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MAC preseason awards: James Thompson IV gets top honors

Thompson joins a heavy contingent of Buffalo stars in our awards.

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Michigan at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The MAC returns a lot of the top talent from last year, which makes for an exciting awards race once conference play roles around. Here are our preseason awards.

Player of the Year: James Thompson IV, Forward/Center, Eastern Michigan

The Eagles’ center has been a double-double machine and a model of consistency during his college career. Thompson has averaged a double-double in each of his three years, and has career averages of 14.5 PPG and 11.2 RPG. Last year, he took another step defensively by averaging 1.9 blocks per game. He’s cut in the mold of Deandre Jordan.

Thompson is arguably the most important player to his team’s success in the MAC. He’s the anchor of the league’s best defense, and you know what you’re getting with him every night. He’s racked up awards all throughout his career: Freshman of the Year, All-MAC first and second team selections, All-MAC Defensive Team honors. All that’s left to accomplish is Player of the Year and an NCAA Tournament bid.

Newcomer of the Year: Chris Darrington, Guard, Toledo

The Tennessee transfer never found much of a role with the Vols, and subsequently made the decision to return to his hometown. At Toledo, he should fit into the Rockets’ offense that has become one of the most potent attacks around. The combo guard should fit in nicely alongside Jaelan Sanford and Marreon Jackson, and could even carve out a role leading bench units for Toledo.

Dark Horse Team: Miami OH

They’re a young team, but you can start to see the vision of what Jack Owens is doing in Oxford. With a stud lead guard in Nike Sibande, the Redhawks have began to build a roster full of young talent. Jalen Adaway and Delonte Brown were immediate impact players as freshmen. Bam Bowman has been solid for two years and is now an upperclassman. Darrian Ringo returned to school, giving the Redhawks one of the best two-way guards in the conference. Overall, the Redhawks were one of the better defensive teams in the league last year, which is promising given the youth on the roster. They might still be a year away, but it appears that things could be turning around for Miami.

First Team

CJ Massinburg, Sr., G, Buffalo
Nick Perkins, Sr., F, Buffalo
Eugene German, Jr., G, Northern Illinois
James Thompson IV, Sr., F, Eastern Michigan
Tayler Persons, Sr., G, Ball State

Second Team

Jaelan Sanford, Sr., G, Toledo
Jeremy Harris, Sr., G/F, Buffalo
Elijah Minnie, Sr., F, Eastern Michigan
Nike Sibande, So., G, Miami OH
Jason Carter, Jr., F, Ohio