We’ve arrived at the summit of awards season here at Mid-Major Madness.
We’ve relived our game of the year, doled out individual awards and handed out our second and third all-MMM teams. That leaves just one piece of business: the first team. As you might expect, some of these names will already have been touched on and, it bears repeating, just because some players on this list qualified by virtue of playing in a mid-major league, it does not mean their team is a mid-major.
Here’s who we think were the cream of the crop in hopefully the only pandemic-affected season we see in our lifetime:
Cameron Krutwig — Loyola University Chicago
2020-21 stats: 15.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.0 APG
What’s left to be said about the Ramblers’ man in the middle? Krutwig wrapped up his college career much like he started it: by putting his stamp on the NCAA Tournament. The senior was the centerpiece of another tremendous Loyola team, anchoring the country’s second-most efficient defense while picking the opposition apart with from the high post or low block with a diverse offensive arsenal.
His high school coach, Jimmy Roberts, recently talked to us about what appealed to Porter Moser when he was recruiting Krutwig years ago.
“Coach Moser always talks about Coach [Rick] Majerus being a huge influence on him, and when [Majerus] looked for a big he wanted to find bigs who are basketball players,” Roberts said. “A lot of big kids, tall kids just play basketball because they’re tall, and they’re not basketball junkies, not basketball players and that’s what he loved in Cam. He’s a basketball junkie, he’s a gym rat he just loves to play.”
The MVC Player of the Year is the only player in Loyola history to be in the program’s top 10 in points, rebounds and assists, and is as responsible as any single player for the Moser-led renaissance on the North Side.
Corey Kispert — Gonzaga
2020-21 stats: 18.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 44.0 3P%
The Zags’ wing didn’t have as much March shine as some of his teammates, but he was arguably the most consistent throughout the entirety of the Bulldogs’ historic campaign. Kispert waited until the last day to pull his name out of the NBA Draft last year, saying that he wanted to come back to chase some unfinished business: a national title.
While he and the Zags came up just short, the WCC Player of the Year — and, more importantly, Mid-Major Madness Player of the Year — was a dead-eye three-point shooter and a big part of the Bulldogs’ terrifying transition attack that produced the country’s most efficient offense. He should hear his name called in the first round of the NBA Draft, and does so with plenty of Mid-Major Madness accolades his name.
Jalen Suggs — Gonzaga
2020-21 stats: 14.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.5 APG
It’s hard to envision the engine of the nation’s best offense being left off the first team. Suggs came to Spokane with arguably more fanfare and symbolic (and long-term recruiting) impact than any other recruit in program history. The McDonald’s All-American didn’t disappoint, and Mark Few gave him the keys right away; Suggs averaged the most minutes per game (28.8) for a Gonzaga freshman since Josh Perkins in 2015-16.
His presence was undeniable at the Final Four, be it his historic shot against UCLA or tough effort as the team sagged in the title game.
Max Abmas — Oral Roberts
2020-21 stats: 24.6 PPG, 3.8 APG, 43.3 3P%
A reactionary pick? Hardly. The Oral Roberts sophomore may have announced himself to the general viewing public during the past month, but he’s long been one of the best players at the mid-major level. The country’s leading scorer helped vault the Golden Eagles to places they hadn’t been in decades, but scorched nets all year in the Summit League.
He talked to us in early March about what he’d worked on during the summer.
“I think this year it’s more me being on the ball, playing off pick and rolls, just me having the ball in my hands a little more, creating my own shots,” Abmas said. “One of the things I focused on this summer was getting better shooting off the dribble. I just knew coming into this season, we lost a lot of guys this past year, a lot of seniors with a lot of experience. With them being gone and me being one of the returners, I knew I’d have to step up and take on a bigger role.”
The March spotlight may have accelerated Abmas’s NBA dreams, but should the Summit League Player of the Year return, he’d be a strong contender for not only preseason All-American honors, but also the highly-coveted Mid-Major Madness preseason Player of the Year award. Just something to think about it in Tulsa.
Drew Timme — Gonzaga
2020-21: 19.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 65.5 FG%
Posting the best two-point shooting percentage ever was among the Zags’ litany of accomplishments this past year. Underpinning it all was Timme, who shot a remarkable 67.7 percent on two-point field goals — the 29th-best mark in the country — despite heavy usage (341 attempts). This all from a player who may not have gotten as big a role had Filip Petrusev returned to Spokane instead of choosing to play professionally in Serbia.
The rising junior looks like a safe bet to return, and if he does, will almost assuredly be a preseason All-American, potential preseason Player of the Year and looked at to spearhead another dangerous Bulldogs team.