This is the key week for the stars who play in the Low-Major Conferences starting their tournaments, likely for their only chance to go to the NCAA tournament. The following is the Breitbart Sports Low-Major All-American team. Except for Harvard sophomore Wesley Saunders, all of the Low-Major All-Americans are seniors dominating during their final year of eligibility.
The www.valueaddbasketball.com database has a “Low-Major” option in the lower right corner that calculates only Low-Major players and how valuable they are at that level. NBA prospects Isaiah Canaan and Nate Wolters are more valuable to Murray State and South Dakota State than stars are in Power Conferences, because when they take a breather they are replaced by a bench player who probably wasn’t recruited instead of the 3- or 4-star that steps in when a Power Conference player takes a rest. Reviewing the database and individual game performances throughout the year, here are the 10 best player in the Low Majors this year.
1st Team Low-Major All-American
1 (PG) Isaiah Canaan, 6-foot-1, Murray St. – After getting Murray State with a few minutes of the Sweet 16 last year, Canaan continues to dominate as one of the fastest players in the country, but will have to upset Belmont in the Ohio Valley tournament to make the conference. He has averaged 27.5 points a game in the last four games, and is one of the top shooters and assist men.
2 (SG – POY) Nate Wolters, 6-foot-4, South Dakota St. – He is also the Low Major Player of the Year and runs the point, but we would move him to shooting guard to bomb away while Canaan runs past people. He led South Dakota State to the Summit League title, as well as dominating Alabama and New Mexico, and is in the top 2% of all players in drawing fouls and top 1% in assists, while hitting 60 of 146 three-pointers (41%). Canaan and Wolters are the two low major players expected to play in the NBA – both as point guards.
3 (SF) Taylor Smith, 6-foot-6, Stephen F. Austin – He is the No. 1 shooter in the country at 69.9% from the floor, and is in the top 1% of all shot-blockers and the top 2% in defensive rebounding. He has Stephen F. Austin just ahead of Northwestern State and Oral Roberts and playing well enough that they should be a sure NIT team if they do not win the conference at 24-3.
4 (PF) Ian Hummer, 6-foot-7, Princeton – His 23 points and 14 rebounds to beat Harvard 58-53 was one of the most impressive performances of the season, and that game has Princeton in first place with three games to go in the only conference that sends the regular season champion to the tournament. He dominates as one of the top shooters and rebounders in the country.
5 (C) Mike Muscala, 6-foot-11, Bucknell – The second best low-major player this year behind Wolters and the only low-major All-American over 6-foot-7, Muscala beat out Miles Plumlee for second team All-American for all players. He is the one dominant big man low major ranks. His 24 points and 16 rebounds against Missouri showed his offense, and he has been in the top 3 percent of shot-blockers all four years. He has Bucknell two games ahead of everyone else in the Patriot League after winning nine of their last 10 games.
2nd Team Low-Major All-American
6 (PG) Lamont Jones, 6-foot-0, Iona – The Arizona transfer almost helped Scott Machado beat BYU in the play-in game of the NCAA last year, and he gives Iona a chance to emerge from the balanced MAAC. He is in the top 2% of all players at drawing fouls, and among leaders in assists. He has gotten to the line for at least 10 free throws in 13 of his games, and he hits 87% once there.
7 (SG) Ian Clark, 6-foot-3, Belmont – In the top 10% of all players in steals, and the 6th best overall shooter in the country with a 66.9% effective field goal percentage (eFG%) on the basis of hitting 92 of 199 three pointers (46%) and 105 of 164 two-pointers (64%). He has helped make Belmont a favorite in the Ohio Valley, but they really deserve a bid even if they do not win the conference.
8 (SF) Tommy Brenton, 6-foot-5, Stony Brook – He is leading Stony Brook to the American East regular season title, and he should get to play in the NIT even if they stagger in the conference tournament. For the first time in his four years he is not among the national leaders in shooting, but that is offset by being amount the leaders in offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, steals and getting to the line.
9 (SF) Wesley Saunders, 6-foot-5, Harvard – The only non-senior on the All-American roster has scored double digits in every game this year, and he is one of the top players in the country at drawing fouls, assists and steals, and he only rests a few minutes a game. While Harvard dropped their second straight at Penn to fall into second place, Saunders scored 20 points and added six rebounds and five assists.
10 (SF) James Ennis, 6-foot-7, Long Beach St. – There are really no worthy Low-Major centers after Muscala, since the big programs rarely pass up on a 6-foot-10 or better player with any potential. Therefore, we have to run a small line-up with three forwards for the second team with the 6-7 Ennis. He is among the leaders in shooting, blocking shots, steals, and getting to the line, where he hits 85% of his free throws. His 26 point, 15 rebound game against Cal State Fullerton was part of winning 12 of 13 games to virtually wrap up the Big West Conference regular season total, though they have dropped two games since then. Ennis is the only junior college transfer on this All-American list.