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Preseason Awards: The All-Mid-Major Madness Second Team

I am delighted to report that Fatts Szn is upon us

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 04 Dayton at Rhode Island Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In a season like no other, we can at least find some familiarity on our All-Mid-Major Madness Preseason Second Team. Out of the five honorees, four of them are seniors, and that includes 2018 Final Four participant Cameron Krutwig (Loyola University Chicago). Four have also played in the NCAA Tournament, with sophomore sensation Tre Mitchell the only exception. If you don’t know him, you will soon enough.

It’s also safe to say that most of these second-teamers know each other. Three of them play in the Atlantic 10, which placed more teams in the preseason The Other Top 25 than any league. Our two senior A-10 representatives, Fatts Russell and Jordan Goodwin, are both scheduled to face the sophomore Mitchell and his UMass Minutemen twice this year.

Experience and scoring prowess rule the day on our Second Team. Here’s what you need to know about them:

Cameron Krutwig, Sr., Loyola University Chicago

While the college basketball normies clung to Sister Jean during the 2018 NCAA Tournament, Noted Large Gentleman Cameron Krutwig stole our hearts. As Loyola made its unforgettable Final Four run, Krutwig was a sturdy presence in the middle, causing us to marvel that he was only a freshman. In the years since, he has increased his scoring output and rebound average all while taking an increasingly significant role in the Ramblers’ offense. Last year, he ranked in the top five in the Missouri Valley in both percentage of possessions used and percentage of shots taken. While that led to a slight dip in efficiency, he still posted 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field. Those are the numbers you’d expect from the first player in program history to post a triple-double — though his 6’9, 255-pound frame might not be the package in which you’d expect it to be delivered.

Loyola returns all five of its starters from last year and is, at worst, the second-best team in the Valley. Expect Krutwig and fellow senior Lucas Williamson to play a pivotal role as they take one last crack at March Madness.

Fatts Russell, Sr., Rhode Island

People are going to remember you if you have a name like Fatts. People are especially going to remember you if you have a name like Fatts, you play 36 minutes per game for a contending Atlantic 10 team, and you regularly drop 20 on your opponents. Fatts (or Daron, if you prefer), is one of the most electric players in the nation. Standing at just 5’10, he led the nation in steals per game last year, and on the other end is as good a scorer as any guard outside the Division I power conference structure. The 18.8 points per game, buoyed by a team-high 60 made threes, were great enough. He also averaged 4.6 assists per game, which, granted, is easier to do when you’re surrounded by the likes of Jeff Dowtin, Tyrese Martin, and Cyril Langevine. All three are gone now and Russell may have to take things into his own hands a little more. That’s just fine. He shoots well enough from three (35%) that you can’t leave him open, but is quick enough to beat anyone off the dribble. How well Russell can add the Rams’ eight newcomers into the action might determine how far URI can go.

Isaiah Miller, Sr., UNC Greensboro

There are few players in the nation as important to their team as Isaiah Miller is to UNC Greensboro. The senior took the third-highest percentage of his team’s shots last year of any player in Division I, according to KenPom, and given that the Spartans lost three starters from last year, they’ll lean on him just as much. Miller averaged 17.8 per game last season to go with 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 steals. That was enough to earn him Southern Conference Player of the Year honors and a second-straight Defensive Player of the Year award. Miller is also closing in on some history. He’s eighth all-time in steals in SoCon history and is 94 away from the all-time mark. Scoring-wise, he was a mark of consistency last year, starting every game UNC Greensboro played and scoring in double figures in 28 out of 32. Furman is the favorite in the SoCon, but UNC Greensboro isn’t too far behind. Miller has a realistic chance to put the Spartans over the top.

Tre Mitchell, So., UMass

I don’t know what would have happened if UMass had a chance to play in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. I do know that I would have loved to see Tre Mitchell face VCU on March 12 at Barclays Center. Mitchell finished his first collegiate regular season with a flourish, scoring 34 points on 6-8 shooting from three against Rhode Island in the Minutemen’s season finale. He also had 12 rebounds and four assists in that game. Overall, Mitchell had seven double-doubles last year and had the highest usage of anybody in the A-10. Unfortunately for him, like far too many other instances last season, Mitchell did not have enough help. UMass finished the season at 14-17 but should be improved this year with some added depth and more experience. The Minutemen will need to win a few more games in 2020-21 for Mitchell to make the jump to first team by the end of the season, but that’s well within range.

Jordan Goodwin, Sr., Saint Louis

Saint Louis is going to be good this year. I know this because Saint Louis was good last year and this is, uh, pretty close to the same team. The Billikens return their top eight scorers and all five starters from 2019-20, led by the senior Jordan Goodwin. He’s one of those guys that has seemingly been in college for 15 years, and for SLU to break through in a stacked A-10, this will need to be his best. That’s a tall order for a 6’3 guard that averaged a double-double last season (15.5 PPG, 10.4 RPG). Goodwin isn’t a great shooter from three (28%) and is just plain bad from the line (54%), but he makes up for that by finishing inside, getting second chances, and running the team from inbounds to finish. Just look at the high praise from his head coach, Travis Ford, in this year’s edition of the Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook:

“I think people look at him at 6’3 and see how he affects the game more than anyone else in the country.”

That’s in the scoring column and on the boards, but also as a distributor (3.1 APG) and on defense (2.1 SPG). He’s one of a handful of guys with a real shot at A-10 Player of the Year. Just like two others on this list.