MMBOW #17: Arizona Reid, High Point

The really good players are the ones who can lift their teams up when it counts, who deliver in the clutch, who take it upon themselves to lift their team out of a funk. And the very funky-haired Arizona Reid of High Point is our seventeenth Mid-Majority Baller Of The Week.

Mr. Reid, who was named as Big South POY today for the second consecutive season, becomes our first two-time winner of 2007-08. We had him as our 10th honoree back in mid-January. The Panthers were doing quite well back then, claiming a 62-61 Big South season-opening home win against the defending champions from Winthrop. But a lot’s happened since. High Point lost three of its next five to disappear from the race while WU and UNC Asheville fought it out for the conference lead. A return loss at Winthrop in early February began a tailspin that threatened to send the Panthers into low-seed oblivion: four losses in five games.

That’s when the 6-5 senior, who’s averaged 24.2 ppg and 11.1 rpg this season, took the team on his shoulders. He turned in two stellar performances last week that turned HPU’s fortunes around, and helped the team rebound to claim the No. 3 seed in this week’s tourney. Last Wednesday against Radford, he scored 34 points on 12-for-21 shooting, including four 3’s to tie a season high, and the Panthers came away with a 77-54 win. But in the regular-season finale at the Virginia Military Institute — a 99-88 victory — “AZ” nearly contributed as many points as Arizona has delegates to this summer’s conventions. High Point sealed the No. 3 seed thanks to a 42 point, 14 rebound effort from Mr. Reid. It was, efficiency-wise, his best performance of the year, as he shot 17-for-27 from the floor, shot 5-for-7 from the line, and played every single minute.

Thanks to Reid’s huge week, the Panthers ended the season 8-6 and will host a tourney game on Tuesday against No. 6 Coastal Carolina, instead of having to pack up and bus somewhere. Congratulations, Mr. MMBOW, and good luck in the postseason.

MMBOW #16: Marqus Blakely, Vermont

There were a lot of great performances over BracketBuster weekend — Alex Franklin’s monster 30-and-18 for Siena in a blowout at Boise State, Kent State Golden Flash Al Fisher’s 28 points in a big win at Saint Mary’s, Josh Young’s 25 points and clutch 8-for-8 free throwing for Drake in their national statement-maker at Butler. But we don’t want to let a gigantic week go unnoticed. Marqus Blakely of Vermont is our sixteenth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

The 6-5 sophomore’s week (for MMBOW reporting purposes) began on Wednesday against Hartford. In a 12-point home win, Mr. Blakely scored 30 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, the 11th 20-20 performance anywhere in D-I so far and just the eighth different player to achieve that plateau (former MMBOW Jason Thompson’s done it three times, Michael Beasley twice). Then, Marqus turned in a great road BracketBuster game of his own, albeit a non-televised one. He barely missed becoming the first player this year to reach 20-20 in consecutive games, scoring 19 points and 19 rebounds. But the 84-73 win was a second consecutive victory for the Catamounts, who aren’t dead yet in the America East race at 8-6, in third place behind UMBC and Hartford.

And, incidentally, the UNCW performance was the Metuchen, N.J. native’s 10th straight double-double, and 14th of the year. Marqus is the fifth-leading rebounder in Division I at 11.1 rpg, and he’s moving up the national scoring charts with 19.8 ppg (42nd). He’s also been the America East player of the week twice this season. Hopefully this will all help fans realize that he’s done more than deliver last season’s mid-major “two-point dunk shot” of the year, that flying slam in the America East title game which left an imprint of Mr. Blakely’s crotch on the face of Albany’s . We’ve linked to that video so many times that we’re going to refrain from doing so from here on out.

OK, alright, let’s watch it again. That never gets old.

Congratulations, Marqus, you’re the Mid-Majority Baller of the Week. (And we love the new mohawk.)

dansby_story1_thumb.jpgThe two-time Atlantic Sun champion Belmont Bruins were a bit undersold last summer, as they lost two 6-10 seniors who earned the lion’s share of the team’s rebounds last season. The Bruins have suffered a bit on the boards, but they’re getting a lot of them from a player that last year would have seemed an unlikely source, and have kept on winning. Shane Dansby, a 6-4 junior, is our fifteenth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

Last Thursday, Dansby helped lead Belmont to its sixth straight win to take control of the league race. At East Tennessee State, the team that the Bruins beat to earn the 2007 autobid, Dansby shot 12-for-15 for 28 points, and added eight rebounds in a 87-75 victory. Two days later, the team completed a road sweep by winning at USC Upstate by 10. Dansby was the Bruins’ most efficient and productive player on that day, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. For his efforts, he was offered the Atlantic Sun’s weekly honor.

