College basketball preseason: 10 'glue guys' to watch

Grant Gibbs will be an important piece of Creighton's inaugural Big East team. (USATSI)
Grant Gibbs will be an important piece of Creighton's inaugural Big East team. (USTASI)

There's nothing in college hoops like a great glue guy, a player who might not get the glory but is essential to making the machine go. Below is a list of 10 players to watch, heading into the 2013-14 season, who do all the little things for their respective teams. In no particular order...

Aaron Craft , G, Ohio State Buckeyes (Sr., 6-foot-1, 190 pounds): Take the pictures and put them away. College basketball may not see a leader like Craft for quite some time. A relentless on-ball defender and consummate floor general, this senior point guard has been about one thing during his collegiate career -- winning.

Amile Jefferson , F, Duke Blue Devils (So., 6-9, 210): Don't let his thin frame fool you. This lanky forward can produce at a high level when he gets extended minutes. Jefferson made sound contributions last season when Ryan Kelly was injured, and he'll have a big role for the Blue Devils because he can impact the game without scoring. While Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood will get most of the headlines for Duke this season, it will be Jefferson who does the work in the trenches.

Sir'Dominic Pointer , G/F, St. John's Red Storm (Jr., 6-5, 196): A freak athlete who can play multiple positions, Pointer is referred to by Red Storm coach Steve Lavin as "Costco." Why? Because he gives you a little bit of everything. The 6-5 wing may be the key to St. John's reaching the NCAA Tournament for the second time in Lavin's tenure. When Pointer produces, the Red Storm are awfully tough to beat.

Michael Cobbins , F/C, Oklahoma State Cowboys (Jr., 6-8, 230): When Cobbins rebounds the ball at a high level, the Cowboys are capable of beating anybody. Oklahoma State has loads of offensive talent with Marcus Smart , Markel Brown , and Le'Bryan Nash , but Cobbins' role is just as important because of what he brings on the backboards. In the Cowboys' three combined wins last year against Kansas and Baylor, the 6-8 forward averaged 9.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and three blocks.

Grant Gibbs , G, Creighton Bluejays (Sr., 6-5, 210): A Sixth-year senior who has one of the best IQs in the sport. A terrific passer with uncanny timing, Gibbs regularly makes plays look beyond easy. His presence is a major bonus for the Bluejays as they begin a new era in the Big East this season.

Sam Mills , G, La Salle Explorers (Sr., 6-2, 200): This 6-2 combo guard was the unsung presence in the Explorers' run to the Sweet 16. Mills regularly checks the opponent's best perimeter scorer on defense and led La Salle in minutes played last season. A timely three-point shooter, Mills also shot 37.9% from deep last year as a junior.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson , F, Arizona Wildcats (Fr., 6-7, 215): He may only be a freshman, but after watching the Wildcats in Tucson a few weeks ago, I'm convinced Hollis-Jefferson is one of the keys to Arizona's season. The 6-7 forward can guard four different positions and may be the most physically imposing player on the Wildcats' roster. Think another Stacey Augmon.

Nate Lubick , F, Georgetown Hoyas (Sr., 6-8, 219): The game never gets too fast for this grizzled forward. Lubick's reads and decision making at the high post is paramount for the Hoyas' half court attack. Not many collegiate athletes truly embrace their role -- Lubick does. This is the ultimate team guy who will again play a major role in Georgetown's overall success.

Denzel Valentine , G, Michigan State Spartans (So., 6-5, 225): The Spartans enter the season as the team to beat in the Big Ten, and Valentine's emergence could ensure that they stay there. The 6-5 wing averaged 20.8 minutes per game last year a freshman, and showed a knack for affecting the game in a plethora of different ways. In Michigan State Spartans 's win over Memphis in the NCAA Tournament, Valentine tallied nine points, six rebounds, and six assists.

Niels Giffey , G/F,  Connecticut Huskies (Sr., 6-7, 205): 6-7 veteran is the forgotten man on the Huskies' roster. Versatile and savvy, the senior will play both forward spots for Kevin Ollie. Giffey's ability to shoot the ball makes him dangerous whenever he steps on the floor.

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