INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Reading a box score isn’t always the best way to measure guard Josh Gasser’s impact on a Wisconsin game.
Not unless the stat sheet also includes drawing charges, diving for loose balls and careening head-first toward the sideline to save a loose ball.
Meet the Badgers’ “glue guy.”
The senior is someone who “helps us win basketball games, makes plays that a lot of people don’t necessarily see that really change the course of the game,” teammate Frank Kaminsky said.
For all the attention deservedly heaped on Kaminsky, Gasser has had just as much of an impact during Badgers’ two-year run of Final Four appearances.
The other national semifinalists have those guys too. Often, it’s someone like Gasser who doesn’t need the attention lavished on a star like Kaminsky.
The definition of a glue guy could change depending on the makeup of a team. On short-handed Duke, there’s more than one of those guys.
Sometimes, it’s someone who is more of an experienced scorer. On other teams, a glue guy could be a freshman.
The common quality is that they do a lot of the little things besides score, whether on or off the floor.
A look at Gasser and other glue guys to watch in the Final Four on Saturday:
WISCONSIN: Gasser averages 6.9 points a game, though he is also 40 percent shooter from 3-point range.
But he’s most valued as Wisconsin’s best on-ball defender, typically drawing the assignment of trying to shut down a team’s best scorer.
Gasser slides into the glue guy role effortlessly, even though the high school scorer had to adjust once he arrived in Madison. The goal was to do “anything I could to get on the court,” Gasser said.
“The reason I came to Wisconsin was so that I could win games, win championships and compete in championships,” Gasser said. “This year, we’ve definitely done that, and I think the wins speak for themselves, and I think that’s the proudest thing I have from my career.”
KENTUCKY: There are so many players to choose from coach John Calipari’s platoon. The coach himself loves the versatility of Trey Lyles, a 6-foot-10 freshman.
He doesn’t have Gasser’s savvy or leadership qualities. But he does present some other problems for teams.
“Trey professionally will be a (power forward), a stretch four. He’s playing (small forward) for us. He’s playing like a small forward guard,” Calipari said. “He’s the one guy that is hard to guard, can make rebounds, plays hard, plays big.”
DUKE: Everyone needs to contribute with just eight scholarship players on the roster. For assistant coach Jon Scheyer, the Blue Devils’ glue guy is Matt Jones.
“One day it might be hitting a shot. One day it might an offensive rebound, loose balls — all those things. Matt is going to do whatever it takes to win,” Scheyer said.
Jones is more of a natural for the role, the assistant said. He has started the last 11 games.
A game later, Duke moved junior forward Amile Jefferson to the bench.
One glue guy replaced another.
Scheyer said that Jefferson has had to adjust to learning how to play next to two freshman phenoms: Jabari Parker last season, and Jahlil Okafor this season.
“It can be anybody, but just someone who brings something to the team that needs a spark, energy, enthusiasm,” Jefferson said.
MICHIGAN STATE: Denzel Valentine can stuff the stat sheet, averaging 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
“He can hurt you making a pass. He can hurt you knocking down a 3. He can hurt you with his defense,” Spartans assistant coach Dwayne Stephens said.
But he does just as much off the court. If there is a big game or prize fight on TV over a weekend, the Spartans will gather at Valentine’s place. If accountability is necessary in the locker room, Valentine will speak up.
“Off the floor, he’s the kind of guy that kind of brings everybody together,” Stephens said.
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