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Postseason awards: All-Mid-Major Madness third team

Versatile, playmaking guards are the theme of the third team.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Ohio at Virginia IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

We just put the bow on a college basketball season unlike any other we have experienced before. The 2020-21 season presented new and unique challenges for every team across the country. As spectators, we are extremely thankful and grateful for the daily sacrifices made by all players and coaches which allowed us to enjoy a thrilling season of college basketball. While there were a plethora of worthy options to be named to the All-Mid-Major Madness teams, there are only 15 available spots.

Here is the All-Mid-Major Madness third team.

JaQuori McLaughlin - UC Santa Barbara

2020-2021 Stats: 16.0 PPG - 5.2 APG - 3.5 RPG - 40.8 3P%

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-UC Santa Barbara at Creighton Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos just enjoyed one of their best seasons in school history, finishing 22-5 overall and 13-3 in Big West play. The Gauchos were led by fifth year senior JaQuori McLaughlin, who guided the team to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade. After being denied the opportunity to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, McLaughlin and the Gauchos refused to be denied this time around. UCSB dominated the Big West conference tournament, and then came agonizingly close to scoring an upset win over Creighton in the NCAA tournament. McLaughlin was unsurprisingly the linchpin in this squad.

While McLaughlin is probably still being haunted by what could have been on the final possession against Creighton, he’s also rightfully being celebrated for the phenomenal run that he had at UCSB. McLaughlin’s fifth year was a poetic ending to a tumultuous collegiate career. After starting his career at Oregon State, McLaughlin transferred to Santa Barbara after falling out of the rotation in Corvallis. McLaughlin first arrived in Santa Barbara in 2018, and proceeded to have a terrific career in blue and yellow. Saving the finest chapter of his story for last, McLaughlin had a dominant 2020-21 campaign, setting career highs in scoring and assists. Additionally, McLaughlin was the runaway choice for Big West Player of the Year, and was also an honorable mention for the Associated Press All-American teams.

Jason Preston - Ohio

2020-2021 Stats: 15.7 PPG - 7.3 RPG - 7.3 APG - 39.0 3P%

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Ohio at Creighton Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Not many players won over the hearts of college basketball fans more this March than Ohio’s Jason Preston. If his vibrant red hair, contagious smile, and unselfish play alone weren’t enough to get your attention, he has a story that will even have supporters of Ohio’s staunchest rivals cheering for him. When Preston was just 16 years of age, he lost his mother to cancer. He then scored 52 points total during his senior season of high school basketball, good for an average of just over two points per game.

Preston graduated high school and wasn’t on the radar of any Division I programs. Almost giving up on basketball entirely, he wound up getting a chance to play at Believe Prep Academy in Tennessee. He parlayed this opportunity into a couple of offers, including one from Ohio. The rest, as they say, is history. After entering the MAC tournament as the fifth seed, the Bobcats went on a run of terror where they decisively beat tournament favorites Toledo and Buffalo on the way to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012.

Preston was named MVP of the MAC Tournament after going for 27 against Toledo and 22 in the final against Buffalo. If this weren’t already impressive enough, Preston then compiled 11 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists in Ohio’s upset win over fourth-seeded Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Not many players in college basketball distribute the ball more efficiently than Preston: his mark of 7.2 assists per game was sixth-best in the nation. In January, Preston recorded a triple double in a win over Ball State. He was one of only 18 players at the Division I level to record a triple double this season.

Still with one year of eligibility remaining, don’t be surprised if Preston’s unbelievable story isn’t quite finished yet.

Marreon Jackson - Toledo

2020-2021 Stats: 18.1 PPG - 6.1 RPG - 5.9 APG

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament - Toledo vs Ball State Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Marreon Jackson - Toledo

2020-2021 Stats: 18.1 PPG - 6.1 RPG - 5.9 APG

Ironically, the next name on this list just so happens to be a former conference foe of Jason Preston’s. For the last two years, Marreon Jackson has been the tip of the spear for Toledo basketball. While he was not able to end Toledo’s brutal 30-year NCAA Tournament drought, he still had a prolific career that deserves to be celebrated.

