We’re coming down the stretch in the college basketball season with just over a month of regular season action left. In the next month, we will separate the strong from the weak, especially when we look at the Mid-Major Player of the Year race.
In last week’s MMPOY breakdown, Creighton’s Doug McDermott held a commanding lead over the rest of the field and appeared to be running away with the award. However, another week has passed. McDermott is still in the first place spot, but the gap is narrowing with strong performances by the rest of the field.
Here’s the Mid-Major Player of the Year rankings for the week of January 30.
1.) Doug McDermott, Creighton (23.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 50 percent three-point field goals)
Once again, Doug McDermott leads the pack with his outstanding season. McDermott’s points have gone down in the last week, highlighted by Creighton’s loss at Drake last Wednesday (the day last week’s rankings came out). McDermott did finish the game with 19 points on 9-13 shooting, but it couldn’t lead the Blue Jays past the Bulldogs. Doug also went 0-6 from three-point range in the loss.
It’s hard to tell if McDermott will ever drop out of the top spot in the rankings, but with a couple more performances such as the game against Drake, we could have a new leader by next week.
2.) Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (21.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists)
Nate Wolters narrowly jumped Canaan for the two-slot this week after a 26-point, seven rebound effort last Saturday against rival and Summit League foe North Dakota State. Wolters shot a solid 7-16 from the field, including 3-5 from three-point land in the game.
South Dakota State has two home games this weekend (vs. South Dakota on Thursday, UMKC on Saturday) both teams Wolters has been known to light up the scoreboard against. Two great showings could put him right on the heels of McDermott for the top slot.
3.) Isaiah Canaan, Murray State (21.1 points, 39 percent three-point field goals)
Another top player that had a rough week was Isaiah Canaan. In two games on the road (@ Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State) Canaan shot a combined 11-32 from the field and 2-10 from three-point range. Murray State fended off Tennessee Tech but fell victim to the heartbreaking one-point loss against Jacksonville State.
Canaan looks to rebound from his subpar performances this Saturday at home against 5-17 Austin Peay. A good showing could but him right back at two and challenge McDermott for the top spot.
4.) Mike Muscala, Bucknell (19.5 points, 11 rebounds)
This is where the rankings become tightly contested, where any player in the four to six spots could be ranked in any order.
Bucknell’s Mike Muscala was held in check twice last week, with one of those games resulting in a loss to Lehigh (who is still playing without star scorer C.J. McCollum). Despite a 16-point, eight rebound game from Muscala, the Bison couldn’t come away with a victory on their home floor.
Muscala is still in the thick of the race but will need a few more outstanding game performances to inject himself into the talks for the number one position.
5.) D.J. Cooper, Ohio (14.6 points, 8.2 assists)
D.J. Cooper is quietly having his best overall year in his career at Ohio, statistically speaking. His points (14.6) per game are down slightly from last season, but his assists (8.2; third in the nation) overall field goal percentage (44 percent) and three-point shooting percentage (35 percent) are the highest of his career. Cooper also has the Bobcats tied for first place in the East division of the Mid-American standings with Akron; both teams stand at 6-0 in the conference.
Cooper isn’t getting the publicity he was when the Bobcats made a run to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament, but with Cooper at the helm, Ohio could be looking to make some magic again this March.
6.) Ian Clark, Belmont (19.2 points, 51 percent three-point field goals)
Belmont as a team isn’t quite getting the recognition it deserves this season. With quality non-conference wins against Oral Roberts and South Dakota State, the Bruins hold down first place of the Ohio Valley, ahead of national favorite Murray State by two games. Belmont has Ian Clark to thank for that.
Clark has attempted 142 three-pointers this season and made 51 percent of them, good for the seventh best percentage in the country. This number is especially impressive when you consider that nobody else in the top 20 for three-point percentage has shot more than 112 attempts. Clark’s overall field goal percentage is also about 50 percent (57.6 percent to be exact). Impressive shooting numbers from an impressive senior guard.
Canaan may be the one getting all the publicity out of the Ohio Valley Conference, but Clark is just as good. Watch out for the match-up between Clark and Canaan on February 7.
7.) Warren Niles, Oral Roberts (19.0 points, 45 percent field goals)
Entering the Southland Conference after their departure from the Summit League this season, Oral Roberts was expected run away with the championship. Their overall record stands at 12-8, but it could be much worse without the production from Warren Niles.
Niles’ stats are a little deceiving considering how sporadic his scoring output has been throughout the season, but his ability to know when to score is uncanny. This is the first season he has been in the leading scorer role for the Golden Eagles, so Niles is slowly adjusting to the weight of the team being on his shoulders. If Niles can keep up the scoring outputs, he and the Golden Eagles could be headed towards the NCAA Tournament.
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh - left off list due to injury.
Travis Bader, Oakland - three-point specialist, all he does is score.
Cleanthony Early, Wichita State - leading scorer for Missouri Valley’s leading team.
Ray MacCallum, Detroit - leading 13th rated scoring offense in nation.
James Ennis, Long Beach State - filling the Casper Ware void nicely.