Evaluating Four of the Top Big Ten Sixth Man CandidatesPosted by Max Jakubowski on November 6th, 2013
Ed. Note: this list isn’t meant to be inclusive. Every team will have at least one solid sixth man candidate. These are meant to highlight only four of them.
Last year’s Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Will Sheehey provided a huge spark to Indiana off the bench, averaging 9.5 points per game to go along with nearly 35 percent shooting from three. The Hoosiers lost four starters from last year, so that means not only will Sheehey need to start but also a new winner for for this award will be crowned. Here’s a look at some of the players who have a great shot to capture it this season.
- Shannon Scott - Ohio State, junior point guard – Scott possess all the skills of a starting point guard in a big time conference, but due to Aaron Craft starting at the position, Scott begins the game on the bench. He still sees plenty of playing time, as his defensive guard skill set is a perfect complement to Craft’s. Both guards allow head coach Thad Matta to pressure the opponents’ guards up and down the floor, making even dribbling the ball past half-court a difficult test. Matta is also not afraid to use Scott on the offensive end with Craft playing off the ball. Last year the Buckeyes frequently enabled a lineup of Craft, Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Deshaun Thomas and Sam Thompson. That is a small lineup, but it creates match-up nightmares as all five players can score from the perimeter. Scott will need to pick up his scoring average (4.9 PPG) as well as his 33 percent three-point average to make him an even more valuable offensive player off the bench.
- Denzel Valentine – Michigan State, sophomore small forward – Comparisons of Michigan State great Draymond Green have been made with Valentine’s all-purpose game. But Valentine has not shown he can be the type of inside-out post player Green was. Keith Appling will be backed up by Valentine, who is a very good ball-handler for his size. He has shown in flashes that he can contribute in a number of ways for Tom Izzo, like when he put up nine points, six rebounds and six assists against Memphis in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Valentine’s 4.1 RPG and 2.4 APG should increase this season, but the main area he needs to develop is his three-point shot. He shot a dismal 28 percent from deep last season and the Spartans really need someone to become a three-point threat other than Gary Harris. If Valentine can push his percentage up to around 35 percent, it will be hard for Izzo to keep him off the court.
- Jarrod Uthoff – Iowa sophomore power forward – Bo Ryan and Uthoff went through a pretty ugly transfer process two years ago. Now Uthoff is finally cleared to play and he will provide a nice spark to a rising Hawkeyes team. With All-Big Ten standout Aaron White, Melsahn Basabe and Adam Woodbury making up the starting frontcourt, Uthoff has to regulate from the bench. Still, he will see extended time, as he is a big body who can really shoot the basketball. Iowa loses its top three-point threat, Eric May, to graduation and its second best three-point shooter, Anthony Clemmons, is a backup guard who won’t see lengthy time on the floor. Enter Uthoff, who can play side-by-side with White and really stretch the floor to allow Roy Devyn Marble to attack the rim. The sophomore is not known for his defense so it will be interesting to see if his shooting prowess keeps him on the floor in late-game situations.
- Tre Demps – Northwestern, sophomore shooting guard – Northwestern was plagued with injuries and suspensions last year, which resulted in another season with no NCAA Tournament bid and the firing of Bill Carmody. The Chris Collins era begins with senior star Drew Crawford returning for his fifth year along with JerShon Cobb’s reinstatement from suspension. Demps played heavy minutes toward the end of the season last year and showed he can be a nice offensive weapon. Collins will run his offense through Crawford, Cobb, and point guard Dave Sobolewski but look for Demps to play alongside those three to set up a four guard/wing attack. Collins’ offense includes motion sets to free up shooters and four legitimate shooters on the floor can be very difficult for defenses to stop. Demps averaged 7.6 PPG last season and could potentially hit an average of double figures this year.
Other strong candidates: Zak Irvin (Michigan), Caris LeVert (Michigan), Evan Gordon (Indiana), George Marshall (Wisconsin)