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The Lo-Down: Top Mid-Major players in men’s college basketball

Looking down the first college basketball AP Poll, a trend you’ll quickly notice is just how many of the top 25 teams are from conferences like the Big 12, the Athletic Coast Conference (ACC), the Southeastern Conference (SEC), the Big Ten, the Pac-12, and the Big East.

In fact, only four of these teams aren’t from these six conferences: Florida Atlantic, Gonzaga, San Diego State and St. Mary’s, with only Florida Atlantic cracking the top 10. Because of the reign these top conferences have over rankings, and inevitably tournament seeding, the stars of the smaller conferences don’t get the chance to shine under the same spotlight.

In this column, I’m going to try to give a spotlight to three of those talents lying in plain sight, hidden beneath a lack of nationally televised games or buried under games between top-ranked teams on apps like ESPN or Bleacher Report.

Zeke Mayo, South Dakota State

Mayo is one of the nation’s top shot-makers at 6 feet, 4 inches, averaging 28.0 points per game through two games this season. Most of his shots come off the dribble and from long range (9.5 three-point attempts per game) as the main facet of the Jackrabbits offense, and he’s more than capable of being efficient on such a difficult shot diet.

Mayo made the All-Summit team last season as a sophomore, but this year he has a chance to come home with Player of the Year honors at the close of his junior year, especially if he’s able to keep up his volume as a scorer. If that ends up being the case, it also wouldn’t be a surprise to hear Mayo’s name called late in the NBA draft next July.

DaRon Holmes II, Dayton

Dayton is one of the more heralded mid-major schools, having held a top-three ranking and a 29-2 record in the 2019-20 season before the tournament was shut down. Holmes himself is one of the more well-known mid-major players as someone who would likely be on an NBA roster right now had he declared prior to the 2023 draft.

Holmes came into the season with top-20 betting odds for the Wooden Award, one of college basketball’s most esteemed individual trophies. He is Dayton’s most prolific shot-blocker, holding the top-two single-season slots for total blocks. Holmes led the team in points per game and blocks per game last season as an athlete who dunks everything.

Tucker DeVries, Drake

Drake made the NCAA tournament last year out of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in no small part to Tucker DeVries, who leads the NCAA in scoring through one game with 36 points in his season debut against Lipscomb.

Tucker is a sharpshooter in every sense, but he’s more than just a guy who catches the ball and shoots from beyond the three-point line. He’s prolific in the mid-range area (inside the three-point arc but outside the paint) and is efficient at making plays off just a few dribbles. It’s unlikely he will sustain his current production, but early on, DeVries looks like he’s going to be one of the most productive offensive players in the country this season.

Throughout the season, I’d heavily suggest tuning into games featuring these three players, as well as trying to watch as much mid-major basketball as possible. The games are exciting, and the talent is ridiculously underrated despite having so few teams ranked.

Logan Adams is a sophomore studying journalism. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Logan know by tweeting him @LoganA_NBA.

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