By Jon Rothstein
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AARON CRAFT, OHIO STATE
THE SKINNY: There couldn’t be a list of “glue guys” without Craft.
Tough as nails and a nuisance on the ball defensively, Craft can single handedly dominate a game without having an impact on the offensive end of the floor. This Ohio native is a like a defensive back playing point guard — he’s that fierce a competitor.
JORGE GUTIERREZ, CAL
THE SKINNY: Bumps, bruises, Gutierrez has it all. While many athletes talk about sacrificing their bodies, this guy does it on a nightly basis. Unselfish and a legitimate scorer, the senior guard from the Chihuahua, Mexico has a real chance to go down as the toughest player to ever play for the Bears.
WILL YEGUETE, FLORIDA
THE SKINNY: The warrior of warriors, Yeguete has been the perfect bridge between Florida’s talented perimeter and starting center Patric Young. A tenacious rebounder and stalwart defender, Yeguete often impacts a game with the biggest weapon he has — his heart.
SCOTT MARTIN, NOTRE DAME
THE SKINNY: Perhaps no one on this list has had to undertake more responsibility this season than Martin. After Tim Abromaitis was lost for Notre Dame early in the year with a torn ACL, Martin went from ancillary piece to veteran focal point — and he’s absolutely floruished. A terrific passer and help defender, the lefty forward has led the Irish to the place that always seem to wind up in mid February — on the brink of the NCAA Tournament.
ANTHONY MARSHALL, UNLV
THE SKINNY: He’s not the first guy people put in bold print when they discuss the Runnin Rebels but Marshall is a major key to UNLV’s success. A terrific perimeter defender, Marshall has added a completeness to his game that didn’t exist a season ago as he’s averaging close to five assists, five rebounds, and two steals per game.
BRANDON TRICHE, SYRACUSE
THE SKINNY: Jim Boeheim described Triche recently as someone who “just always waits his turn” and sums up the junior combo guard in a nutshell. With a smooth pace to his game and an even smoother calmness about himself, Triche always seems to be at the core of big plays for the Orange on both sides of the floor. It’s no surprise why this Syracuse native has done what most don’t accomplish under Boeheim — owning a place in the Orange starting lineup for three consecutive seasons.
KYLE KURIC, LOUISVILLE
THE SKINNY: Rick Pitino has put Kuric in virtually every possible position on the floor during his career with the Cardinals and in each spot, the sharpshooter has responded with flying colors. When Louisville was undersized a year ago, Kuric played power forward and flourished as a stretch four man. This season, he’s back in his natural wing position and has responded with career best averages in rebounds and steals.
E.J. SINGLER, OREGON
THE SKINNY: It might be physically impossible for Singler to squeeze any more basketball ability out of his body. The 6-foot-6 junior has been a model of consistency for the Ducks at small forward over the past two seasons, contributing on the boards and being a capable ball mover. If the Ducks are to find a way to make a push down the stretch in the PAC-12, it will be because of Singler’s presence.
ANDRE WALKER, XAVIER
THE SKINNY: There are games where nothing Walker does shows up in a boxscore — and it doesn’t change one bit how important he is to his teammates. The fifth-year transfer from Vanderbilt has brought a plethora of experience to Xavier, whose benefited from Walker’s post defense and high post passing. If Chris Mack’s team is good enough to reach the field of 68, Walker will be a major asset.
JAQUON PARKER, CINCINNATI
THE SKINNY: The moment the Bearcats turned their season around was the instant Mick Cronin put Parker in the team’s starting lineup. A pesky defender and terrific rebounder for his size, the 6-foot-3 junior has been the key to Cincinnati’s four guard attack and has balanced the floor with his accurate 3-point shooting.