Welcome to awards week at Mid-Major Madness! This week, we’re honoring the best players, coach, and game from the 2018-19 season, continuing today with our Coach of the Year.
In late February, Wofford entered the AP Poll for the first time, and head coach Mike Young summed up the feeling in six simple words.
“That was special,” Young said. “That was awesome.”
Those six words could’ve stood in for the Terriers’ entire season. Wofford won a program-record 30 games, blitzed through a strong SoCon without a loss to grab the regular season title, won the league tournament and won a game in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. That litany of accomplishments make Mike Young the Mid-Major Madness Coach of the Year.
The Terriers went 8-4 in the non-conference, with each loss coming to a team in the KenPom top 32, and a win at South Carolina added in the mix. Wofford’s brutally efficient, three-point heavy offense then helped it tear through a SoCon that included an also-ranked Furman team, First Team Out UNC Greensboro, and a salty 24-win East Tennessee State team.
Wofford’s regular season masterpieces may have been two blowout wins over the Spartans. The Terriers first grabbed a 29-point win at UNCG in early January, and then followed it up with a 30-point win in the return game in Spartanburg. In each, it was the Terriers’ less-heralded defense — itself a top-60 KenPom unit— that held the Spartans in check.
“They were tremendous,” [UNCG coach Wes] Miller said [after the second game]. “When you’re playing against a great defense and you miss a couple that you could make, it makes it harder and harder to get over the hump, and it kind of snowballed on us.”
Wofford then pulled away late to beat UNCG for a third time in the SoCon Tournament championship game. Win or not, Wofford had already locked up an at-large bid by that point, an accomplishment in itself for the small South Carolina school that has been at the Division I level for just over 20 years.
Young talked about the team he had built after it clinched its trip to the sport’s greatest event.
“This is a really good basketball team,” Young said. “Don’t give me that mid-major stuff and all that garbage. This is what you see. This is a big, talented team that can score and I cannot wait to play again in that great, great tournament.”
And it truly was Young’s hallmark team. It executed his offense to perfection, seemingly finding a high percentage look — often from deep — on every possession. Since 2000, Wofford’s average KenPom ranking was 195, and while three of Young’s teams finished in the top-100, this team blew them all out of the water, finishing at 18.
In total, Young has defined Wofford basketball for much of its Division I era. The longtime coach took over in 2002 and after a half-decade of building, turned the Terriers into a consistent SoCon threat. Since the 2009-10 season, Wofford has never finished worse than fourth in the conference, won four regular season titles and made the NCAA Tournament five times.
That fifth trip produced the first win, as seventh-seeded Wofford held off Seton Hall with a scoring barrage in the final 10 minutes to pick up a 16-point first-round win. A confident Terriers’ team then challenged second-seeded Kentucky in a low-scoring second-round game before ultimately falling short.
Young’s recruiting and development chops were on full display in the Terriers’ historic season. Wofford was led by a pair of seniors that spent their entire careers in Spartanburg in SoCon POY Fletcher Magee (20.3 PPG, 41.9 3P%) and Cameron Jackson (14.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG). Magee set the all-time NCAA Division I career three-point record (509 made threes) in the win over Seton Hall, and was the top option in the country’s 10th-most efficient offense. Jackson was the Terriers’ low-post anchor, and a first-team SoCon honoree as well.
The 2018-19 success catapulted Young into the Virginia Tech job, but he did not leave the cupboard bare for former assistant Jay McAuley, who has major contributors like Storm Murphy, Nathan Hoover and Keve Aluma still in the mix. He leaves for Blacksburg with the Mid-Major Coach of the Year honor, surely the one he coveted most.
Other coaches receiving votes: Craig Smith (Utah State), Chris Jans (New Mexico State).
Later today: Player of the Year