It was another great year in mid-major hoops full of tremendous stories from around the country. Wichita State captivated the nation with their record setting season, Siena and Murray State won a national championship (kind of), and Dayton throttled their way to the Elite 8. Now that the season is over, who are the most deserving players in the country according to our voting panel?
Player of the Year
Cleanthony Early, SR, Wichita State Shockers: To get a grasp on just how special Wichita State's season was then look no further than our Player of the Year voting. Cleanthony Early beat out teammate Fred Van Vleet narrowly for the honor. The 6'8 Early was the biggest constant on the Wichita State team that made it to the NCAA Tournament undefeated this year and made it to the Final Four last year. Early finished this year averaging 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Let's just say his contributions will not be forgotten any time soon.
Freshman of the Year
Cameron Payne, Murray State Racers: Cameron Payne stepped into a difficult situation at Murray State when Zay Jackson left the program, but the freshman could not have responded any better and is our Mid-Major Freshman of the Year. Payne averaged 16.8 points, 5.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per contest while leading the Racers to the CIT title. Payne just may be the next Isiah Canaan in Murray, Kentucky.
Coach of the Year
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State Shockers: Surprisingly Marshall was not a unanimous pick here as Archie Miller and Mike Brennan garnered one vote each but Marshall dominated the category. That shouldn't surprise anyone for a coach that went 35-1 on the heels of a Final Four appearance. Marshall has made a name for himself and seems to be building an empire in Wichita, Kansas.
Defensive Player of the Year
Rhamel Brown, SR, Manhattan Jaspers: Brown, a key cog in Manhattan's MAAC Championship run, barely edged out VCU's Briante Weber for this honor. Brown averaged nearly 6 rebounds per game but it was his blocks that set him apart. He ended the year with 3.6 blocks per game which was good enough for third in the nation. I'm sure plenty of players in the MAAC will look forward to this big man moving on.
Mid-Major All-American First Team
G- Billy Baron, SR, Canisius Golden Griffins
G- Fred Van Vleet, SO, Wichita State Shockers
F- Cleanthony Early, SR, Wichita State Shockers
F- Jerrelle Benimon, SR, Towson Tigers
C- Alan Williams, JR, UCSB Gauchos
Mid-Major All-American Second Team
G- Keifer Sykes, JR, Green Bay Phoenix
G- Chaz Williams, SR, UMass Minutemen
G- Tyler Haws, JR, BYU Cougars
F- Javon McCrea, SR, Buffalo Bulls
F- Taylor Braun, SR, North Dakota State Bison
Honorable Mention: Aaric Murray (Texas Sourthern), Ron Baker (Wichita State), Maurice Watson Jr. (Boston U), Elfrid Payton (Louisiana), Wesley Saunders (Harvard), JJ Mann (Belmont), Jeremy Ingram (NC Central), RJ Hunter (Georgia State), Jason Brickman (LIU Brooklyn), Antoine Mason (Niagara)
Voting Panel: Parks Smith, Ben Miraski, Catlin Bogard (OVCball.net), Jake Fischer, Adam Hermann (CSN Philly), Sandlapper Spike (The Sports Arsenal), Ray Curren (The Mid-Majority), Jimmy Kelley, Liam Jones, Pat O'Keefe (News 12: The Bronx), Will Maupin, Nicolas Lewis, Stephen Gertz, John Templon (Big Apple Buckets), Dan Bogle, Ryan Peters (Big Apple Buckets), Chris Hondros