Shane, a native of Pegram, Tenn. and a former player at Murray State, has made the most of his opportunities as an Bruin upperclassman. He’s the team’s second-leading scorer with 14.3 ppg, and leads Belmont in boards with 6.1 per contest. Last week’s A-Sun Player of the Week nod was his second of the season, and Belmont sports information director Greg Sage notes that Dansby’s saved his best performances for the league’s best. Against A-Sun teams with winning records, he’s averaged 18.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg and has shot 58.4 percent from the floor (including 45.5 percent from 3). If Belmont is to return to the Big Dance for a third straight year, our current Mid-Majority Baller of the Week will likely be a big part of the drive.

townsend14.jpgThere’s no doubt that Cal State Northridge, a school with just two winning seasons since joining the Big West in 2001, has gone from pity-party to postseason candidate in short order. At 16-6 overall and 8-2 in the conference, the first-place Matadors are on track for their first Big West men’s basketball championship and CSN’s first NCAA appearance since a Big Sky autobid in 2001. For that, you can credit coach Bobby Braswell for successfully mixing in productive new players, and one of them we will honor here today. Tremaine Townsend is our fourteenth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

Townsend missed only four of his 19 shots from the floor last week during Northridge’s NoCal swing, which is pretty good. OK, it’s awesome. In 38 minutes of play in a 78-73 overtime loss at Pacific last Thursday, the Phoenix native hit 5-of-7 shots for 12 points. But up the road at Davis on Saturday, Townsend brought a bitter, sour taste to the Aggie Pack’s “Candy Madness” by hitting 9-of-11 shots for a game- and career-high 21 in the Matadors’ 77-57 pullaway win. And all that’s impressive enough, but we haven’t even got to the rebounds yet. In the Pacific game, he nabbed 13 boards. But on Saturday at UCD, he muscled and tussled his way to 22 caroms, two short of the school’s 37-year-old school record and tied for the fourth-higest total of anyone, anywhere in Division I this 2007-08 season. The performance was dubbed as one of the finest in school history and Tremaine was, quite understandably, the Big West Conference player of the week.

Mr. Townsend is having a fantastic year in his first campaign at Northridge, after transferring in from Saddleback Junior College in Arizona last summer. He’s an inside-outside threat who averages 10.5 ppg, and is often the fourth option in a deep Matador rotation. Tremaine leads the team with 9.2 rpg, shoots 55.6 percent and has earned seven double-doubles on the season, including the two from the weekend that was. He claims that he once scored a basket for the other team in a game, but that’s not happening lately — he’s helping lead the Matadors to what could be a dream season. Congratulations, Tremaine, you’re the Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

bo_thumb.jpgNew Orleans made a big splash early, with headline-grabbing nonconference wins over N.C. State and Colorado. Sun Belt play has been less than kind, though. A recent three-game losing streak has put the Privateers in a 5-6 hole, far behind streaking Western Kentucky and South Alabama. But they might be on the dark-horse radar once again, thanks to the recent efforts of their superstar guard. Bo McCalebb is our 13th Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

You’re unlikely to find anyone anywhere who had the kind of week McCalebb did, as the 6-0 guard put in his two best performances of his senior campaign so far. In a road loss at Florida Atlantic last Wednesday, he did everything he could to secure a win — 33 points on 11-for-19 shooting (as well as 8-for-12 on foul shots), eight rebounds, five assists. But it was when the Privateers returned home on Saturday to play Troy that he turned in his season’s masterpiece. In an 82-73 win, McCalebb had another 33 points — this time shooting 10-for-14, including five of six from downtown. He drained eight of his nine one-pointers, and contributed five boards, five dimes and four steals. It’s mindboggling that just 326 people witnessed the performance (those numbers are always skewed northward, too). But we’re sure there were at least a couple NBA scouts at the media table that weren’t counted in that number.

