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45 days ‘til opening day: The best mid-major back-to-the-basket 4’s and 5’s

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Virginia vs North Carolina-Wilmington Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Nov. 10 couldn’t come soon enough.

As we slide through the final weeks before college basketball returns, we’ll look at one storyline about the upcoming season that lines up with the number of days until opening day. Keep coming back to see if we have the creativity and dedication to pull this off. No promises.

It’s Sept. 26 and we’re just 45 days from opening day.

Okay, the headline might be deceiving. This 45-themed post is indeed dedicated to the power forwards and centers of the mid-major world. But the term “interior” might be a better way to describe the guys listed below rather than “back-to-basket.”

In either case, the players gracing this post do the vast majority of their offensive damage within the three-point line. With so many bigs trying to excite pro scouts by showing their range, the paint-oriented forward or center is becoming a rarity.

Here are some of the best of the mid-major players that make their basketball living around the basket. Did we miss someone? Make sure to loudly let us know.

Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s

The Gaels’ hyper-efficient offense has plenty of shooters and an elite facilitator in Emmett Naar. But it’s Landale’s deadly efficiency around rim that anchors the entire show. The preseason All-American scored in double figures in all but two games last season, and finished fourth in the WCC in effective field goal percentage (59.0%).

Devontae Cacok, UNC Wilmington

Kevin Keatts is gone. C.J. Bryce, Chris Flemmings and Denzel Ingram are gone. But Cacok is back and will try and keep the Seahawks’ potent offense afloat. The junior led the country in both effective field goal percentage (79.0%) and true shooting percentage (76.1%) last season by, unsurprisingly, hardly venturing outside the paint.

Anthony Lamb, Vermont

The Catamounts have one of the country’s best point guards in Trae Bell-Haynes. They also have a difference maker on the interior in Lamb, who averaged 19.5 points per game over the final nine contests of his freshman year. He can step out to the three-point line, like he did against Purdue in the NCAA Tournament, but is a natural in a Vermont offense that excelled within the paint.

James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan

The junior has a career average of 14.8 points per game, though his shooting numbers fell slightly last season. He’ll be relied on more in 2017-18 as the Eagles lose three key guards to graduation. If nothing else, Thompson has been the MAC’s best offensive rebounder, and one of the best in the country, the past two years. Scoring chances should be plentiful.

Colton Weisbrod, Lamar

If Lamar is going to break out under Tic Price next season, it’ll be in large part because of Weisbrod. The junior got to the line at a higher rate than anyone else in Southland play last year, and was a respectable 71.1 percent shooter while there. He ended the season on a downturn, but had multiple 30 plus point games last season, showing the dominant interior force he can be.

Daniel Amigo, Denver

Amigo fell out of former coach Joe Scott’s rotation as a sophomore in 2015-16. That changed under first-year coach Rodney Billups, as the 6’10’’ Amigo put up 15.5 points per game last season. He was the focal point of the Summit League’s third-most efficient offense. With no seniors on last year’s roster, Amigo and the Pioneers should be even better in 2017-18.

Rashaan Holloway, UMass

The massive Holloway has only been used in short bursts over his two-year career, but he’s been effective when on the court. Holloway averaged 10.4 points in just 19.0 minutes per game last season. New Minutemen coach Matt McCall ran some great offenses at Chattanooga with big man Justin Tuoyo, and now gets to work with a skilled center in Holloway.

Nana Foulland, Bucknell

The reigning Patriot League Player of the Year has averaged double figure scoring in each of his first three seasons. Last year, he helped the Bison dominate conference foes with a 63.0 effective field goal percentage. It should be more of the same in 2017-18.

Jalen Hayes, Oakland

Hayes has been a reliable low-post scorer for Greg Kampe for three consecutive seasons. The senior may have been overshadowed by Kay Felder and Martez Walker in the past (and Walker and Kendrick Nunn this upcoming season), but he’s a big reason the Golden Grizzlies are the favorite in the Horizon League.

Brandon McCoy, UNLV

It’d be negligent to leave McCoy off this list, as the big-bodied McDonald’s All-American is pegged by many to be a first round pick. He’s yet to play a game, but might be the most talented player at the mid-major level this season.

Chima Moneke, UC Davis

The Aussie had a coming out party in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 19.0 points over the Aggies’ two games. In league play, he drew more fouls per 40 minutes than anyone else in the Big West and scored 21.4 points per 40 minutes. That should translate into a monster senior year.