Thursday, January 11, 2007

Top Ten Countdown: Sixth Men

As promised a few weeks ago, March Madness All Season will begin to rank a variety of subjects in college basketball. I will periodically take a different topic or item (freshmen, most improved players, etc.) and analyze it 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.

Note: Only players that have come off the bench in at least half of their team’s games are eligible.

Honorable Mention:
Jarell Brown, Army (17.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
Jermaine Taylor, UCF (16.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.1 spg)
Avery Smith, Wisconsin-Milwaukee (15.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg)
Michael Sturns, North Texas (15.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.1 spg)
Brian Hodges, UMBC (15.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
A.D Vassallo, Virginia Tech (11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
Paul Gause, Seton Hall (9.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.7 spg)
Greivis Vasquez , Maryland (9.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.2 apg)
Ryan Appleby, Washington (9.1 ppg, 2.5 apg)
Terry Martin, LSU (13.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
Barry Stewart/Charles Rhodes, Mississippi State (22.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.3 bpg combined)
Deven Mitchell , Missouri State (10.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.4 spg)
Boomer Herndon, Belmont (10.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.2 bpg)
Jimmy Baron , Rhode Island (14.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Steven Rush/Jason Wills, North Carolina A&T: (29.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.0 spg combined)
Lorrenzo Wade, San Diego State (10.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.6 spg)
Paul Graham III, Florida Atlantic (14.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.5 apg)
Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga (7.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg)
Elijah Ingram/Tyrone Nelson, New Mexico State (19.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.6 apg, 2.2 spg combined)

10. Paul Harris, Syracuse (10.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.2 spg): A highly-touted player coming into school, Harris has shown his all-around ability on many occasions, but has yet to break out and dominate. He started off the season very strong, with two double-doubles in his first four games, and double-figure points in 11 of his first 14 contest. However, he has slowed down since Big East play started, averaging less than 5 points per game and not demonstrating his outstanding versatility. He can be a force on the defensive end and is also extremely athletic, allowing him to score inside and outside as well as rebound with efficiency.

9. Jamar Smith , Illinois (11.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.0 spg): One of the best shooters in the country, Smith has been a big-time boost off the pine for the Fighting Illini. However, he has been mightily inconsistent and has struggled since the start of Big Ten play. In three conference games, he is averaging less than 8 points per game, and has shot 4 for 22 from three-point range. Still, he has the ability to be one of the best long-range shooters in the nation. Smith is also a decent rebounder and defender who has the ability to get hot from deep.

8. Gyno Pomare, San Diego (15.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg): The best rebounder in the country off the bench, statistically. The 6-7 sophomore plays much taller than his height would suggest, enabling him to beat bigger players on the boards. He has been starting lately, but he has come off the bench in 11 of the team’s 17 games, and averages less than 28 minutes per game. Pomare has scored in double figures in all but two games this year, and has four double-doubles.

7. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (12.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg): One of the most efficient players in the country, Harangody has been a big surprise for the Fighting Irish. He came into school known primarily as a banger, but the 6-8 freshman has shown a soft touch and has demonstrated the ability to score in a variety of ways. Oh yeah, he hasn’t lost any of his strength, either. Harangody makes the most of his time on the court, averaging less than 18 minutes per game but still providing excellent production. He hasn’t played more than 21 minutes all season long, but has four double-doubles and several big games.

6. Darrell Arthur , Kansas (12.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 2.1 bpg): One of four freshmen on this list, Arthur has been, at times, the best player on the Jayhawks. He can play any position on the frontline, and has made a big-time impact for Kansas . Arthur is very athletic and loves to run the floor for easy baskets in transition. He averages just over 20 minutes per game, but leads the team in blocked shots. Arthur has been up and down for most of the season, but when he is playing well, look out. In a win over Florida earlier this season, Arthur was the best player on the floor at times, putting up 19 points and 9 rebounds—in only 16 minutes.

5. Takais Brown , Georgia (14.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg): The former JC transfer has provided the Bulldogs with the inside presence they’ve been lacking for the past few years. He has come off the bench in 9 of the 12 games he has played in, scoring in double figures in all but one contest. He can score against most defenders and is also an active rebounder. Brown is very efficient scoring the ball and is also a good free-throw shooter. Against Wisconsin earlier this season, Brown has 20 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.

4. Chavis Holmes/Travis Holmes, VMI (33.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.3 apg, 5.7 spg combined): Easily the best bench duo in the country. While their numbers are inflated by the up-tempo (and that’s an understatement) offense of VMI, the Holmes’ brothers are still excellent all-around players and producers. Chavis averages over 20 points per game, despite playing only 23 minutes per game, and starting only two games all season. He is also a very good defender and a solid rebounder, as well as an excellent three-point shooter. Travis averages slightly fewer minutes, but still gives great all-around production. He puts up about 14 points per game, but averages over three steals a contest. They combined for 57 points off the bench in a game earlier this season.

3. Jeremy Hunt, Memphis (13.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.6 spg): After getting kicked off the team a year ago, Hunt was welcomed back into the fold this year and has been an excellent addition for John Calipari’s team. He is second on the team in scoring, and is their best three-point shooter. He is also an outstanding defender who can guard several positions. His size and strength also allows him to be a factor on the boards. Hunt has scored at least nine points in all but one game this year, despite not starting a single game.

2. K.C. Rivers , Clemson (15.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.4 spg): A key cog to the country’s last undefeated team, as well as one of the best guard groups in the country. Rivers leads the team in scoring and is the best three-point shooter on Clemson. He is a good all-around player that can rebound well for his size as well as distribute and play defense. He has scored in double-figures in every game so far this season, and is averaging 17.3 points per game in ACC play. Even though he hasn’t started a game this year and averages about 26 minutes per game, Rivers might be the closest thing to a star Clemson has.

1. Daequan Cook , Ohio State (14.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.0 spg): If not for Greg Oden, Cook might be in the discussion for best freshman in the country (although Kevin Durant is running away with that title as we speak). The 6-5 wing is extremely athletic and is an outstanding scorer. He is the best three-point shooter on the team, hitting 50% of his long-range shots, and also leads the Buckeyes’ in scoring. Cook has had six games of at least 20 points, and had 17 points and 11 rebounds in a game earlier this season. He plays under 23 minutes per game, but the team is 10-1 in games that Cook scores in double-figures. If Ohio State is going to make noise in the NCAA Tournament, Cook is going to have to play more minutes for Thad Matta.

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