He’s the leading scorer in the Sun Belt at 23.2 ppg, which puts him at eighth nationally. McCalebb also leads the conference in steals at 2.5 spg (19th nationally). But what the stat sheet doesn’t show is his immense loyalty. With the talent he possesses, he could be playing — starting! — at an SEC school, and he’s had plenty of opportunities to bolt for more televised pastures. The local product has stayed at home in New Orleans despite having played for three different coaches at UNO in the last three years. The previous two abandoned UNO for higher-paying assistant gigs these past two summers, and under Joe Pasternack (another New Orleans native), McCalebb is fashioning a final college season to remember. Congratulations, Bo, you’re the MMBOW (that rhymes).

713412.jpgWe’re in Texas, so it’s only fair that we shine the spotlight on some Lone Star hoops. Because of Texas-Pan American’s longstanding independent status and virtual unlikelihood of making the NCAA Tournament, you don’t hear much about them in the mainstream press… and with the 15th smallest athletic budget in Division I, the Broncs are always bucking long odds. But the UTPA men’s basketball team has reeled off six straight victories to go 13-10, and are just one shy of last year’s win total (which they can achieve with a win at Chicago Sate tonight). And we’d just like to take a moment to appreciate the team’s heartbeat, the point guard who makes the whole operation tick. Paul Stoll is our 12th Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

The 5-10 junior guard saw his basketball-playing week start on Wednesday against Houston Baptist, and he played a key part in an 82-68 beatdown of the transitional D-I re-entry Huskies. In 36 minutes, Stoll shot 7-for-9 from the floor, all of which were 3-point attempts. During time stoppages, he would occasionally step to the line and shoot some free throws… making all 16 of his tries. That’s 37 points, and he found time to dish nine assists as well. Then, on Saturday against New Jersey Tech, he crushed the Highlanders’ dreams of a first D-I win this year by showing off his skills on the other end. His nine steals were tied for the most against a D-I opponent this season.

On the season, Stoll is ranked quite high in some key statistical categories. He’s a marvelously efficient shooter, especially at the line, where he’s made 94 of 110 (85.5 percent). In True shooting, a measure of how often shots find the goal in all game contexts (FG’s, 3’s and FT’s), Stoll ranks 10th nationally with 71.4 percent. The guy can flat out shoot it, but he’d rather distribute. At 7.2 assists per ballgame (including five 10+ assist games), he ranks fourth in all of Division I on average, and number 1 in volume (165).

He’s from Michigan, he’s Mexican, and is the son of a former Michigan State player with the same name. He attended Lansing Community College before transferring to UTPA last year (in the great Rio Grande Valley) and is now the little guy from the small school at the bottom of Texas who’s at the top of his game. Congratulations, Paul, you’re our 12th Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

923257.jpgA 6-0, 185-lb. junior point guard from Houston, Texas had the shooting night of his life — or most people’s lives — on Saturday. In a 96-75 blowout of James Madison, George Mason’s Dre Smith scored a career-high 34 points on astonishing 11-of-12 shooting. But, as you might have heard already, 10 of those shots were 3’s, and all 10 of them went in. That is an NCAA record for 3-pointers made without a miss, and kudos to the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record‘s WINS radio reference. Give Dre Smith 28 minutes, and he’ll give you the world…. and we’ll give him our 11th Mid-Majority Baller of the Week honor.

Smith’s performance lit up the possession-based, geek-stat board like no other night has this season. In effective field goal percentage (with weights threes as a regular shot plus a half), his 10 long-distance makes helped him notch a 133.3% mark — easily the best performance in eFG% for the year, blowing out the 123.1 that former MMBOW Samuel Haanpaa turned in on Dec. 15. Using the NBA Efficiency Model, which rewards “good” stats (points, rebounds, etc.) and punishes “bad” ones (turnovers and missed shots), Smith scored a 40. Others have had higher numbers, but when you “tempo-free” it by applying the new (new!) Basketball State statistic of “efficiency per possession”, Smith’s .890 was this season’s highest one-game number of any player who spent 20 or more minutes on the court. All of this is a long-winded way of saying, dude played a solid game.

