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All-Mid-Major Madness: First Team and Player of the Year

Three unanimous selections and, really, no surprises.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-South Carolina vs Gonzaga Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We finish our All-Mid-Major Madness Awards reveal with the First Team and Player of the Year honorees. Three of the five first-teamers were selected unanimously, and all five were clearly a cut above the rest all season. The best part? Only one senior. That means we should have a few back for an encore in 2017-18.

All awards were voted on by our staff. See the honorable mention selections and Third Team here. Click here for the Second Team.

2016-17 All-Mid-Major Madness First Team

Mike Daum, South Dakota State (Unanimous)

When our staff began making conference tournament picks, I was startled by how many people were picking South Dakota State, the 4 seed, to win the Summit League. I inquired, and everyone had the same answer: Mike Daum. I knew Daum was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but in a single-elimination tournament where anything can happen, he brought his best. He scored 88 points over three days to lead the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament. That run came two games after he dropped 51 on Fort Wayne behind seven threes and 16-17 shooting from the line. Oh, and he had 15 rebounds in that game too.

Marcus Keene, Central Michigan

Speaking of players capable of getting all the points, Keene made 40-point nights a common occurrence in the MAC. He scored 40-or-more seven times this season, including a 50-point night of his own on Jan. 21 against Miami-Ohio. He hit 10 threes in the game. The 5’9 junior led the MAC in percentage of shots taken, but also placed fifth in assist rate, showing he can dish it out as well. Keene has already littered his name throughout the CMU record book, despite having only played one season for the Chippewas (he transferred from Youngstown State). His 2016-17 performance shattered the school record for points in a season (959), three-pointers made (125), scoring average (30.0 ppg), and free throws made (208). Now if only he had a better supporting cast.

Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s (Unanimous)

In a league dominated by Gonzaga’s burly gentlemen, it’s easy to forget that Landale was one of the best players overall. Heck, you could argue he was THE best player in the West Coast Conference. Landale was national runner-up for KenPom Player of the Year (behind Villanova’s Josh Hart), and helped lead the Gaels to one of their best seasons ever. The big man from down under did everything imaginable down under the basket (wow I tried too hard there), leading the WCC in offensive rebounding percentage and shooting 63 percent from two. He didn’t score in bunches quite like Daum and Keene, but he was as consistent as you can get, racking up 17 double-doubles this season. If he returns to school, he can be one of the best players in the country next year.

Alec Peters, Valparaiso

We were all crushed when Peters sustained an injury at the end of the season that really stymied Valpo’s chances at a run to the NCAA Tournament. Before that, Peters was able to make a difference for the Crusaders from every spot on the floor. He shot nearly 40 percent from three in conference, often pulled down 10-plus rebounds, dished out assists, and knocked down his free throws with regularity. The Crusaders lost a couple surprising games, but with a healthy Peters, they certainly could have been a Cinderella team in March. Still, he leaves college as Valparaiso’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder. By a lot.

Our fifth First Team member, a unanimous selection, is also the Player of the Year...

2016-17 All-Mid-Major Madness Player of the Year:

Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga

Yeah, our player of the year is from the team that went to the national championship game. It’s a shock, I know. The catalyst to the most memorable season in school history was one of the most important players for his team in the country. Gonzaga was an exceptionally balanced team, loaded with options and experience, and Williams-Goss was the point guard that allowed the machine to run smoothly. He’s a solid defender and racked up steals, but he truly stared by making plays for his teammates, shooting his shot, and simply being a smart, experienced player. His game against Xavier in the Elite Eight was emblematic of his season, and Gonzaga’s as a whole. Williams-Goss was 4-7 from three, scored 28 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out four assists, while Gonzaga coasted to an easy victory. Williams-Goss has another year of eligibility remaining. We selfishly hope he uses it.

Also receiving votes: Mike Daum, Alec Peters, Jock Landale