College Basketball: The Best Players You May Not Know

Jeffrey BatheContributor IIIMarch 3, 2011

College Basketball: The Best Players You May Not Know

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    DAYTON, OH - MARCH 20: Kenneth Faried #35 of the Morehead State Eagles drives to the hoop against Jerry Smith #34 of the Louisville Cardinals during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena on Ma
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    During the course of the season there has been a great deal of conversation about some of the best players in college hoops. We have heard stories at various points about Kyle Singler, Ben Hansbrough, Scoop Jardine, Jared Sullinger, DeJuan Johnson, Brandon Knight, Derrick Williams and of course the Jimmer among many others. While these players are worthy of the praise they receive, there are many who operate in the background of the basketball landscape, the best of the mid-majors.

    In the slides that follow, you will be introduced to the mid-major's top freshmen, and the top 25 players, including the mid-major player of the year.

    Let the list begin.

    Note: "Mid-majors" include schools from the following conferences: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big South, Big Sky, Big West, Colonial, Great West, Horizon League, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American,  Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, Southern, Southwestern Athletic, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, West Coast, Western Athletic, and the Independents. It is based upon the classification list set up by Mid-Majority:

Honorable Mention

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    PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 20:  Mickey McConnell #32 of the Saint Mary's Gaels points to teammate Ben Allen after he scored in the first half agaisnt the Villanova Wildcats during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament on March 20, 2010
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The following players are among the best in their conferences but just fell a little short to make the top fifteen players from the mid-majors. While they come from small schools, they all have big games.

    Chad Tomko—Senior Guard, UNC-Wilmington 
    Stats: 17.6 PPG, 4.3 APG, 5.9 RPG, 0.3 BPG, 1.9 SPG

    C.J. Reed—Junior Guard, Bethune-Cookman
    Stats: 19.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4 RPG, 0 BPG, 1.8 SPG

    Chaisson Allen—Senior Guard, Northeastern    
    Stats: 16.8 PPG, 3.8 APG, 6 RPG, 0.1 BPG, 2.1 SPG

    Casper Ware—Junior Guard, Long Beach State   
    Stats: 16.9 PPG, 4.8 APG, 2.5 RPG, 0.2 BPG, 1.8 SPG

    Mickey McConnell—Senior Guard, Saint Mary's
    Stats: 16.8 PPG, 6.1 APG, 2.6 RPG,  0.2 BPG, 1.2 SPG

    Devin Gibson—Senior Guard, Texas-San Antonio
    Stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.6 APG, 5.1 RPG, 0.1 BPG, 2.8 SPG

    Luke Sikma—Senior Forward, Portland   
    Stats: 13.3 PPG, 2.5 APG, 10.6 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 1.3 SPG

    Kyle Weems—Junior Forward, Missouri State
    Stats: 16.3 PPG, 1.4 APG, 7 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 1.2 SPG

    Greg Mangano—Junior Forward, Yale  
    Stats: 16.1 PPG, 0.6 APG, 10 RPG, 3.2 BPG, 0.5 SPG

    Kevin Galloway—Senior Forward, Texas Southern  
    Stats: 10.6 PPG, 6.2 APG, 6.8 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 1.8 SPG

Top Mid-Major Freshmen

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 30:  Trey Zeigler #0 of the Central Michigan Chippewas brings the ball up the court against Anthony Marshall #3 of the UNLV Rebels during their game at the Thomas & Mack Center December 30, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 73-4
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Before starting into the top fifteen, it is time to take a look at the future mid-major stars. While the freshmen listed below are not the marquee names bantered about the Internet and television (i.e., Barnes, Sullinger, Knight and Barnes), they are important pieces on their teams and will be the names leading their teams to the tournament in the future.

    Trey Zeigler—Guard, Central Michigan
    Stats: 16.6 PPG, 2.2 APG, 5.4 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 1.5 SPG

    The 6'5" guard from Mount Pleasant, Michigan has taken the Mid-American Conference by storm as he ranks third in scoring, 15th in rebounds, 10th in steals, 11th in blocks. While the Chippewas have struggled this season (10-19), Zeigler is giving the team hope for the future.

    Ray McCallum
    —Guard, Detroit
    Stats: 13.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.6 RPG, 0.1 BPG, 1.7 SPG

    The 6'1" guard from Beverly Hills, Michigan is turning into a star for Detroit and in the Horizon League since stepping on the court this past fall. Not only is he one of the team leaders in all of the offensive categories, but he is in the conference's top 15 for scoring and fourth in assists. If he continues to play like this, we will all be remembering the Titans over the next three seasons.

    Rayvonte Rice
    —Guard, Drake       
    Stats: 13.8 PPG, 1.7 APG, 4.8 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 1.4 SPG

    Bruce Weber has to be kicking himself for allowing the 6'4" Champaign native from escaping from the shadows of the University of Illinois campus. Rice, who was the 2009-10 Gatorade Illinois Boys Basketball Player of the Year, showed his worth as he led the Bulldogs in scoring and rebounds this season. He was recognized for his efforts being named to the MVC all-freshman team by the conference and was on my MVC second team this year.

