Here at Mid-Major Madness, we watch College GameDay so you don't have to, because frankly the number of mentions for teams that we cover don't even reach the total number of scholarships that a Division 1 basketball team could hand out.
That is, until today.
Color me surprised, over the moon, ecstatic. Today was essentially a mid-major bonanza on GameDay. Not only was the featured game Gonzaga vs. Memphis, which scored a number of mentions for the Zags and a very stylish appearance by Mark Few, today was the College GameDay draft.
You remember last year, right? That was when Digger Phelps, Jalen Rose and Jay Bilas refused to acknowledge that most mid-major teams exist. We picked a mid-major five to go against them and basically ran them out of the gym with their funky scoring system.
Today was different. It started when Rece Davis was suddenly fielding a team, which is never a good sign. If there is one guy that looks deep into college basketball for the ringers, it is Davis.
He even remarked with his first and second picks, both mid-major players, that he was playing to win. Something tells me that Rece read our series last year and saw the strategy laid out before him.
But then it got weird. Mid-major players started going up on the board left and right. Digger even dipped his toes into the water to select Cleanthony Early. Stop the madness (actually don't stop the madness, we are starting to like this)!
When they had started to pick, I had thrown together a list of players that would be the Mid-Major Five for this year, except that they won't be. Almost all of those players were taken in the draft, including the one holdover we would have from last season.
"I go to Towson and take Jeriel Benjamin," Jalen Rose said. Davis looked at his cheat sheet.
Yeah, that was supposed to be Mid-Major Five star from last season (one who didn't even get to play in the final week of the contest), Jerrelle Benimon.
Rece Davis took away our chance to have UCSB's Alan Williams, and then immediately he took Elfrid Payton, from Louisiana-Lafayette. In the second round, Bilas snagged Ragin' Cajun Shawn Long, our surprise choice at center.
I was shocked. Pleasantly pleased by shocked. But then what Rece Davis said before his last pick stuck out to me.
"I am going off the board here ... ," he started.
There was a draft board. Someone seeded these players. The cheat sheet to beat all cheat sheets had given them these non-household names that Davis had kidded about.
Someone at ESPN is playing attention.
So our Mid-Major Five for this season had to be cobbled together from what was left. It isn't a bad squad; it just isn't who we expected we would be taking when the GameDay draft began.
Our starting five:
From Tennessee State, Patrick Miller, a guy playing on one of the worst teams in the country. But he is such a critical part of that offense, playing almost every minute available. He is a distributor and he knows how to get to the foul line and knock them down. He shoots 77.8 percent at the line, and we will be counting on that to pad our stats.
From Delaware, Devon Saddler, the scorer, the man. With all the personnel issues for the Blue Hens, Saddler, the school's all-time leading scorer, is going to be a major factor as Delaware looks to close out the CAA season. He will be our shooter, and help to pad a little of the rest of the stats with his consistently great play.
From Youngstown State, Kendrick Perry, the all-around threat. No player does everything for his team quite like Kendrick Perry, and he will need to do it for the Mid-Major Five. I consistently believe that he is overlooked by most of the country because the Penguins don't have enough around him to compete in the Horizon League. We get to showcase Perry a little more.
From Buffalo, Javon McCrea, the FORWARD. Yeah, it deserves all caps. McCrea is one of the best shooters in the country, one of the best rebounders in the country, and one of the best shot blocking artists in the country. He isn't quite Shawn Long material, but he can hammer the ball away with the best of them. We will be looking for quite a bit from McCrea to anchor the inside. Come on man, don't let us down.
From Chattanooga, Z. Mason, the equalizer. At the beginning of the year, I had Z. Mason pegged as one of the top players in the country, if only because he generates a ton of value for the Mocs. He is another beast on the boards, especially at the defensive end, and he swats them away with the best of them. He can score too.
Stepping back, this is a good team, one that can compete. It won't be the blowout that last year was though. This is going to take some work.
Come on Mid-Major Five. Beat these guys.
|Elfrid Payton, ULL
|Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
|Keifer Sykes, Green Bay
|Doug McDermott, Creighton
|Patrick Miller, Tennessee State
|Kyle Anderson, UCLA
|Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
|Antoine Mason, Niagara
|Devon Saddler, Delaware
|Jabari Parker, Duke
|Cleanthony Early, Wichita St.
|Shabazz Napier, UConn
|Kendrick Perry, Youngstown State
|Alan Williams, UCSB
|Cam Bairstow, New Mexico
|Jerrelle Benimon, Towson
|Jordan Mickey, LSU
|Julius Randle, Kentucky
|Aaric Murray, Tx. Southern