Preseason Mid-Major All-Americans

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
1 Comment

While the average college basketball fan tends to focus on the talent on display in power conference programs, there are many talented players at the mid-major level who merit consideration.

And every year a player who may not have been discussed much during the winter due to where he plays becomes a national name, with his standout performance sparking an NCAA tournament upset.

Below are some of the best players at mid-major programs heading into the 2018-19 season, with the first team being headlined by one of the sport’s best shooters and a big man who could join the short list of 3,000-point scorers at the Division I level.

As a reminder, the following conferences were not included: American, Atlantic 10, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC. Also Gonzaga and BYU have not been considered as mid-majors.



FIRST TEAM

G FLETCHER MAGEE, Wofford

You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a lengthy list of college basketball players who shoot the ball better than Magee, who as a junior was very nearly a 50/40/90 player. Averaging 22.1 points per game, Magee shot 48.4 percent from the field, 43.9 percent from three and 90.9 percent from the foul line. Among Magee’s best performances last season were a 36-point effort in a win at Georgia Tech, 27 in Wofford’s upset win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and a career-high 45 points in a win over Chattanooga in mid-February.

G JON ELMORE, Marshall

While Marshall was unable to get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, losing to West Virginia in the second round, Elmore proved to be one of the most entertaining players in the field to watch. For the season Elmore averaged 22.7 points, 6.8 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game, and in Marshall’s first round win over Wichita State he racked up 27 points, four rebounds and four assists. Elmore has free reign within Dan D’Antoni’s system, and it paid off in a big way for both he and the Thundering Herd. Expect more of the same during Elmore’s senior season.

G D’MARCUS SIMONDS, Georgia State

Simonds was the subject of some NBA chatter heading into the 2017-18 season and with good reason, as he’s got good size for a lead guard (6-foot-3, 200) and can both score and distribute. As a sophomore Simonds averaged 21.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game, and that was despite struggling with his perimeter shooting (29.2 percent from three). If Simonds can approach the percentage he posted as a freshman (35.6 percent) while continuing to attempt more than four three-pointers per game (1.6 three-point attempts per game as a freshman) he becomes an even tougher matchup for opponents.

F MIKE DAUM, South Dakota State

“The Dauminator” (2,232 career points) is well on his way to becoming just the ninth player in Division I history to reach the 3,000 point mark, and provided he remains healthy the senior forward is a safe bet to join that illustrious group. As a junior Daum averaged 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, winning Summit League Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Daum can knock shots down from anywhere on the court, as he shot 46.2 percent from the field, 42.5 percent from three (on 6.5 attempts per game) and 85.1 percent from the foul line.

F DEVONTAE CACOK, UNC Wilmington

As a junior Cacok was the nation’s leading rebounder, pulling down an average of 13.5 caroms per night while also scoring 17.7 points per game and shooting 58.5 percent from the field. The 6-foot-7 senior is a handful on both ends of the floor when it comes to rebounding, as his offensive (17.7) and defensive (32.0) rebounding percentages ranked second and third in the nation, respectively, according to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers.

Jon Elmore (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

SECOND TEAM

G CHRIS CLEMONS, Campbell

In each of the last two seasons Clemons has managed to make his freshman year average of 18.5 points per game, which is more than respectable, look downright pedestrian. After averaging 25.1 points per game as a sophomore the 5-foot-9 lead guard pumped in 24.9 points per contest in 2017-18. Clemons also averaged 4.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for the Camels, and he’s in line to produce another big season as a senior.

G JUSTIN WRIGHT-FOREMAN, Hofstra

The Pride managed to win 19 games last season, thanks in large part to an offensive attack anchored by Wright-Foreman. Last season’s CAA Player of the Year, the 6-foot-1 guard accounted for 24.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, shooting nearly 45 percent from the field on 19 shot attempts per game. Another season like that, and Wright-Foreman could become Hofstra’s first repeat winner of CAA Player of the Year since Charles Jenkins pulled off the feat in 2010 and 2011.

G CLAYTON CUSTER, Loyola-Chicago

The reigning Larry Bird Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year winner, Custer’s back for one final run after helping lead the Ramblers to the program’s first Final Four appearance since 1963. Custer may not have the eye-popping stats that some of the other players on this list possess (Loyola ranking 307th in adjusted tempo had a lot to do with that) but don’t let that fool you; the redshirt senior gets the job done in a variety of ways for Porter Moser’s team. Last season Custer averaged 13.2 points and 4.1 assists per game, shooting 52.8 percent from the field, 45.1 percent from three and 77.0 percent from the foul line.

F NATHAN KNIGHT, William & Mary

While he didn’t receive the attention nationally, Knight was one of college basketball’s most improved players a season ago. The 6-foot-10, 235-pounder raised his scoring average more than ten points, accounting for 18.5 per game after averaging 8.2 points per night as a freshman. Add in his 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.0 blocks per game, and that was good enough to land Knight on the CAA’s second team all-conference squad. Another step forward, and not only will Knight be a first team all-conference selection but he’ll be on the short list of CAA Player of the Year candidates as well.

C/F JAMES THOMPSON IV, Eastern Michigan

Consistency would be a good word to use in describing the 6-foot-10 senior, as he averaged a double-double in each of his first three seasons at Eastern Michigan. Last season Thompson accounted for 14.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, shooting 67.2 percent from the field, and his 20 double-doubles were the most in the MAC. In conference games Eastern Michigan was the best defensive team in the MAC with regards to efficiency, effective field goal percentage and two-point percentage defense, and having Thompson in the middle of Rob Murphy’s zone was a key reason why.

