakim Noah (Soph, 3-year player)
Al Horford (Soph, 3-year player)

One Junior, four Sophomores. Avg years of experience: 2.20 (This team repeated in 2007)

2001 (Duke)
Chris Duhon (Freshman, 4-year player)
Jay Williams (Sophomore, 3-year player)
Mike Dunleavy (Sophomore, 3-year player)
Shane Battier (Senior, 4-year player)
Carlos Boozer (Sophomore, 3-year player)

One Senior, three Sophomores and a Freshman. Avg years of experience: 2.20

2003 (Syracuse)
Kueth Duany (Senior, 4-year player)
Hakim Warrick (Sophomore, 4-year player)
Carmelo Anthony (Freshman, 1-year player)
Craig Forth (Sophomore, 4-year player)
Gerry McNamara (Freshman, 4-year player)

One Senior, two Sophomores and two Freshmen. Avg years of experience: 2.00

2010 (Kentucky – Starting line Up – Year Player is Estimated Based on NBA Draft)
Patrick Patterson (Junior, 3-year player)
DeMarcus Cousins (Freshman, 1-year player)
Eric Bledsoe (Freshman, 1-year player)
Darius Miller (Sophomore, 4-year player)
John Wall (Freshman, 1-year player)

One Junior, one Sophomore and three Freshman. Avg years of experience: 1.60

Although six of the nine championship teams were upper class dominated, lets look at the three underclassmen teams that did win National titles.

2006 Florida with four Sophomores and a Junior, 2001 Duke with one Senior, three Sophomores and a Freshmen and the 2003 Syracuse team with one Senior, two Sophomores and two Freshmen. If you rate each team out mathematically, based on playing experience at the time they won the title, it looks like this: Florida avg years of Experience is 2.20. Dukes rates out exactly the same at 2.20 avg years of experience. Then Syracuse, with the only one and done, rated out at 2.00 avg years of experience. The 2010 Kentucky team, with one Junior, one Sophomore and three Freshman rated out at 1.60 avg years experience.

So maybe a Freshman heavy team can’t win a title, but I don’t expect to continue to see as many one and done’s as Calipari was able to sign this year. At the beginning, everyone expected Wall and Patterson and POSSIBLY Cousins to turn pro, depending on the year. I don’t think anyone thought Bledsoe or Orton would turn pro for at least another year.

Calipari’s plan worked. Why? Because he took a NIT team and turned them into an Elite 8 team. He developed the talent he brought in and dealt with, what now appears to be infighting between Cal and parents for promotion and playing time.

Should they have beat WV? YES! They should have… But if “if’s” and “buts” were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. So, maybe the line is 2.00. Maybe we have to average 2.00 years of playing experience to win it all. Personally, I don’t think so. I do believe a Freshman heavy class will win a title, and win one much sooner than we may believe…

Click Here for the Full Story…

Chip Miller can be reached at or via the UKBIGBLUENATION facebook PAGE.


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  • Chip Miller can be contacted via e-mail at
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