Mid-Major Players You Need to Know
Heading into March Madness there are certain hurdles that present themselves to casual fans. One of the biggest is keeping track of players from mid-major programs that are often not broadcast on big platforms such as ESPN, FS1 or CBS. To help you pick one of the inevitable upsets that are on the way, here are some guys you need to know about.
Malachi Smith-Chattanooga Mocs
While the committee certainly did not do coach Lamont Paris any favors by sticking them with a first-round matchup against Illinois, he has a guy that can carry his team. Smith, the 2021-22 SoCon Player of the Year, averaged over 20 points, six rebounds, and three assists per game while shooting nearly 42% from behind the arc.
The high-scoring guard was even more efficient during the Moc’s run to the SoCon tournament title shooting 45.5% from deep and nearly 85% from the stripe. He kicked in nearly eight rips and two steals per game for good measure. Smith is a star on both ends of the floor with the ability to carry his team if they get into a funk.
Khalil Shabazz-San Francisco Dons
Though his teammate Jamaree Bouyea leads the team in scoring on the season, Shabazz has been on fire over his last eight games. The 6’1 sophomore is averaging 19.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.9 steals per game over his last eight contests while shooting 46% from distance.
In the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals against Gonzaga, Shabazz scored 27 points and drilled five triples. In fact, in three games against the best team in the nation, Shabazz averaged nearly 20 points per game and hit nine three-point attempts.
If Bouyea can figure out his shooting who as (21.6% from deep in his last eight games) this San Francisco team could easily dump a Murray State team that only defeated two teams inside of the Kenpom top 75 on the season.
Jordan Walker-UAB Blazers
In what is probably the most predictable trend in college basketball history, Andy Kennedy boasts a player that can flat out fill it up. Walker leads the Blazers in scoring on the season with 20.4 points per game after drilling 115 triples on the season connecting at a rate of 40.6%.
The 5’11 guard that started out at Seton Hall before two years at Tulane and ultimately ending up in Birmingham scored more points in 33 games this season than his previous 70 collegiate games. To say that he has figured it out would be an understatement. For good measure, Walker also leads the team in assists and free throw percentage at 88.3% on 145 attempts.
In the Conference USA tournament, Walker averaged 31 points per game and connected on 14 triples in three games en route to the title. He will have a tall order to fill if the Blazers are to upset the stalwart defense of Houston in the first round but it’s arguable that no one is hotter heading into the dance.
Those are a few of the key Mid-Major players to watch heading into this years tournament.
If you are interested in more information, check out our PAC 12 preview here or our bracketology article here.
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