As promised a few weeks ago, March Madness All Season will begin to rank a variety of subjects in college basketball. Every Tuesday, a different topic or item will be analyzed into a comprehensive Top 10 ranking. The column's inaugural topic will be sixth men.
The new season of college basketball has brought in some fresh bench players that put up outstanding numbers off the pine. Most of the top guys are more like sixth starters. They play 25-plus minutes per game and put up starter-caliber numbers. Here is a look at some of the best:
Gavin Grant, North Carolina State- The versatile wing averages about 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. He can take defenders off the dribble to the basket, and also plays solid defense. A multi-dimensional player. Had 22 points and 9 rebounds against Delaware; 13 points, 6 boards, and 10 assists vs. Stetson; and 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists against VMI.
Torre Johnson, Oklahoma State- Inside player puts up about 11 points and 4 boards per contest. He is a somewhat undersized post man, but manages to get buckets. He only has one game this season in which he had less than 9 points. Had 12 points and 7 rebounds against SMU; 17 points and 5 boards vs. UNLV; and back-to-back 15-point outings against Detroit and TCU.
Sean Morris, Colorado State- Scoring guard goes for 13 points per game. He is a big-time point producer and a streaky three-point shooter who doesn't do anything else exceptionally well. He has not scored below 6 points in any game and had 5 double-figure outings. Had 34 points against Colorado, and has had 3 straight double-figure games, including 15 points and 3 assists vs. IUPUI.
Now on to the Top Ten Countdown...
10. Kellen Easley, Missouri State- Versatile swingman puts up numbers in a variety of categories: 9 points, 7.6 boards, 1.6 assists, 1.7 steals, and more than 1 block per game. He is the best rebounder off the bench off the country, and can do many things well. Had 18 points and 8 boards against Arkansas State; 10 points and 7 rebounds vs. Georgia Southern; 7 points, 8 boards, 5 steals, and 4 blocks against Texas A&M- Corpus Christi; and 10 points and 12 rebounds at Oral Roberts.
9. Andre Patterson, Tennessee- Unsung forward averages 12 points and more than 5 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block per game. He plays inside the arc, and is involved near the basket more often than not. Provides solid scoring and rebounding, with 5 games of 10 points or more. Had 21 points and 6 rebounds against Louisiana-Lafayette; and 11 points and 14 boards vs. Murray State.
8. Shawan Robinson, Clemson- One of the ACC's most underrated players goes for 13 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal per game. The offensive-minded playmaker has 8 double-figure scoring games this season. He is a solid distributor that contributes in a variety of ways. Had 14 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals vs. Puerto Rico-Mayaguez; 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists against Penn State; and a season-high 18 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals vs. Bethune-Cookman.
7. Maureece Rice, George Washington- Super scorer averages 14 points, 3.4 assists, and more than 2 steals per game. Short (5-11) wing player can score in a myriad of ways, and is a solid distributor as well. Had 19 points against Maryland; 17 points, 3 assists, and 3 steals against Boston University; and 17 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore.
6. Rashad Anderson, Connecticut- Excellent shooter has regained his 2004 NCAA Tournament form, averaging over 12 points per game, to go with over 3 rebounds and a steal. He is shooting 51 percent from behind the arc, and hitting clutch shots. He has 6 straight double-figure scoring games, including the last four, in which he has scored at least 15 in each. Had 20 points and 4 rebounds vs. Texas Southern; and 15 points, 7 boards, and 2 steals against New Hampshire.
5. Billy Humphrey, Georgia- Best player on the Bulldogs contributes in many areas: 13 points, 5 boards, 2.6 assists, and a steal per game. He is a versatile wing that does not turn the ball over much and is surprisingly pretty solid inside. He has scored 12 or more points in 7 games this season. Had 15 points and 10 rebounds vs. Eastern Kentucky; 18 points, 7 boards, and 6 assists against Florida A&M; 15 points, 6 rebonds, and 6 assists vs. Savannah State; and 19 points against Georgia Tech.
4. Dan Coleman, Minnesota- Versatile frontcourt player puts up over 13 points per game, about 5 boards, and a steal and a block per game. He has developed into a very good bench player after starting last season. He can score inside and outside, and provides a matchup problem for bigger, less-mobile big men. Has scored 11 or more points in each of the last five games. Had 16 points and 4 boards at Maryland; 23 points and 9 boards in 42 minutes at Arizona State; and 16 points and 7 rebounds vs. UNLV.
3. Ron Lewis, Ohio State- The former Bowling Green transfer is averaging almost 13 points and 5 rebounds per game, to go with a steal. He has been the best bench player in the Midwest, and has not had a single-digit scoring game thus far this season. Lewis has thrived in his sixth man role, and has been a very good point producer for the Buckeyes. Had 16 points, 5 boards, and 3 assists vs. Chicago State; 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals against Butler; and 13 points and 9 boards in 22 minutes at Iowa State.
2. Tyrus Thomas, LSU- The top freshman in the SEC, and one of the best in the country, is averaging 13 points, 9 rebounds, and over 2 blocks per game. He has been a surprise thus far, putting up better numbers than more heralded newcomer Tasmin Mitchell. Thomas is an athletic forward who gets most of buckets and rebounds in the paint. He has four double-doubles, and only one game below eight points. Had 18 points and 8 rebounds vs. Southern; 22 points and 12 boards against Nicholls State; 21 and 12 vs. Houston; and back to back 11-point, 10-rebound performances against McNeese State and New Orleans.
1. Rodney Carney, Memphis- One of the best bench players in years puts up All-Conference numbers: 17.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals per game. He is also shooting 41% from long-range. Carney is the most athletic player in the country, and is a lockdown defender. He held JJ Redick to a scoreless second half earlier this season. Carney is ridiculous in the open court, and is an outstanding finisher. He has scored in double-figures in all but one game this year, and is on pace to win Conference USA Player of the Year honors. Had 17 points and 9 boards to open the season vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee; 21 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals against Lamar; 25 points and 5 boards vs. Jackson State; 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals at Ole Miss; and an unbelievable 37 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 steals off the bench against Louisiana Tech.
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