Clayton Custer (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

THIRD TEAM

G JERRICK HARDING, Weber State

After averaging 9.3 points per game in a reserve role as a freshman, Harding took a significant step forward in 2017-18. The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 22.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, shooting 53.0 percent from the field, 42.5 percent from three and 88.2 percent from the foul line. One of three unanimous first team All-Big Sky selections last season, Harding should be the choice for Big Sky preseason Player of the Year.

G MILIK YARBROUGH, Illinois State

Due to some offseason legal issues there were some questions regarding Yarbrough’s status for the upcoming season. However Yarbrough, who was suspended indefinitely in mid-September, participated in the Redbirds’ first practice of the season and based upon Dan Muller’s post-practice comments the redshirt senior appears OK to play. In Yarbrough the Redbirds have the player best equipped to unseat Loyola’s Clayton Custer as Larry Bird Missouri Valley Player of the Year, as he’s coming off of a season in which he averaged 16.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

G CJ MASSINBURG, Buffalo

Last season Buffalo won 27 games, the MAC tournament title and whipped Arizona in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and Massinburg was one of the biggest reasons why. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 17.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game as a junior, shooting 46.8 percent from the field, 40.5 percent from three and 74.3 percent from the foul line. Massinburg will once again be a key cog for a team that returns five of its top six scorers from a season ago.

F JARRELL BRANTLEY, College of Charleston

Thanks to a knee injury Brantley didn’t make his 2017-18 debut until mid-December, and after working off the rust in the Cougars’ first two games the 6-foot-7, 250-pound forward showed just how valuable he was. Brantley finished the season with averages of 17.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, shooting 50.0 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from three and 82.1 percent from the foul line. Brantley was one reason why Earl Grant’s team made the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 1999, and he’s in line for a good senior season as well.

F DYLAN WINDLER, Belmont

The 2017-18 season was Windler’s second as a starter, but his output was far better than what he produced the season prior. After averaging 9.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game in 2016-17, Windler averaged 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in 35.4 minutes per game last season. Windler’s improved production helped Belmont account for the graduation of leading scorers Evan Bradds and Taylor Barnette, with the Bruins winning 24 games and reaching the OVC tournament final.

CJ Massinburg (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

FOURTH TEAM

G GARRISON MATHEWS, Lipscomb

After averaging 20.4 points per game as a sophomore Mathews managed to improve his numbers across the board in 2017-18, averaging 21.7 points per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field, 38.1 percent from beyond the arc and 79.9 percent from the charity stripe. In addition to his offensive numbers Mathews also accounted for 5.5 rebounds per night, and he’ll once again lead the way for a Lipscomb squad that won 23 games and finished second in the Atlantic Sun.

G C.J. BURKS, Marshall

The aforementioned Jon Elmore wasn’t the only Marshall guard good for at least 20 points per night. Last season Burks averaged 20.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, shooting 47.2 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from three and 88.9 percent from the foul line. And this all happened after the 6-foot-3 guard averaged 9.8 points per game in a reserve role as a sophomore. Look for another standout season from the senior guard in 2018-19.

G MAX HEIDEGGER, UCSB

Heidegger was a key contributor for the Gauchos in Joe Pasternak’s first season as head coach, as he averaged 19.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in helping to lead UCSB to 23 wins and a second place finish in the Big West. And after struggling with his shot in a reserve role as a freshman the 6-foot-3 Heidegger made noticeable strides last season, raising his field goal (from 26.8 to 43.2 percent) and three-point field goal (20.5 to 40.4) percentages substantially.

F PHIL FAYNE, Illinois State

The aforementioned Yarbrough doesn’t lack for help on an Illinois State squad that has the pieces needed to dethrone Loyola in the Missouri Valley, with Fayne being the Redbirds’ top option in the front court. Last season the 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward averaged 15.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, shooting 59.5 percent from the field. A second team all-conference selection, Fayne merits serious consideration for preseason first team All-Valley.

F/C CHARLES BASSEY, Western Kentucky

Given the plethora of talented upperclassmen at the mid-major level, this pick may raise some eyebrows. But there’s no denying the talent that the 6-foot-11 freshman from Nigeria possesses. Bassey was considered to be a Top 10 recruit in the Class of 2018, and his athleticism in the post gives WKU an option that last season’s team did not have. And all that team did was win 27 games and reach the semifinals of the Postseason NIT.

HONORABLE MENTION

Francis Alonso, UNCG
James Batemon, Loyola Marymount
Keith Braxton, Saint Francis (PA)
Tookie Brown, Georgia Southern
John Carroll, Hartford
RJ Cole, Howard
Ernie Duncan, Vermont
KJ Feagin, Santa Clara
Armon Fletcher, Southern Illinois
JaKeenan Gant, Louisiana
Tyler Hall, Montana State
Scottie James, Liberty
John Konchar, IPFW
Anthony Lamb, Vermont
Ja Morant, Murray State
Nick Perkins, Buffalo
Isaiah Piniero, San Diego
Ed Polite Jr., Radford
Vasa Pusica, Northeastern
Isaiah Reese, Canisius
Grant Riller, College of Charleston
Ahmaad Rorie, Montana
Dimencio Vaughn, Rider

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

purdue basketball
Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK
6 Comments

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.