Mr. Smith went to Fairfax two summers ago, a key juco recruit that was drawn to George Mason because of the Final Four run. At Cochise Community College (Ariz.), he scored 23.1 ppg and was named a first-team juco All-American. He was previously chased by Creighton and Mississippi State, but he ended up as a Patriot. It took him a little time to adjust to Division I life, averaging 8.0 ppg in half-games in 2006-07, but he heated up big-time in the CAA tourney, averaging 17.3 ppg in the four-day run to the championship game. He was named to the all-tourney first team, and there’s no question the Patriots wouldn’t have made it to that final step if not for him.

And after hitting a December rut here in 2007-08, George Mason is back to fulfilling the promise of its solid and stacked roster, winning four of its last five games to climb to 5-2 and a tie for second in the CAA race. A lot of that wouldn’t have happened if not for the Patriots’ 11.1 ppg man, who also happens to be our 11th MMBOW.

az3_main.jpgOur most recent MMBOW has the distinction of being the only Division I player named after a state of the union — the 11 Washingtons don’t count — and one of a very select few players in history with a nickname derived from a U.S. Postal Service abbreviation. Arizona “AZ” Reid is our tenth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

The 6-5 senior forward’s week began with a non-D1 tuneup for the Big South season, in which he helped the Panthers destroy hapless Florida Christian 124-43 by scoring 29 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. But the real reason for his selection this week is his 19-point, 14-rebound performance on Saturday in a remarkable 62-61 victory over Winthrop.. He hit two 3-pointers midway through the second half to help stave off an Eagles rally, and, as mentioned in yesterday’s Boubacar, ripped his jersey off while the crowd stormed the floor. After he put his clothes back on, the ever-humble Reid said, “I didn’t play well, but I played hard.”

Reid’s huge year so far is no surprise — he was selected Big South Preseason Player of the Year after completing a junior season in which he was the postseason selection for Big South Player Of The Year. He’s the sixth-leading scorer in the nation at 23.9 ppg, has not dipped into single digits all year, and leads his conference in rebounds at 10.8 per game. No surprise, then, that he has 10 double-doubles so far, and has narrowly missed that mark twice more with nine-rebound performances. He didn’t miss this particular double-digit distinction, though — congratulations to “AZ” for being our tenth weekly honoree here at The Mid-Majority.

After Albany was thrashed by Virginia in a 2007 NCAA Tournament first-round game that was a viable athletic contest for about 20 seconds, those of us in attendance on the “little guy” side did a lot of wondering aloud about the future of the Great Danes afterwards. This was a school that quickly ascended from 6-22 independent to two-time America East champions in half a decade… but with two high-scoring seniors (Jason Siggers and A-East POY Jamar Wilson) gone to graduation, it looked like the program was about to drop off the map again. If our spotlight player has anything to say about it, that’s not going to happen. Senior swingman Brian Lillis is our ninth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

lillis.gifIn a rematch of last year’s conference championship on Saturday, the 6-5 Iowan hit a career high with 29 points, scoring 19 of those in the second half in a thrilling 80-79 overtime victory over Vermont, putting both teams at 1-1 on the year. Lillis converted on 13 of his 21 shots and also chipped in seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks. Not only did he hit the game-winning shot in overtime with 10 ticks left, he blocked what would have been Vermont’s game-winner, a lane bunny by Marcus Blakely (you, um, remember him). This time around, it was Albany both winning the game and getting the key highlight.

What’s remarkable about this is how far off the radar Lillis was last March. He was essentially the fourth option on a three-option team last season, averaging seven points per ballgame with well-timed shots that allowed him to shoot 52 percent on the year. But he was a complete non-factor in that Virginia loss, wandering around the floor for 25 minutes and scoring no points. This season, however, Lillis really come into his own, more than doubling his scoring average (14.5 ppg) and maintaining a high shooting average while leading the team in scoring. We really thought it would be Brent Wilson’s team this year, what with his outside shot-making ability… he did chip in a double-double on Saturday, but maybe there’s leftover trauma from Blakely’s crotch coming at his face at 55 mph. Who knows.

