The second-leading scorer for the nation’s #1 team comes off the bench. What? Huh? That’s right, Syracuse’’ Dion Waiters drops 12.9 ppg shooting over 52% from the field for the Orangemen and doesn’t start. Whatever Syracuse is doing is working. They are 18-0 overall and 5-0 in the Big East.
Waiters admits that as one of the countries top 15 players his senior year in high school, he expected to be starting his freshmen year of college. After his initial disappointment with not starting, he quickly grew to love his newfound role and now loves coming off the pine to provide a lift to his team.
The trend of bringing top tier players off the bench seems to be spreading like Swine Flu this year. Arkansas’, Indiana’s, and Missouri’s leading scorers all come off the pine. B.J. Young comes off the bench for Arkansas to provide 14.8 ppg. Indiana’s Will Sheehey drops in 10.8 ppg as the 6th man and Missouri’s Michael Dixon leads them in scoring with 12.8 ppg.
Where it was once a badge of honor to start, coaches now see the ability to exploit potential mismatches as a great advantage of this. It’s no different in the NBA where players like Ginobili on the Spurs and Billups of the Clippers come off the pine to provide serious offensive punch. These 6th men are also almost always in the game when it’s clutch time and often some of the first options for taking the go-to shots.
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