Ed Daniel's hair is not the reason he is in our top players from November - Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE
First we looked at teams that were off to a strong start, now it is time to address players. Did we have a little big-man bias? Possibly, but the guards will get their due, don't worry.
With the end of November so recent in our memory, we are looking back on the last month of basketball action and noting those things that stood out to us. Thursday morning we looked at the teams that had accomplished quite a bit during this first month.
Now it is time to look at the players who made big waves during November. We all had different criteria for this. Some went the pure scoring route. Others looked at a more overall game.
I have to start with the player who I think did the most for his postseason award winning potential, and I gave that away when talking about his team. Mike Muscala has just been a beast in the early going for Bucknell. He is among the national leaders in offensive efficiency, rebounding efficiency, blocking, etc., etc., etc. Find a category and Muscala is probably one of the best at it.
He was on our top 50 mid-major players to begin the year at No. 29 and he probably has moved himself into the top 10. I wouldn't be surprised to see his name start getting some serious consideration for All-American honors, and we probably screwed up by not looking at him as such earlier this year.
If I had to pick a player of the year so far in the mid-major world -- and this is no slight to Kevin Pangos, or Elias Harris, or Doug McDermott, or any of the guards that are kicking butt -- it is Muscala, who has turned in a monster performance every night.
This season, he is averaging 18.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.2 blocks, all while not fouling and being a force inside. Yeah, he good (even if those number include his best games in December; bet he reappears on this list).
Another player on my list that we haven't talked about much here is Ohio's D.J. Cooper. We all know what Cooper can do (and well, December hasn't been so kind to the Bobcats), so maybe it doesn't stand out like it should. But here is why Coop should be getting more attention.
He has improved his shooting and offensive production across the board, but he has kept his teammates in it. Last season, Coop but the team on his back and didn't distribute as often as he probably should have. If you want a reason why Ohio wasn't as dominate in the regular season as they should have been (and showed in the NCAA Tournament) that is why. This year, he is back to passing the ball, and is among the national leaders in assist percentage. And like I said, he is shooting better. Don't sleep on Coop.
Third on my list (ignoring some of the obvious candidates like McDermott, or C.J. McCollum, or Isaiah Canaan) is Murray State's Ed Daniel. The man with the hair should be famous for more than his fro. His rebounding skill has been impressive at both ends of the floor, he can block, shoot, whatever you need.
About the only thing that Daniel hasn't had to do is pass, and when you have two great distributors on the team, there is no need for a third.
If Daniel can keep this up for the rest of the season, he might be more important to the Racers than anything that Canaan does with his shooting.
Here is how the rest of the staff ran down the best of the mid-majors in November.
Jeff Early, Southern Illinois: This man is the reason the Salukis have been surprising so far. I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say that last season (his first with SIU), Early didn't really do anything particularly well. So far this season, he's doing everything well. I know it's early on, but if he can stay anywhere close to his current 18.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg averages, this year might not be so awful after all for the Salukis.
Cole Dickerson, San Francisco: Last season Dickerson put up a mere seven points per game, and while his average is up to 14 per game so far this year, that is as much a side product of his increased role and the increased shots that come with it. The more impressive fact is that, after hauling in 191 rebounds in 825 minutes his first two seasons, he now has 75 boards in the Dons' first five games, good enough to lead the nation on a per game basis.
Michael Kessens, Longwood: Not too shabby for a Swiss freshman, I'd say. The Lancers have played a mere five games as well, but Kessens - after only 14 minutes in their opener against *gulp* Creighton - posted three consecutive double-doubles in which he averaged 17 points and 19 rebounds. He came back down to Earth on Saturday against Dartmouth, and it will be a long year for he and his team no matter what, but certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Honorable mention to San Fran's De'End Parker
Anthony Salom (Miner Rush):
DeAndre Kane, Marshall: While the Herd haven't gotten off to the start they had hoped for, the blame can't fall on Kane. He is currently averaging 16 points per game, to go along with 5.0 rebounds, 8.4 assists, and two steals.
Zeke Marshall, Akron: In only 28 minutes of action a game, Marshall is averaging 12 points and 7.8 rebounds, while shooting better than 60 percent from the field. Not to mention, he's currently third in the nation in blocks with 4.5 per game.
Fred Hunter, Nicholls State: Hunter is currently averaging 21.7 points and 6.7 rebounds a game, while shooting better than 62 percent from the field, which is quite a feat for a guard.