As we head for 2019-2020 NCAA Basketball season, Def Pen Sports will be previewing all of the Power-6 Conferences plus a Mid-Major rundown. We kick our 2019-2020 NCAA Preview off with the Top-10 Mid-Major players in the country! These skilled players could play for any Power-6 school and contribute an immense amount of talent, experience, and ability to any team. They are not only some of the best Mid-Major players in the country, but some of the best players period.
10) Tevin Brown (Murray State)
Tevin Brown is heading into his redshirt Sophomore season and while he isn’t as heralded as others on this list, he did have to play second fiddle to Ja Morant, one of the most exciting and talented guards the NCAA has ever had. He shows tenacity on defense, is a very real threat from three and should be the Racer’s top scorer this season, and surely one of the veteran leaders. Playing as a wing alongside Morant last season, Brown averaged 11.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and a steal a game. His three-point percentage was at 37.2% last season, and many are expecting him to move that up to above 40%. If Brown develops like the Racer staff thinks he is going to, Coach McMahon and company are going back to the big dance in March.
9) Grant Riller (College of Charleston)
Grant Riller of the Charleston Cougars is back for his senior year! Last season the talented guard averaged 21.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. Riller is the definition of efficient. He averaged 53.8% from the field last season and while his three-point percentage dipped down to 32.9%, he has a career-high average of 39.4% from his sophomore year. The Colonial Athletic Association has given Riller various awards from Player of the Week to Preseason All-CAA First Team, and as a 1,000 point club scorer, Riller should be able to move up the all-time lists at the College of Charleston this season. Riller is going to quietly be one of the top three or four guards in all Mid-Major basketball.
8) Jon Axel Gudmundsson (Davidson)
The A-10 is going to be one of the more interesting conference races this season and Jon Axel Gudmundsson will be a key piece for Davidson’s chances. Jon Axel is one of the most versatile big men in college basketball that isn’t a household name. The reigning A-10 Player of the Year averaged 16.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. The Icelandic center had 9 double-doubles and registered a triple-double versus Rhode Island last season. He declared early for the NBA draft but decided to come back and help Davidson dethrone VCU. He along with the help of elite teammate Kellan Grady will be a tough out in the A-10 and the NCAA tourney.
7) Marcus Evans (VCU)
VCU looks to build on last season and will depend on point guard Marcus Evans. While attending Rice, Evans put up gaudy numbers which translated to averages of 13.9 points, and 3.2 assists against A-10 competition last season. The 6-2 guard is known as a certified bucket getter from anywhere on the floor. Despite having Achilles surgeries, Evans still possesses top-notch athleticism and quickness that should elevate VCU. The key to VCU’s season depends on Evan’s health.
6) Yoeli Childs (Brigham Young)
The big man from Brigham Young, Yoeli Childs is heading into his senior year. Last season the 6’8”, 225lb big averaged 21.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, and a block and a steal each game. Childs hired an agent and tested the NBA Draft waters this last season, but after getting the feedback he needed, decided to come back to finish his career at BYU, and Cougars fans couldn’t be happier. An All-District selection last season as well as All-WCC First Team for the second straight year. Childs is a brick house type player and could start on just about any roster anywhere in the NCAA. Out of the Mid-Major big men, when it comes to consistency and proven results, give me Yoeli Childs to anchor my team in the paint and I’ll feel really good about my chances.
5) Sam Merrill (Utah State)
The reigning Mountain West player of the year will be looking to take Utah State to the NCAA tournament again. As a junior, he averaged 20.9 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.9 RPG while shooting 46.1 percent from the floor. In addition, Merrill shot 37.6 percent from behind the arc and 90.9 percent from the free-throw line. Despite being older for his class (served two-year LDS church mission) Merrill elected to come back to Utah State to hone his game instead of seeking a professional career. The sharpshooter guard along with forward Neemias Queta will look to lead the Aggies to the Mountain West title.
4) Jordan Ford (St. Marys)
St. Mary’s is getting back the second-leading scorer in the WCC as Jordan Ford prepares for his junior season. After starting all 34 games for the Gaels and averaging almost 37 minutes a game, he is looking to improve his single-season scoring record which currently sits at 3rd all-time at SMC. He is a serious threat from three, shooting over 41% from beyond the arc, and as calm a leader on the floor as any you’ll find. The game isn’t complicated for him, and that allows him to be one of the best among all Mid-Majors.
3) Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky)
Charles Bassey is the anchor for WKU’s squad this season. The C-USA Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year last season was named to a multitude of All-Conference teams and All-America teams. He is simply one of the best, most dominant big men in all Mid-Majors and really, in all of America. His season averages put him up with Anthony Davis as the only two freshmen to EVER average 14 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, and have a 60% average from the field. This is likely the year he makes the jump to the NBA, but not before tearing through C-USA one last season.
2) Killian Tillie (Gonzaga)
The 6-10 senior forward has been a known quantity for some time and is undoubtedly one of the most important college basketball players in the country. After a breakout sophomore campaign, Tillie missed significant time his junior year with a stress fracture in his ankle. The multi-talented French forward will look to lead a young but talented Bulldogs squad. Gonzaga will be a top team in the WCC along with St. Marys, but if the Zags want to take the next step, Tillie will have to lead the way. Tillie will be looking to stay injury-free and pick up where he left off from his sophomore numbers, where he averaged 12.9 PPG and shot .479% from 3-pt range.
1) James Wiseman (Memphis)
Widely considered the #1 2020 NBA Draft prospect, Wiseman should lead Memphis to an AAC title this year. In a highly publicized recruiting war, the uber-athletic 7-0 ft center choose the home-town Tigers over blueblood Kentucky and a host of other schools. Wiseman cited his connection with coach Penny Hardaway and the star-studded coaching staff as a primary reason for staying home. The freshman comes into college basketball with a developed game at both ends of the court and owns a 7-6 wingspan and 9-3.5 standing reach. The McDonald’s All American has been compared to Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal. This not only makes him a nightmare to guard in the AAC but frankly for anyone in college basketball. Look for Wiseman along with a talented Memphis recruiting class to be one of the top mid-majors and have the ability to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.