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The Floor Is Yours: There's no substitute for a strong bench

The funny thing about the Monmouth Bench Mob is that the Hawks' reserves had to dance and re-enact movie scenes to get noticed.

"Look! Over there on the bench! They're doing the bull-matador thing! They're hilarious!"

But Monmouth's instant fame also reminded us that most reserves enjoy a limited spotlight, so it seemed appropriate to grant the Hawks their 15 minutes.

We're fascinated because the bench doesn't really matter until it really matters.

That's the life of most players whose names you never hear over the public address system during intros or see on the cover of game programs. They're the kids who often receive their greatest receptions on senior night. Until then, they're just that "tall dude who plays a few minutes for Vanderbilt sometimes" or that skinny point guard who rarely removes his warm-ups for pick a school unless there's a blowout.

Everyone knows Ben Simmons. But if the LSU Tigers released an album, you'd only find the name Josh Gray (7.5 PPG, 18.1 MPG) in small print on the back of the vinyl's cover.

Yet, the bench matters. In a season that features a brand of equity within the projected field of 68 that tends to produce our most memorable conclusions in March, the programs that can count on reserves to offer significant contributions maintain an edge.

The weekend's action centered on that concept.

As Arizona trudged through a four-overtime loss at USC, the second consecutive loss for Arizona, Trojans reserve Elijah Stewart (27 points) scored more than any other player on the floor and his late free throws sealed the win.

Baylor defeated Iowa State in Ames for the second consecutive season as the Cyclones' bench recorded five points combined and Bears standout Johnathan Motley collected 27 points, more than any player on Iowa State's roster.

Melo Trimble's game winner in Madison lit the Twittersphere aflame, but don't underestimate the impact of "reserve" and likely one-and-done Diamond Stone (11 points in 23 minutes). And if only Jim Boeheim could have brokered a midgame trade for Isaiah Hicks (21 points, eight rebounds) in Syracuse's loss to North Carolina.

Kansas escaped Lubbock with a good road win over Texas Tech even though Cheick Diallo, a McDonald's All-American, logged just three minutes. How many teams could keep an NBA prospect off the floor and still win a tough road game against a dangerous opponent like Texas Tech?

One of Virginia's issues in its upset loss at Georgia Tech: The Cavaliers couldn't corral reserve Nick Jacobs, who scored 16 points in 22 minutes of action off the bench.

And their reserves stayed quiet. The team with 10 guys isn't deep if five of them can't acquit themselves well against top competition.

Virginia inserts 11 players most nights.

But its bench scored 16 points combined in the team's back-to-back losses to unranked opponents. Tony Bennett needs more from that group.

Larry Brown understands.

SMU finished off Cincinnati with just six scholarship players after officials ejected Sterling Brown in the Bearcats' win last week. Will future foul trouble affect SMU's shot at the American championship?

Can Iowa State contend for the Big 12 championship if the Cyclones can't count on their bench for consistent production? How will Boeheim's turbulent season end if his six-man rotation keeps running marathons every game?

Shaka Smart's squad defeated North Carolina in Austin and Stanford on the road. Then Cam Ridley fractured his foot. The Longhorns, who lack a reliable backup in the paint, are 1-3 without Ridley after Saturday's 58-57 loss at TCU -- the Horned Frogs' first victory over the Longhorns in more than 20 years.

This isn't a new idea. Bench production. Depth.

In a chaotic, balanced season like this one, however, teams with contributing sixth or seventh men will fight through the final months of the season with confidence.

An impressive performance on the court, when and if given an opportunity in this crucial stretch, is the only way for a reserve to become a headliner.

Nine all-star reserves

Quentin Snider (Louisville): "He's a hard worker. He's always in the gym. What you do in the dark comes to the light." That's how Trey Lewis described Snider's effort off the bench (career-high 21 points) in Louisville's win at NC State last week. The talented sophomore gives Rick Pitino's rotation a boost that should help the Cardinals contend in the challenging ACC landscape, although Sunday's loss at Clemson didn't help their cause. Snider scored nine points in that game.

Johnathan Motley (Baylor): He ruined Iowa State in Ames with his 27-point effort Saturday. The Cyclones couldn't stop him. If he ever finds a way to get to the free throw line more often and actually sinks a few shots once there (59.6 percent), he'll become a greater asset for a Baylor team that made a statement about its place in the Big 12 race Saturday with Motley's help. Baylor is 6-1 when Motley records 10 or more points.

Brannen Greene (Kansas): Kansas is one of the deepest teams in America. Jamari Traylor has been coming off the bench for Bill Self since Mario Chalmers played in Lawrence. The NBA scouts love Svi Mykhailiuk's ceiling. Landen Lucas has made 58 percent of his shots inside the arc. But Green, who was 2-for-3 from the 3-point line in Saturday's win at Texas Tech, has connected on 63 percent of his 27 3-point attempts this season. He's a trustworthy sharpshooter for a team that's hurting its opponents inside and outside this season.

