Big Ten Basketball: Ranking the 5 Best Glue Guys in the League
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A “glue guy” is one of the most ambiguous, indefinable terms in the lexicon of college basketball, and yet every winning team seems to have one.
No one knows quite how to characterize a glue guy, most likely because each player who owns that title provides something vastly different to his team. A glue guy could bring energy off the bench, an ability to defend a team’s most potent scorer or even just toughness in the paint.
Either way, it’s undeniable that a glue guy, as the name would suggest, helps to galvanize a roster in the pressure-filled month of March.
The Big Ten, fortunate to have five teams within the AP’s Top 20 rankings, has an abundance of these types of players, each flying beneath the radar of his more prominent teammates. But just because they don’t get the recognition, that doesn’t make them any less prized within a given team’s rotation.
So which of the Big Ten’s glue guys are the best at doing whatever it is that glue guys do?
5. Joe Coleman, G, Minnesota
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Doesn't he just sound like he'd be on this list?
On the surface, Joe Coleman is the least valuable of Minnesota’s potent backcourt. But as a third scoring option, he’s still capable of creating his own shot and knocking down open jumpers.
Offense, though, is hardly where the Gophers need him to perform.
He only averages 9.5 points per game in 28 minutes a night, but in typical glue-guy fashion, Coleman fits into the Gophers’ rotation by doing whatever he needs to help his team win, which is a little bit of everything.
He’s a sturdy 6'4'' defender with good size who averages 1.3 steals per game, tied for the 13th-best in the Big Ten, according to the conference's site. He’s also usually matched up against an opponent's small forward, thus giving up a few inches, since Tubby Smith employs a three-guard starting five. This has the added benefit of keeping both of the other guards out of foul trouble.
It’s easy to overlook Coleman’s six points in the recent overtime win over No. 20 Wisconsin, but the sophomore also had seven rebounds to pace the Gophers. Minnesota desperately needed that win to solidify its resume, and Coleman proved vital, even without scoring.
4. Denzel Valentine, G, Michigan State
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Usually it’s not a freshman that steps into the role as the team’s glue guy, but with how fragile the Spartans’ backcourt has been, Valentine has proven invaluable.
Starting guards Keith Appling (shoulder) and Gary Harris (back), not to mention backup guard Travis Trice (head), have had recent injury concerns, but you wouldn’t know it given the production out of the backcourt. The 6’5’’ freshman has engineered the second-team offense, averaging 7.6 points over the last five games.
He’s also not afraid to jostle with the Spartans’ wide-bodied frontcourt in an effort to snag key rebounds. In the rout over No. 4 Michigan earlier this week, Valentine had a game-high nine rebounds to help the Spartans to a 40-28 advantage on the glass.
Valentine is a prime candidate for a breakout year next season, but for now, he’ll have to be content playing significant minutes even if he's not starting.
3. Mitch McGary, F, Michigan
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As of two weeks ago, McGary hadn’t played more than 21 minutes in any game this season—a shock considering the lack of depth Michigan has in the post.
But when the Wolverines’ starting big man Jordan Morgan went down with an ankle injury, which forced him to play a limited-to-nonexistent role in the last six games, McGary was thrust into more playing time.
The 6’10’’ freshman used to bring an energetic, reckless style to Michigan’s offense, something Morgan sorely lacked. Lately, McGary has had to control his fouls since the Wolverines have come to depend on him for minutes in the post.
Since earning the promotion six games ago, he’s averaged 8.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. McGary acted as a stopgap in Michigan’s frontcourt, a near-essential ingredient to a team’s glue guy.
It’s clear that the Wolverines’ chances hinge on their ability to play well in the post. McGary’s role could increase from glue guy to featured scorer, quite quickly.
2. Mike Bruesewitz, F, Wisconsin
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The senior’s floppy red hair may soon be the logo of glue guys around the country because it represents a willingness to do anything, regardless of aesthetics.
Mike Bruesewitz’ scoring numbers have improved modestly throughout his four years at Wisconsin, a clear indication that he’s not the team’s go-to scorer. If there was a way to track hustle plays, though, it's likely that his numbers would be relatively the same during his career.
That’s because he’s always played with the same abandon for his body, routinely sacrificing himself to save a loose ball or take a charge.
The Badgers can hardly afford less than seven points a game for almost 28 minutes of work unless those 28 minutes go to good use. Bruesewitz always plays hard (5.4 rebounds per game) and has the versatility (and willingness) to guard anyone on the opposing team.
In the Badgers’ stunning win over Michigan, he helped hold Trey Burke to just 8-of-21 shooting while also holding Glenn Robinson III to just 2-of-6 on the afternoon.
Wisconsin fans have embraced Bruesewitz’ blue-collar style, and on a team devoid of stars, it’s exactly the type of player the Badgers will need to win ugly games come March.
1. Will Sheehey, F, Indiana
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Rarely does Cody Zeller or Victor Oladipo or Christian Watford show much emotion. That’s partly why Will Sheehey’s confident arrogance is refreshing for the No. 1 team in the country.
It’s not just his personality that makes him essential to the Hoosiers. He basically does whatever coach Tom Crean needs him to do as the sixth man on the country’s best team.
Off the bench, he rebounds (3.7 per game), plays tough, defends well and can enliven crowds with massive two-handed dunks.
Not that the game was ever in jeopardy, but on Saturday against Purdue, Sheehey’s importance was on full display. Oladipo had turned an ankle, and coach Tom Crean had refused to play him, even though he said he was healthy enough.
Crean turned to Sheehey, who promptly delivered 17 second-half points en-route to a career-high 22 points. The junior also set a new school record by attempting the most shots (nine) without missing one.
Sheehey has the talent to start on nearly every other team in the country, but he's content to thrive on the nation’s best team coming off the bench. It’s why he’s the conference’s top glue guy.