Jackson is another lethal stat sheet-stuffer. Despite standing at a meager 6’1”, Jackson was one of the best rebounding guards in college basketball this year. Only three players in college basketball had multiple triple doubles this year, and Jackson was one of them. While the disappointing showing in the MAC Tournament left a sour taste in the mouth for some Rocket fans, the Ohio loss certainly wasn’t because Jackson failed to show up.

In fact, Jackson played one of his best games of the season in the semifinal loss to Ohio as he scored 29 points on 11-19 shooting. Shortly after the season, Jackson was named the MAC Player of the Year. While he surely would have traded it all for an NCAA Tournament berth, this was a well-deserved accolade for a player that was a menace in the MAC over the past three seasons.

Luckily, we’ll get the chance to watch Jackson next season as well as he recently entered the transfer portal and committed to Arizona State.

Terry Taylor - Austin Peay

2020-2021 Stats: 21.6 PPG - 11.1 RPG - 52.1 FG%

Syndication: Clarksville Henry Taylor/The Leaf-Chronicle, Leaf Chronicle via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Statistically, it is difficult to have a more successful collegiate career than Terry Taylor. While Taylor ultimately came up short of his goal of getting Austin Peay into the NCAA tournament, his senior year was another dominant affair as he continued to rewrite the record books in Clarksville.

Taylor was one of two players in college basketball to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game this season (Loyola Maryland’s Santi Aldama being the other). When you factor in his modest size, his dominance on the glass becomes even more impressive. While Taylor’s bulldog-style of play may not always be the most glamorous display, it’s incredibly efficient. A lot of Taylor’s rebounds and easy baskets are simply a product of outworking the opposition. His best performance of the season came in January, when he tallied 38 points and 17 rebounds in a win against Eastern Illinois.

For the fourth consecutive year, Taylor was named to the All-OVC team, becoming only the third player in conference history to achieve this distinction. Additionally, he became the 15th player in conference history to win two Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year awards.

Despite receiving interest from some powerhouse programs, Taylor has elected to enter the 2021 NBA Draft. There will assuredly be skeptics that question how his game will translate to the next level, but no one will work harder to prove his skeptics wrong than Taylor.

Chandler Vaudrin - Winthrop

2020-2021 Stats: 12.0 PPG - 7.3 RPG - 6.9 APG

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Winthrop at Villanova Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

If you can’t tell already, we have an affinity for hard-working players that fill up the stat sheet. While Winthrop’s Chandler Vaudrin may not have regularly exploded for 30-plus point affairs, he is a player that just constantly makes winning plays on both ends of the floor. Vaudrin is a unicorn of sorts at the mid-major level. While most players of his size (6’7”, 210) are resigned to duties in the post, Vaudrin spent the last two seasons acting as a primary ball-handler and facilitator for the Eagles.

Vaudrin’s game is a true testament to the effectiveness of unselfish and intelligent play. When Winthrop needed a basket, they could rely on getting the ball in Vaudrin’s hands and letting him drive to the hoop where he would either use his length to finish at the rim or distribute a beautiful pass to create an open look for a teammate. Vaudrin led all of college basketball in triple doubles this year with three (High Point, Campbell, South Carolina Upstate).

Vaudrin experienced a rare ascent throughout his collegiate career. After spending his first two years at the Division II level, he was definitely betting on himself when he took the leap to Division I. While Vaudrin only spent two years at Winthrop, he clearly showed that he belonged as he finished off his career by being named the Big South Player of the Year.

Honorable Mentions: Santi Aldama, Alex Barcello, Jordan Goodwin, Javion Hamlet, Matt Mitchell, Grayson Murphy, Osun Osunniyi.