Interesting read from Ken Pomeroy, via espn.
Grant Jerrett gets mentioned at the bottom, so that's why this is in the Arizona forum.
The first guy off the bench gets a lot of recognition. Some conferences have even started to recognize a "sixth man of the year" at the end of the season. Although the award is designed to highlight someone who deserves more recognition because he doesn't start, being the sixth man is becoming trendy.
In fact, the best sixth men in the sport have nothing to complain about, either in terms of recognition or playing time. Last season's winners of the award from the Big East, Big 12, and Big Ten each received more minutes than at least two starters. And you can bet that each of Syracuse's Dion Waiters, Missouri's Michael Dixon and Purdue's D.J. Byrd was on the floor during crunch time of big games.
The way I see it, in today's college basketball the seventh man is the new sixth man. There is no recognition for the guys who are second off the bench; they don't get starter's minutes and they rarely see action with a game on the line. Their plight is additionally frustrating because they're on the bench for one of two reasons: there's a bottleneck at their position preventing them from getting on the floor, or their coach doesn't recognize their abilities. Thus they are unlikely to gain Dion Waiters-type fame at any point during the season.
It's time for that to change. I've scoured the rosters across Division I and identified five guys who would be contenders for a mythical seventh-man award. The rules for qualification are simple: the player can't be in the top six on his team in minutes and can't be a regular starter. These are true bench players -- guys who see significant playing time only when something unusual takes a starter out of action. Which players among this group are the most valuable in the country?
Let's take a look.
1. Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga Bulldogs. If frontcourt depth is your thing, then Gonzaga is your team. Between Kelly Olynyk, Elias Harris and Sam Dower, front-line minutes are mostly accounted for in Mark Few's rotation. Karnowski makes great use of whatever minutes are left, which has amounted to 15 per game thus far.
He has made 67 percent of his 2-point attempts thus far, has taken nice care of the ball and draws fouls in bunches. Part of his foul-drawing talents may be due to his woeful efforts when he gets to the line -- he has made just 39 percent of his attempts thus far. However, if the Zags find themselves in a situation in which Karnowski needs to play more minutes (Olynyk foul trouble, for example), they'll be in capable hands.
2. Dante Taylor, Pittsburgh Panthers. Taylor is best described as a rebounding specialist, snaring 17 percent of Pitt's missed shots and 20 percent of opponents' miscues. He doesn't shoot often but has made 66 percent of his shots when he does. He has been on the floor for about 18 minutes a game, but Jamie Dixon has spread out minutes as if he's running a grade-school team where everybody has to play. I expect that's mostly schedule-related; there has been plenty of garbage time for the Panthers early in the season.
With Talib Zanna and Steven Adams starting up front and not being particularly foul prone, Taylor's minutes might suffer a bit as the competition stiffens. Nonetheless, Taylor is a nice insurance policy to have in case one of the starting bigs needs to sit.
3. Brice Johnson, North Carolina Tar Heels. Johnson has actually started twice this season, but his minutes suggest he's still a ways from cracking the top five in Roy Williams' rotation. One problem for the 6-9 Johnson is that he's in direct competition with James Michael McAdoo for minutes, and that means he isn't going to be in line for serious playing time anytime soon.
However, a comparison of the two is not all that crazy. Johnson doesn't get to the free throw line as much as McAdoo does, but he doesn't commit as many turnovers either. Johnson actually shoots a bit more than McAdoo and makes a significantly higher percentage (62 percent to 47 percent). Despite a more slender frame, Johnson would appear to be at least McAdoo's equal on the boards as well.
4. Michael Frazier II, Florida Gators. The freshman from Tampa has gotten off to a nice start in his rookie season, albeit in just 17 minutes of action per game. His specialty is shooting the 3 and he has made 40 percent of his 35 attempts thus far.
Without a track record, Frazier still has a long way to go to prove he's a more dynamic version of Lee Humphrey, but the early returns are encouraging. He has also grabbed a few rebounds from the wing position and is occasionally able to score off the dribble. Though his game is less diverse than either Kenny Boynton's or Mike Rosario's at this stage, he's still an attractive option when either of Florida's starting guards needs a rest.
5. Remy Abell, Indiana Hoosiers. Abell is the weird case of a guard who has been super-efficient without relying on the 3-point shot. Oh sure, he has made 11-of-17 3-point attempts, but he has taken 30 2s and made 53 percent of those. Unlike your stereotypical long-range bomber, he has been getting to the free throw line frequently as well.
The Hoosiers' starting lineup is locked in and Will Sheehey owns the sixth-man designation, so Abell will have to be content with limited minutes this season. It says something about Indiana's quality to have a player like Abell (16 minutes per game) be the second person coming off the bench.
Five more worth watching: Maurice Sutton, Villanova; Garrick Sherman, Notre Dame; Tweety Knight, Middle Tennessee; Eric Mosley, St. Bonaventure; Grant Jerrett, Arizona.
NCB - Ken Pomeroy picks college basketball's best true bench players - ESPN