    Doug McDermott
    —Forward, Creighton   
    Stats: 14.3 PPG, 1.1 APG, 7.6 RPG, 0.1 BPG, 0.3 SPG

    The 6'7" forward from Ames, Iowa has performed on par with his higher-hyped high school teammate Harrison Barnes. He was selected the MVC freshman of the year by the MVC and in a recent Bleacher Report article (Missouri Valley Basketball Notebook: 2010-11 All-Conference Team). He has proven to be among the MVC elite, finishing fourth in scoring and second in rebounding, and has guided the Bluejays to a 18-10 record entering tournament play.

    Augustine Rubit
    —Center, South Alabama       
    Stats: 13.3 PPG, 0.9 APG, 11.1 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 0.6 SPG

    The 6'6" center from Houston, Texas has been a force to reckon with for the Jaguars. While South Alabama has struggled this season (12-15), Rubit has put his stamp on the Sun Belt Conference, leading the league in rebounding, being third in field goal percentage, and placing sixth in blocks.

    Freshman of the Year

    Trey Zeigler—Guard, Central Michigan

Third Team All-Mid-Major

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    D.J. Cooper
    D.J. CooperElsa/Getty Images

    Josh Slater—Senior Guard, Lipscomb   
    Stats: 16.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 6.1 RPG, 0.2 BPG, 3.1 SPG

    The 6'3" guard from Nashville has shown himself to be the brightest star in the Atlantic Sun Conference. He leads the league in steals, is in the top five in scoring and assists and is 10th in rebounds. While he probably will not get a chance to lead the Bison to the dance as Belmont stands in their way, he has shown mid-major fans he can play well against whomever he faces.

    D.J. Cooper
    —Sophomore Guard, Ohio 
    Stats: 16.5 PPG, 7.5 APG, 5.1 RPG, 0.3 BPG, 2.3 SPG

    The 5'11" guard from Chicago stepped onto the hoops stage last season when he scored 23 points as the Bobcats knocked off Georgetown in his NCAA tournament debut. This season shows that moment was not a fluke as he has led Ohio in scoring and assists. His success goes beyond the Bobcats as he is in the MAC's top five in scoring, assists and steals as well as being second in the nation in assists this season.

    Andrew Goudelock
    —Senior Guard, College of Charleston 
    Stats: 23 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.7 RPG, 0.2 BPG, 1 SPG

    The 6'2" senior from Liburn, Georgia has led the Cougars to a 22-9 record and a Southern Conference regular season title. Goudelock is sixth in the nation in scoring and has been showing a shooting touch that is on par with Jimmer Fredette. The Southern Conference player of the year will finish his career as the school's all-time leading scorer, so he will be sorely missed by coach Bobby Cremins and the Cougar faithful once he is gone.

    Alex Young
    —Junior Forward, IUPUI      
    Stats: 19.8 PPG, 2.2 APG, 6.5 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 1.4 SPG

    The 6'6" forward from Indianapolis has led the Jaguars to a 18-13 season and a third-place finish in the Summit League. The conference's second-best player, behind Oakland's Keith Benson, leads the league in scoring as in the top 10 in rebounds and blocks. With Young leading the way, the Jaguars definitely have a shot to climb to the top of the Summit League next season

    Kyle O'Quinn
    —Junior Forward, Norfolk State      
    Stats: 16.2 PPG, 1.1 APG, 10.7 RPG, 3.2 BPG, 0.6 SPG

    The 6'10" forward from Jamaica, New York was a late-bloomer, as he was a bench warmer for Campus Magnet his junior year of high school.  He then went to average 20 points and 12 rebounds his senior year, earning a scholarship to Norfolk State. In each of his seasons for the Spartans, he has made significant improvements, now being a top-five conference performer in points, rebounds, and blocks. O'Quinn's progression makes one wonder if next season he will be talked about as one of the best players not only in the mid-majors but in all of college basketball.

Second Team All-Mid-Major

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    MILWAUKEE - MARCH 19:  Keith Benson #34 of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies shoots the ball over Gary McGhee #52 of the Pittsburgh Panthers in the second half during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Bradley Center on March 1
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Charles Jenkins—Senior Guard, Hofstra    
    Stats: 23.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.4 RPG, 0.6 BPG, 1.8 SPG

    Andy Brown, B/R feature columnist, said it best when he referred to Jenkins as "one of the best scorers in the country no one knows about." Jenkins has let his scoring do his talking as he is fourth in the nation this season and has scored in double-digits every game this season.

    While he is a tweener when looking at the next level, the 6'3" New York product has done the Pride proud during his four-years and will be sorely missed next season.

