Notre Dame's Nash and Scott co-captain 12th annual All-Glue Team (cont.)
In the days leading up to the Spartans' home game against Penn State on Feb. 10, Tom Izzo pulled Green aside and showed him some video to pump him up. Green had been in a slump, but instead of producing a highlight reel full of jump shots and dunks, Izzo showed images of the player doing more subtle things -- passing, diving for loose balls, rebounding, making smart passes. In other words, he reminded Green of what he was -- the ultimate Glue Guy. Said Green, "He showed me all the little things I used to do."
Green did a lot of little things against the Nittany Lions. He also did a lot of big things. The result was a 15-point, 14-rebound, 10-assist performance, making Green just the third player in school history to register a triple double. The others were Magic Johnson and Charlie Bell. "Those are two guys who won a national championship, so maybe that's a sign of things to come," Green said afterward.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas paid Green the ultimate compliment early this season when he called Green "the best teammate in America." He might also be the most versatile player. Green scores a modest 12.2 points per game, but he is ranked in the top 10 of the Big Ten in rebounds (8.4), steals (1.81) and assists (4.0). Prior to this season he had made two three-pointers his entire career, but this year he has made 31 on 38.3 percent shooting.
Best of all, "Day-Day", as Izzo calls him, makes winning plays in big moments. During Michigan State's run to the Final Four last year, Green was the one who grabbed a rebound, dribbled up the court and fed Korie Lucious for the game-winning three over Maryland in the second round. He also made the deft entry pass to Raymar Morgan on the team's final possession in the Elite Eight against Tennessee, allowing Morgan to sink the game-winning free throw. Those are plays that are usually made by a point guard, not a power forward.
Things looked pretty dire for the Wolverines about the third week of January. The team was in the midst of a six-game losing streak that would drop them to 1-6 in the Big Ten. Towards the end of that streak, coach John Beilein fell back on an old coaching maxim: "When in doubt, go small." So he moved Novak from shooting guard to power forward, where he would have to defend some of the biggest, strongest and most talented players in the Big Ten.
Look at 'em now. The Wolverines finished the regular season by winning eight of their last 11 games and are in excellent position to garner an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The improvement of their backcourt tandem of Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a major factor, but the team would not be where it is without the Glue Guy contributions from their undersized, over-hearted power forward. "He's better guarding a power forward at 6-4 than our 6-8 guys do because those guys are freshman," Beilein said. "Zack gets so many rebounds below the rim. His defense is exceptional for a guy who is not overly quick."
Even with his added defensive responsibilities, Novak remains one of the best shooters in the conference. He is shooting 36.4 percent from three-point range and 83.8 percent from the foul line. He is also averaging 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists to go along with his 8.6 points per game. He has hit some big shots this season, like his late three-pointer which pushed Michigan to an important win at home over Penn State, or the late steal and three-pointer (over 6-10 junior forward Colton Iverson) in the team's win at Minnesota. However, Novak's best moment may have been when he screamed at his teammates in the huddle during the late stages of Michigan's huge win at Michigan State back on January 27. The pep talk was caught by television cameras, cementing Novak's status as a Glue Guy supreme.
"The two things he walked in the door with here are toughness and leadership," Beilein said. "The only time I get mad at Zack is if he passes up a shot. That tells you all you need to know about what kind of kid he is."
2010: David Lighty, Ohio State (captain); Chris Kramer, Purdue; Reggie Redding, Villanova; Willie Veasley, Butler; Rick Jackson, Syracuse.
2009: J.T. Tiller, Missouri (captain); Taylor Griffin, Oklahoma; Jermaine Dixon, Pitt; Garrett Temple, LSU; Travis Walton, Michigan State.
2008: Stanley Burrell, Xavier (captain); Tory Jackson, Notre Dame; Dave Pendergraft, Gonzaga; Derrick Jasper, Kentucky; Justin Mason, Texas; Wisconsin (glue team).
2007: Dane Bradshaw, Tennessee (captain); Kyle Shiloh, Nevada; Dominique Kirk, Texas A&M; Othello Hunter, Ohio State; Marcus Landry, Wisconsin.
2006: Sean Dockery, Duke (captain); Dane Bradshaw, Tennessee; Mike Hall, George Washington; Sean Marshall, Boston College; Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA; Kenton Paulino, Texas.
2005: Jamaal Levy, Wake Forest (captain); Louis Hinnant, Boston College; Erroll Knight, Gonzaga; Christian Moody, Kansas; Ellis Myles, Louisville; Roger Powell, Illinois.
2004: Jaron Brown, Pittsburgh (captain); Tyrone Barley, Saint Joseph's; Erroll Knight, Gonzaga; Roger Powell, Illinois; Nick Robinson, Stanford; Robert Tomaszek, Texas Tech.
2003: Rick Anderson, Arizona (captain); Jaron Brown, Pittsburgh; Justin Hamilton, Florida; Chuck Hayes, Kentucky; Robert Johnson, Oregon; Ellis Myles, Louisville; Tony Robertson, Connecticut.
2002: Gerald Fitch, Kentucky (captain); Dahntay Jones, Duke; Billy Knight, UCLA; Byron Mouton, Maryland; Jarrad Odle, Indiana; Antoine Pettway, Alabama.
2001: Sergio McClain, Illinois (captain); Nate James, Duke; Luke Walton, Arizona; Justin Hamilton, Florida; Marcus Toney-El, Seton Hall; Jason Capel, North Carolina.
2000: Lavor Postell, St. John's (captain); Alex Jensen, Utah; Nate James, Duke; Brian Beshara, LSU; Stanford (glue team).