J.P. Macura (Xavier): Chris Mack's program showcased its depth when it hammered Butler without guard Edmond Sumner, who suffered a head injury in the team's previous game against Villanova. Macura's production off the bench is the highlight of a unit that has turned Xavier into a squad with the Big East's -- and maybe America's -- toughest rotation. Macura has averaged 8.7 PPG and 2.0 APG. He also has connected on 78 percent of his free throw attempts this season.

Isaiah Hicks (North Carolina): Hicks would start for most of the Top 25 teams. But North Carolina has such a talented roster that the 6-foot-8 forward has played just 18.6 MPG this season. He's ranked fourth nationally in player efficiency, per KenPom.com. And his 5-for-5, 21-point effort in 22 minutes at Syracuse confirmed his worth to the Tar Heels.

Ja'Quan Newton (Miami): The current group Jim Larranaga guides resembles the Miami team that won the ACC title in 2013 via its depth. Larranaga can employ four of five guys on his bench and feel confident that his squad will not experience a significant reduction in production. And Newton's success this season is central to that notion. The sophomore is averaging 12.1 PPG in 21.6 MPG for the Hurricanes.

Diamond Stone (Maryland): Yeah, he's a reserve, according to the numbers. Stone has come off the bench in nine of Maryland's 16 games. But he's one of the best players in America right now. He averaged 18.2 PPG and connected on 66 percent of his shots in the five games before Saturday's win over Wisconsin. He's a first-round pick who gives Mark Turgeon a unique reserve who has become the most significant offensive option on the roster after Trimble -- and a vital defensive threat. He's also top 10 nationally in offensive rebounding rate (17.1 percent).

Dom Uhl (Iowa): The native of Frankfurt, Germany, scored 10 points and eight rebounds in his team's win over Nebraska on Tuesday, Iowa's previous game before Thursday's rematch with Michigan State in East Lansing. He's 14-for-29 from the 3-point line and averaging 7.3 PPG and 4.3 RPG. He has upped his 36 percent mark from the field in 2014-15 to 46 percent overall in 2015-16. Iowa looks like a Big Ten contender because players such as Uhl have enhanced Fran McCaffery's rotation.

Luke Kennard (Duke): The Blue Devils have matured since that season-opening loss to Kentucky, and they're a better team now that they've adjusted to life without Amile Jefferson. Kennard has come off the bench in 15 of the team's 16 games this season. And his most recent stretch suggests that he'll be a reliable reserve for Mike Krzyzewski even when Duke faces the ACC's top tier. His individual 7.6 percent turnover rate is top 40 nationally, and he's shooting 93 percent from the free throw line to go along with 12.1 PPG.

Back to the Basket

Arizona-USC foul trouble

It's amazing that the Wildcats and Trojans played 60 minutes of basketball Saturday night and no player for either squad fouled out, right?

State of the Pac-12

Remember when UCLA, Arizona, Cal and Utah were all set to battle for the Pac-12 crown? That's what many assumed entering the season. Well, all four contenders enter this week with two conference losses after they were all swept on their first conference road trips.

Brad Brownwell should buy a Powerball ticket

In the same week that he landed former top-50 prospect and Texas A&M transfer Elijah Thomas, the Clemson coach led his Tigers to a 66-62 upset of Louisville five days after defeating Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. Clemson has won three consecutive ACC games.

Indiana recount

Last week, the Hoosiers earned a spot on our "teams you shouldn't trust yet" list. But after watching Tom Crean's crew outscore a hot Ohio State squad 48-18 in the first half of a lopsided win, Indiana's ninth in a row and fourth straight in the Big Ten, we're not so sure it belongs there anymore.

South Carolina is real, it seems

Still not sold on South Carolina? Well, the Gamecocks held NBA prospect Wade Baldwin IV to a 3-for-13 outing in a win over Vanderbilt. That's impressive.

Connecticut rolling

Anyone notice that the Huskies are 5-1 without injured center Amida Brimah?

Dayton takes worst loss of the weekend

Sure, Virginia's second consecutive road loss to an unranked team and Louisville's loss at Clemson both matter. But La Salle had lost seven in a row and eight of nine when it upset No. 25 Dayton 61-57 on Saturday.

LSU's loss at Florida means more for the Gators

Florida proved, again, that its defense should help it compete with the best in the SEC when it defeated LSU on Saturday. The Gators have a mediocre offense that can't find points in part because of shooting below 30 percent from the 3-point line. But they have the SEC's best defense (fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.com), which they proved again when they held LSU to 0.87 points per possession even though Ben Simmons scored 28 in the 68-62 win in Gainesville.

Bryce Alford does it twice

Kinda weird that Steve Alford's son hit the game-winning 3-pointer over Arizona on Thursday and then connected on a deep shot that sealed UCLA's win over Arizona State on Saturday -- essentially from the same spot on the right side of the arc. Check the footage.

That's somebody's child, Jimmie Taylor!!!????

Nope. Your Alabama squad didn't win the game against Kentucky, Jimmie. It happens. But you won the day. Did you feel good about yourself after you flushed that putback dunk like Dominique Wilkins five minutes into the second half on Saturday? Alex Poythress, a fellow posterizer, was hanging on your back, but you didn't care. You just caught that rock with one hand and yam! Ain't right, man. It's not. Avery Johnson should make you write "I won't dunk on people today because feelings matter" 100 times.