    Orlando Johnson
    —Junior Guard, UC-Santa Barbara
    Stats: 20.8 PPG, 3 APG, 6.6 RPG, 0.5 BPG, 1.2 SPG 

    To Say Orlando Johnson is an important part of the Gauchos offense would be an understatement. Three times this season, Johnson scored 30 or more points and was at least half the UCSB offense. The 6'5" junior from Seaside, California led the Big West in scoring and was seventh in rebounds this season.

    Denzel Bowles
    —Senior Forward, James Madison 
    Stats: 18.2 PPG, 2.2 APG, 9 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 0.6 SPG

    The 6'10" senior from Virginia Beach started his career at Texas A&M but after two seasons he left and transferred to JMU. Since his arrival his game has been blossomed. When examining the Colonial Athletic Association leaders, we see that Bowles is in the top five in scoring, rebounding, and blocks. His play is a major reason why the Dukes are 21-10 entering post-season play, with a trip to the NIT likely to be in the cards.

    Thomas Coleman
    —Senior Forward/Center, North Carolina A&T 
    Stats: 17.2 PPG, 1.5 APG, 10.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 1 SPG

    The 6'9" senior from Louisville really stepped up his game this season, raising his scoring average by almost seven points. His performance this season puts him among the leaders in the MEAC, as he is in the top three in scoring, rebounds, and blocks. Regardless of the level of play, one has to respect a player who averages a double-double.

    Keith Benson
    —Senior Center, Oakland      
    Stats: 17.7 PPG, 1 APG, 10.2 RPG, 3.8 BPG, 0.9 SPG

    The 6'11" senior from Farmington Hills, Michigan is the best player on the best team in the Summit League.  Like Coleman, he averaged a double-double this season. Benson lead the Summit in rebounds and blocks and was third in scoring. While he is from a small conference, he has had plenty of games against the big boys and still showed his skills.

First Team All-Mid-Major

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    DAYTON, OH - MARCH 20: Kenneth Faried #35 of the Morehead State Eagles drives to the hoop against the Louisville Cardinals during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena on March 20, 2009 in Day
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The following players are the best of the best from the mid-major ranks. Like those listed before them, they may not be household names but definitely have game.

    C.J. McCollum—Sophomore Guard, Lehigh   
    Stats: 21.8 PPG, 2.1 APG, 7.8 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 2.5 SPG

    The 6'3" guard from Canton, Ohio is showing that the success of his freshman year was not a fluke, when he was the top scoring freshmen in the nation and was selected to the Patriot League's first team. He has continued to improve his scoring and rebounding while leading the Mountain Hawks. If he continues on his current path, he will be getting a lot of talk as he looks to moving past Lehigh in a couple of years.

    Norris Cole
    —Senior Guard, Cleveland State   
    Stats: 21.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 6 RPG, 0.1 BPG, 2.2 SPG

    With the season the 6'1" guard from Dayton from has put together, it is hard to imagine that he received very little Division I interest and planned to go to Walsh University, a NAIA Division II program. Cole was overshadowed by Daequan Cook in high school, and was found by the Vikings when they were pursuing Aaron Pogue, another of Cole's teammates. Now Cole leads the Horizon in scoring and steals and is second in assists as he wraps up his collegiate career.

    Ken Horton—Junior Forward, Central Connecticut State   
    Stats: 20 PPG, 1.9 APG, 9 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.5 SPG

    The 6'6" forward from Ossining, New York has watched his game blossom this year after sitting out last season. Having to sit out last season following hip surgery, Horton returned with a vengeance. This year he has 13 double-doubles and led the Blue Devils to an 18-11 regular season record and his being named the NEC player of the year.

    Ryan Rossiter
    —Senior Forward, Siena   
    Stats: 19.1 PPG, 1.4 APG, 13.4 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 0.9 SPG

    The 6'9" forward from Staten Island moved from being a rebounding machine last season to a complete player as he increased his scoring over five points a game this year. He has himself to be the best player in the MAAC, leading the conference in scoring and rebounding this year. Rossiter will leave Siena as the  top rebounder in school history and one of the best players to play in the Times Union Center.

    Kenneth Faried
    — Senior Forward/Center, Morehead State    
    Stats: 17.6 PPG, 1.1 APG, 14.3 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 2 SPG

    The 6'8" senior from Newark is drawing comparisons to one of the best rebounders in the history of the game, Dennis Rodman. Dana O'Neil from said "rebounding is his thing and no one is going to stop him" and that definitely seems to be the case. The nation's leading rebounder has had 25 double-doubles this season and has 13 games with at least 15 rebounds.

    While it is unclear where Faried will be taking his talents next year, according to Andy Brown, B/R feature columnist, it will be to a team picking in the middle of the first round. So those who have not seen his game yet, the time will come soon enough.

    Player of the Year

    Kenneth Faried— Senior Forward/Center, Morehead State