Star power is on full display among the mid-major ranks this year. So many of the game’s best talents have been around the block a few times, and it showed in our staff’s picks for preseason All-Americans. Of the 15 players selected, 10 of them are seniors, four are juniors and just one is a sophomore.
It could be optimism or just general mid-major bias, but this feels like it will be a huge year for mid-major stars. There are real superstars. Some are chasing records. Some are back to do more damage in March. Some are back to do both. This year is going to be a ton of fun.
Here are the Mid-Major Madness Preseason All-Americans as voted on by our staff.
Jon Elmore, Sr., Guard, Marshall (unanimous)
Elmore truly burst onto the scene last year in the NCAA Tournament, but the Thundering Herd point guard was stuffing stat sheets all season long. Last year he became just the 12th player since the 1992-93 season to average at least 20 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is the engine that makes Marshall’s free-flowing offense go. His senior campaign should be his best yet.
Caleb Martin, Sr., Guard, Nevada (unanimous)
The Martwins’ decision to return to school instantly put the Wolf Pack in the national title conversation. Caleb Martin has garnered attention from national outlets by being named to multiple preseason All-American lists and even getting some consideration for National Player of the Year. The Wolf Pack come into the season with KenPom’s No. 1 offense, and Martin might be the biggest reason why. If Nevada goes as far as some people think they can, Caleb Martin’s star will burn even brighter.
Mike Daum, Sr., Forward, South Dakota State (unanimous)
What more is there to say about Mike Daum? One of college basketball’s all-time great scorers is entering his final collegiate season. Barring injury or a significant decline in production, Daum is going to reach 3,000 points. There’s only thing left for Daum to do: find a way to win in March. The Jackrabbits have been to the NCAA Tournament three straight years, but have been bounced in the first round each time. A March run is the only way to send off one of the best mid-major players in recent memory.
Fletcher Magee, Sr., Guard, Wofford
Speaking of making a run at records, Fletcher Magee could go down as one of the best three-point marksmen ever. His 148 threes last year is the fifth-best single-season mark since the three-point line was added to the college game. Career-wise, he’s 153 behind Travis Bader’s all-time record of 504 threes. A monster season from Magee could result in both the single-season and career records going down. We’ll be tracking those pursuits all year.
Rui Hachimura, Jr., Forward, Gonzaga
The Rui hype train has been gaining steam all offseason. He’s been projected as a future NBA lottery pick. He had a dominant performance at the FIBA World Cup. Gonzaga comes into the year as a top-5 team with national title aspirations. All the stars are lining up for Rui to have a memorable year. Due to Gonzaga’s deep roster, his counting numbers might not be as gaudy as some of the others on this list, but his talent level and the impact that he can have on both ends of the floor make him one of the most intriguing players in college basketball.
Chris Clemons, Sr., Guard, Campbell
Mike Daum isn’t the only player who will reach 3,000 points this year. Chris Clemons and Daum actually enter the season with the same amount of career points: 2,232. Clemons is the latest scoring dynamo under six feet to torment opponents. Clemons finished fourth nationally in scoring average last year, making him college basketball’s leading returning scorer. Don’t be surprised if he takes the scoring crown this year.
Killian Tillie, Jr., Forward, Gonzaga
Disclaimer: Awards were voted on before Tillie’s ankle injury was announced.
Hachimura might be garnering most of the hype from Gonzaga’s front court, but Killian Tillie might be the Zags’ best offensive weapon. The junior from France was one of the nation’s most efficient players and knocked in nearly 48 percent of his threes. His ankle injury — which will sideline him for eight weeks — certainly hurts. But he’ll still have all of WCC play and the NCAA Tournament to make an impact. Gonzaga is a national title contender, and Tillie is one of the main reasons why.
Kellan Grady, So., Guard, Davidson
Grady is the lone sophomore on this list, but for good reason. He averaged 18 points per game as a secondary option in his freshman season, and that number is likely to see a major bump. He’s drawing comparisons to another Davidson guard that could fill it up, and some people have floated Grady as a potential lottery pick. He’ll be one of the purest scorers in the country in one of the best mid-major leagues. He’s a candidate to have a breakout moment in the NCAA Tournament if Davidson makes it back this year.
Dylan Windler, Sr., Forward, Belmont
Windler made a huge leap last year to become one of the most versatile forwards in the country. He averaged over 17 points and nine rebounds per game while also knocking in over 40 percent of his threes. He’s the perfect front court player for the modern game, and he fits Rick Byrd’s system perfectly. He’s underrated nationally, but fans of mid-majors know just how good Windler is.
D’Marcus Simonds, Jr., Guard, Georgia State
The reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year was the catalyst behind Georgia State’s run to the tournament. Simonds asserted himself as one of the best lead guards in the country, and he’s the biggest reason for Georgia State being the preseason favorite in the Sun Belt. He’ll be in the race for the scoring title, and even a small improvement in efficiency would make him a tougher cover.
Clayton Custer, Sr., Guard, Loyola Chicago
His counting numbers aren’t all that exciting, but there’s a reason Custer is the reining Player of the Year in the Valley. He’s the Ramblers’ steady leader, and it showed last year on their run to the Final Four. This year, Custer returns to lead a team that is going from being the hunter to the hunted. He’s a great facilitator. He’s a knockdown shooter. He defends. What more could you want in a point guard?
Jordan Caroline, Sr., Forward, Nevada
This Nevada roster is packed with talent, but Jordan Caroline is the heart and soul of the Wolf Pack, whether it’s playing the small ball center or stepping out on the perimeter, Caroline can impact the game all over the floor. He’s an athletic freak, and he gives Eric Musselman flexibility with his lineup selections.
Cody Martin, Sr., Guard, Nevada
The other Martwin is a Swiss army knife for the Wolf Pack. Only six players in the country averaged at least 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game and Martin was one of them. On top of being a defensive stalwart, Cody also hauled in over six rebounds per game and dished out almost five assists per game. His brother Caleb receives a lot of the headlines, but Cody is just as important to Nevada’s success.
Garrison Mathews, Sr., Guard, Lipscomb
Mathews’ scoring led Lipscomb to its first ever NCAA Tournament last year. He’s another guy who has kind of flown under the radar, but Matthews has averaged 20 points per game in each of the last two seasons. Now that the Bisons are a known entity, Mathews will start to get the recognition he deserves as one of the game’s great bucket getters.
Yoeli Childs, Jr., Forward, BYU
With all the love that Gonzaga’s front court gets, it’s easy to forget about Childs. However, Childs is not just one of the best forwards in the WCC, he’s one of the best in the country. Here’s the list of players who averaged at least 17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and shot 50 percent: Deandre Ayton, Xavier Cooks, Bonzie Colson and Yoeli Childs. That’s pretty good company. Childs does everything you want out of a big man.
The following players also received votes: Roosevelt Smart (North Texas), Jordan Ford (Saint Mary’s), RJ Cole (Howard), Milik Yarbrough (Illinois State), Nick Mayo (Eastern Kentucky), Nathan Knight (William & Mary), Trey Porter (Nevada), Devontae Cacok (UNC Wilmington), Vasa Pusica (Northeastern), C.J. Massinburg (Buffalo), Zach Norvell Jr. (Gonzaga), Kyle Allman (Cal State Fullerton), Tookie Brown (Georgia Southern), Jamaal King Jr. (Saint Francis PA), Bryce Aiken (Harvard), Jarell Brantley (College of Charleston), Geno Crandall (Gonzaga), James Thompson IV (Eastern Michigan)