Glue guys in NCAAs, from Arizona’s Alkins to Zags’ Melson
Carsen Edwards can light up the scoreboard for Purdue. Seven-footer Isaac Haas poses an imposing figure in the lane.
But the best teams in the NCAA Tournament often stick around for a while because of the contributions of do-it-all players who can get overshadowed by the teammate with a thunderous dunk or flashy drive.
Every good team needs a “glue guy.”
Arizona’s Rawle Alkins provides energy and emotion. Eric Paschall’s scrappy play saves possessions for Villanova. North Carolina’s Theo Pinson is such a capable defender that he can take on point guards on the perimeter or bigger forwards closer to the basket.
For the Boilermakers , that guy just might be guard Dakota Mathias.
Sure, Mathias can hold his own in a 3-point shooting contest. He’s fourth on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game.
But when the shot’s not falling, the 6-foot-4 senior contributes in other ways. Mathias made the Big Ten All-Defensive team. He joined Marshall’s Jon Elmore as the only two players in the country to have 135 assists, 135 rebounds and 90 3-pointers.
He finished his career on Purdue’s home court in style with seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks to go with his 25 points against Minnesota on Feb. 25.
“I always equate it to major league baseball players,” coach Matt Painter said then. “There’s not a major league baseball hitter that doesn’t have slumps at some time. ... But no, this was kind of a quintessential game for him in terms of a guy that got seven rebounds, got four assists, didn’t turn the ball over, and then made his shots.”
Most of these guys can score. But making shots might not be the most important skill a glue guy provides.
A look at other players in the NCAA Tournament whose contributions often go beyond the stat sheet:
ALKINS, Arizona : The 6-foot-5 guard is third on the team at 13.4 points per game, to go with 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals. He’s also the Wildcats’ energy-boosting leader. “You have Rawle that brings a toughness to our team that separates maybe us from some others,” coach Sean Miller said.
SILAS MELSON, Gonzaga : The Bulldogs’ greybeard has appeared in a team-high 11 NCAA Tournament games. His 124 career wins lead all active players. Sixth in scoring at 9.5 points a game, Melson provides tourney experience on a team that lost four its top five scorers from the squad that advanced to last year’s title game.
PASCHALL, Villanova : Watch the Big East Tournament final against Providence to find out just how important the 6-9 Paschall is to coach Jay Wright. Paschall scored seven points but had 13 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.
“Eric got so many extra possessions for us. He was credited with six offensive rebounds but there was a number that he tipped free that we came up with,” Wright said after the 76-66 overtime win. “I think it had a big difference in the game.”
PINSON, North Carolina : The 6-foot-6 senior’s value goes well beyond stats. He’s a playmaker who can alter a game even without putting up many points. Pinson’s passing is key to making UNC’s small-ball offense work considering the Tar Heels have four good outside shooters around him, which opens lanes for him to finish near the rim.
KHRYRI THOMAS, Creighton : The 6-3 guard’s athletic play has drawn the eye of NBA scouts. Second on the Bluejays in scoring (15.3 points), Thomas can change a game on the defensive end alone. He’s the two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
ISAIAH WILKINS and JACK SALT, Virginia : Arguably a glue-guy combo on the No. 1 team in the country. Wilkins is the best defender and rebounder on the best defensive team in the country. Salt does dirty work at both ends, sets screens, protects the rim and taps the ball out for teammates to get rebounds.
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AP sports writers Aaron Beard and Ben Nuckols contributed.