The Miami Hurricanes qualify as one of the biggest surprises of the 2012-13 college basketball season. Picked to finish fifth in the ACC in the preseason, the Canes are in sole possession of first place, having gotten off to a 23-4 start overall, 14-1 in conference play. They have a chance to extend that league lead Saturday night at Duke (6 p.m. ET -- ESPN), as the Blue Devils look to get revenge for the 27-point beatdown Miami put on them in January.
There are several reasons for Miami's surprising success this season, but one that stands out is the Hurricanes' experience. Or, more specifically, the fact that the Canes are simply older than every team they line up against this season.
The Canes rank eighth nationally in Ken Pomeroy's experience metric, which is first among major conference teams and clearly the highest among teams that can be considered legitimate national title contenders (the next contender on the list, Florida, ranks 27th). But that number doesn't even tell the whole story. Check out the ages of five of Miami's top seven leaders in minutes per game:
In most of Miami's games, the Canes are playing against players anywhere from four to six years their junior. When they take the floor against the Blue Devils, for example (and keep in mind that Duke ranks higher than fellow contenders such as Indiana, Louisville, Arizona and Michigan in Pomeroy's experience metric), they'll be playing against a team that has two teenagers in the starting lineup (Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon) and a third playing significant minutes off the bench (Amile Jefferson).
The Canes have become the college basketball equivalent of the group of old guys in the park that doesn't look all that impressive at first but that the young guys can't figure out how to beat.
How does this age advantage contribute to Miami's success on the court, and how will it help the Hurricanes in the NCAA tournament? Let's take a look.
1. Men among boys
We'll get to the mental advantages afforded a team with older, more experienced players in a bit, but the Canes' "age advantage" begins with the fact that they are more physically mature than any opponent they face.
To read Seth Greenberg's full take on how Miami is using its age to its advantage, you must be an ESPN Insider.