Clark Kellogg starred at Ohio State before the 3-point line came to college basketball and has spent the past three decades as one of the sport's top voices. If anyone is equipped to evaluate the sport's shifting landscape, it's the iconic CBS Sports college basketball analyst, who anticipates a specific trend playing out during the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
"I'm pretty anxious once we get the 68 teams to see how many of them have 23 or 24-year olds," Kellogg said. "I just think you're going to see more good, older teams and you may not see as many of the one-and-done caliber talents carrying teams or positioning them to have a chance."
With Selection Sunday for the Big Dance just days away, Kellogg is gravitating towards teams with proven veterans as he sees the proliferation of transferring leading to a "compression of the landscape" across the sport in terms of parity among teams.
"In the past it would be BYU, maybe Wisconsin with those older teams because they would incubate guys and redshirt them," Kellogg said. "But now it's pretty universal that you've got older, more developed players across college basketball."
Experience is one reason why Kellogg highlighted teams like Missouri and Pittsburgh among those he'll be keeping an eye on when the bracket is revealed. Though neither are destined for a particularly high seeding in the Big Dance, they rank among the top-20 nationally in Division I experience, per KenPom.com, and are among the overlooked teams who Kellogg believes could be dangerous.
"Teams of that ilk, I just think the matchup dynamic is going to be really interesting to take a look at because there are far more older and experienced teams. The fact is that some of these older guys transferring from a mid-major to a high-major school have developed into outstanding college players. It makes for a very interesting tournament this year."
Here are more of Kellogg's thoughts on the upcoming NCAA Tournament from a recent Q&A with answers edited for brevity and clarity.
DC: What about a program like Duke that relies so heavily on freshmen? Could Jon Scheyer have to reevaluate the program's roster construction formula moving ahead?
CK: "That's an interesting question because I think the talent in terms of having surefire NBA players across championship teams, I think that's shifting a little bit. I think you're still going to have pro players on the great teams, but I don't know if we'll see as many Zion types and Chet Holmgren types going forward in terms of that being part of the equation. I just think you're going to see more good older teams, and you may not see as many of the one-and-done caliber talents carrying teams or positioning them to have a chance for a championship. I think experience, age and maturity is going to rule the day in terms of championship teams."
DC: Given the advent of NIL, mass transferring and some of the big-name coaches we've seen step away, what's your feeling about the overall health of college basketball?
CK: "The game between the lines is really pretty exciting and as compelling as it's always been. The way the game is played, the way it looks and feels with the continued impact and importance of the 3-point line and the versatility of players, I think the game is in good shape.
"From a coaching standpoint, obviously, changes are inevitable. How they unfold is sometimes unique when you have some Mount Rushmore type coaches who all seem to exit about the same time. I remember the halcyon days of the Big East when you had Rollie Massimino, Lou Carnesecca, John Thompson, then you had John Chaney at Temple. There were stalwarts like Nolan Richardson at Arkansas. They were big presences between the lines and outside the lines in terms of what they stood for. Particularly the Black coaches from a social justice standpoint and breaking down barriers, you have periods where those names and those coaches associated with excellence eventually run into the end. We're in a period there.
"It changes but it never seems to be void of those who will step into their shoes. We've got a lot of good young coaches early in their careers, then we've got some other guys in the early part of the middle of their journey. Coach K wasn't always Coach K, Roy Williams wasn't always Roy Williams. Bill Self and Izzo weren't always who they are. Time has to elapse. There's a period of time of consistent excellence and standing in the gap and being a voice for the sport, you've got to work into those things. We've got really outstanding coaches across the country who will step into that in their own way, in their own personality and in their own time period."
DC: One of those big-name coaches who stepped away recently is Jay Wright, who is now working as analyst for CBS Sports. What's it been like working with Jay in his new role?
CK: "He brings great value because he's always been good for us to work with from the standpoint of broadcasters interacting with coaches. But he has a real good feel for the game, he wants to be good at this next chapter. He's preparing and working really hard and brings a lot of value and perspective to a really good team. We've got a good, deep and rich team in every aspect in terms of how we produce and analyze the game. Just great folks, and he adds to that in a really positive way. I've always enjoyed him. I've enjoyed his candor, his insights, his humility, everything about him. I'm thrilled we were able to be where he landed and that we get a chance to work together on perhaps the best sporting event on the calendar."
DC: OK, time to get back to the court. Who are your favorite national title contenders heading into Selection Sunday?
CK: "I have the strongest conviction about probably Houston and Kansas at this point with Gonzaga, Alabama and UCLA being next. Gonzaga, this will be an interesting position for them considering how they've been a number one seed multiple times in the last handful of years. There's a different feeling if you're a little less on the radar screen, and that might benefit them. They've been playing really well."
DC: Outside of the household names like Drew Timme at Gonzaga and Oscar Tshiebwe at Kentucky, who are a couple players that have caught your eye who may be in store for a big month?
CK: "If Penn State is able to get there, then Jalen Pickett is a guy who could be a real problem for opposing teams and endear himself to fans because of how unique his game is. He's an old-school, low to the ground point forward on a team that sprays 3-pointers from everywhere. He's in the middle of it. He's the hub in the wheel and a unique player and the type of player who could get on a roll and carry a team because of the pressure he puts on opposing defenses.
"Drew Pember at UNC Asheville is really unique and intriguing as a pro prospect with his range, his skillset, his length. He's got a pretty good team with him. I always like to look at some of the potential Cinderella teams or players. Tucker DeVries at Drake could possibly fall into that category as well.
"At the power conference level, there's so many. But one who comes to mind is Tyson Walker at Michigan State. He's really had a tremendous second year as a transfer from Northeastern. He's been excellent in the clutch in a number of games. He's the type of guy who could elevate and get on a personal run that moves his team forward."