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Mike Daum is balling, and it’s time to take notice

The sophomore forward has been one of the most dominant players in the country this year.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Maryland vs South Dakota State Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Want to see a good line? How about 39 points, 11 rebounds, and 16-of-16 from the charity stripe.

That was Mike Daum’s production against Murray State last weekend. His career-high performance propelled South Dakota State to its fifth win in six games, and garnered national attention from ESPN.

First-year Head Coach T.J. Otzelberger gushed over his play in the win:

"Mike is sensational. I felt like this game was a little more physical than some that we've had and he really had to work as crazy as that sounds. He was efficient as always, he did it on 22 shots.”

For those who haven’t heard of Daum, that line may seem outrageous, but it’s far from an anomaly. The sophomore isn’t just one of the best mid-major bigs; he’s one of the best bigs in the country. Despite being only a sophomore, Daum already has a growing collection of accolades.

He was named to the All-Summit League First Team as a freshman, and picked up the Summit League Freshman of the Year award as well. Perhaps the most surprising part is that he did it all while coming off the bench, and took home the Sixth Man of the Year Award to top it off.

So far this year, Daum is averaging 22.1 points per game, 8.4 rebounds per game and has 56.5/40.4/91.1 shooting splits. It’s rare to find a guard that can put up those kind of shooting numbers, let alone a 6’9” forward.

His ability to play both on the wing and in the post presents a mismatch for almost anyone that covers him. If a team puts a smaller guy on him to contain him on the perimeter, he punishes them on the block. If they choose to put a big guy on him to contain his post presence, he makes them pay from the outside. Few teams have the luxury of having a dynamic offensive force like Daum.

Even though Daum is a threat from the outside, he does most of his damage on the interior. He draws fouls at an incredible rate, coming in at 8.6 FD (fouls drawn)/40 minutes per KenPom, which is eighth in the country. Last year, he was at 7.6 FD/40, which was sixth in the country.

Drawing the fouls is one step, but capitalizing on those opportunities is another. Daum is among the best in the country from the free-throw line, and is shooting 91.1 percent on the year. He’s made his last 40 attempts, and has made 26 (!!) more free throws than anyone else in the country.

Daum is among the nation’s best in Offensive Win Shares, a metric that estimates how many wins a player contributes on offense. He’s contributed 2.1 OWS, which is top-5 in the country. You may have heard of some of the players he’s ahead of: Frank Mason, Luke Kennard, Lonzo Ball, Alec Peters.

As good of a player that Daum is, he still has some work to do if he hopes to play at the next level. DraftExpress doesn’t have him in any of their mock drafts, and has him rated as the No. 78 sophomore overall. Otzelberger told CBSSports that he’s hearing otherwise:

"People connected to the NBA tell me they believe he can play in that league," Otzelberger said. "He has to continue to work on his body, get stronger, play with a lower base, and speed up the release on his 3-point shot. But he's highly skilled and intelligent. He's a great inside-outside threat. And he's a great character guy.”

Otzelberger makes a good case for his star player. The NBA is becoming a game that focuses on versatility and skilled players, and Daum fits that mold. He’s shown that he can play with anyone in the country, so it’s not far-fetched to think that he could fill a role at the next level.

Until then, Daum will continue to torch opposing defenses. He’s on track to eclipse the 1,000-point mark this year, and is on pace to pass Nate Wolters’ school record of 2,363 points if he stays all four years. Daum was the Summit League’s Preseason Player of the Year, and his play thus far has lived up to that billing. It’s not a matter of if Daum will receive more accolades, it’s which ones he’ll get.

The Jackrabbits are currently 7-7, and considered to be in the middle of the pack in the Summit League. However, with a player like Daum, it’s entirely possible that they can find a way to make the NCAA Tournament like they did last year. Daum took home the Summit League Tournament MVP en route to winning the conference tournament.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to watch Daum and the Jackrabbits, they’re in action tonight against Wichita State. The Shockers are a great team in their own right, but in this game, or any game for that matter, don’t be surprised if Daum is the best player on the floor.