Big Ten Tournament 2013: Bench Players Ready to Break out on Big Stage

Tim KeeneyContributor IMarch 11, 2013

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER14:  Forward Sam Dekker #15 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives up court against the Florida Gators November 14, 2012 at Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. Florida won 74 - 56. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Cancel all your plans for the next week; the Big Ten tournament is on the way. 

If you've been under about 17 boulders during the past three months, just know Big Ten play has been spectacular. It has been beautifully-played, wire-to-wire spectacular. It has been Game-of-the-Year-every-week spectacular.

These 12 teams have been putting on a show all season, and getting them all into the same gym for one tournament is almost unfair for anyone else trying to get your attention. 

On such a big stage, stars like Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo will undoubtedly shine, but don't be surprised if youngsters off the bench begin to make a (bigger) name for themselves. 


Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

Dekker is an early candidate for Big 10 Player of the Year next season.

The true freshman is averaging just 9.7 points in 22.6 minutes per contest, but he has continually improved and has been playing his best basketball of late. In Wisconsin's last eight games, Dekker is averaging just under 13 points per game and has hit double-figures seven times. 

You won't find many more rounded offensive players with brighter futures. Dekker is currently shooting 54.2 percent on 107 shots from inside the arc, 42.7 percent on 110 treys and is simply just oozing with raw talent.


Mitch McGary, Michigan

McGary isn't the most skilled player in the country, but he will outwork, out-physical and pretty much out-Hansbrough anyone down low. 

The youngster has seen his playing time fluctuate over the past few games, but when Michigan was dealing with injuries earlier in the season, he proved to be a constant double-double threat capable of wreaking havoc on the defensive end. 

Don't be surprised if McGary makes a major impact off the bench this week. 


Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

Valentine is smart. There's not much more to it than that. 

Much like McGary, the true freshman isn't super skilled or athletic, but has a high basketball-IQ that allows him to make plays all over the court—something that Tom Izzo always values. 

In just 21.3 minutes per game this season, Valentine is averaging a Draymond Green-like 5.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks. Most impressively, the 6'5", 220-pound wing might have the best passing skills on the team. 

Valentine is one of the most underrated freshmen in the country, and the bright lights of the Big Ten tournament will give him a chance to change that.