Congratulations, Brian, you were a slam dunk for our Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

We’re not worried about Dayton’s Brian Roberts getting recognition anymore, so we’re going to go deeper than his dominant 31-point performance in an upset win over Pitt. Much deeper. Peyton Stovall, star guard for the Ball State Cardinals, is our eighth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

stovall_thumb.jpgOn New Year’s Eve against IPFW, the 6-1 senior exploded for a career-high 37 points and nine rebounds in a 69-62 win, the first BSU victory of the season. Stovall shot 10-for-16 from the floor, and his many drives to the hoop resulted in 17 free throws, 14 of which he converted. He also did all those “guard things,” adding five steals and four assists against only two turnovers. According to the NBA Efficiency Model, a catch-basket stat that attempts to add up all the good stats and subtract all the negative ones (turnovers, etc.), Stovall turned in a 44. That was the best single-game performance in mid-majordom last week by nine points (and the second-highest in Division I, one behind N.C. State’s J.J. Hickson’s 45).

Stovall’s career at Ball State has been eventful, to say the least. He’s on his third head coach, and sustained two season-ending injuries and surgeries, and personal and team adversity has always kept his production far below his potential. He was Ball State’s third option last year, scoring 8.8 ppg as the primary point guard. But he’s made the most of his senior campaign, becoming one of the real hidden stars of the MAC. He opened the season with a surprising 13-and-12 double-double against Butler, and dropped 22 against Evansville in a one-point loss. Despite the tough start, Stovall has averaged 14.3 ppg and has shot a sterling 46.5 percent from 3.

We were witnesses to the performance in Muncie on Monday, which clinched the Cardinals’ first win in the Billy Taylor era after 11 straight losses and a turbulent summer. We can attest to the fact that Stovall personally held off the visiting Mastodons himself, driving for layups and hitting deep 3’s as IPFW made its furious late charge from a 15-point halftime deficit. Stovall is a real all-around threat — he loves to drive and draw contact, he’s an excellent passer in traffic, and can seemingly run from end to end in an eye-blink. It’s a shame he’s not on a better team, but he’s our Mid-Majority Baller of the Week anyway.

965329.jpgAfter a slow beginning to the 2007-08 season, the Utah State Aggies are now 9-5 with a four-game winning streak, and a lot of that has to do with their star guard. The All-American senior spent a lot of time in head coach Stew Morrill’s office during the 3-4 start, trying to figure out how to turn things around, and he’s indeed done so. Jaycee Carroll is our seventh Mid-Majority Baller of the Week for 2007-08.

At the USU-hosted Gossner Foods Holiday Classic last week, Carroll filled his shopping cart with points. In the opening round game against Utah Valley State on Thursday, the 6-2 senior guard shot 11-for-16, including six 3-pointers, for a season-high 32 points. In the championship game the next night, he shot 12-for-15 for 33 points versus Northern Arizona. Carroll was also perfect from the free throw line in the tourney, hitting all four of his freebies against UVST and six in the NAU win. With 21.8 ppg on the season, he’s the WAC’s leading scorer and 20th nationally, and is making a sterling 94.5 percent of his free throws (52 of 55).

Mr. Carroll is no stranger to MMBOW honors — actually, he probably is, because he likely doesn’t know he’s getting them. But he was our fourth honoree back during his freshman season in 2004-05, when we still felt the need to rely on conversational filler to get our point across. Now in his fourth year of eligibility, he’s an All-American and a 2,000-point scorer, becoming the school’s second-leading scorer all-time on a 3-pointer during the Utah Valley State game. Congratulations, Jaycee Carroll, long-time hero of this site… you are the Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

Haanpaa.jpgThis was a close one… we had one major-beating, hyper-efficient performance by a Sun Belt baller with Demetric Bennett‘s 34-point, 14-for-19 performance in South Alabama’s 71-67 win over Mississippi State. But he was edged out by two great performances by a hot Horizon League shooter. Samuel Haanpaa of Valparaiso is our sixth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

In two Valparaiso (10-1, 2-0) victories last week, the 6-8 sophomore missed only four shots from the floor. In a hard-fought win over Evansville last Tuesday, he keyed a second-half spurt and finished with 20 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3. But on Saturday, he went all unconscious in a home blowout of Chicago State: a career-high 32 points, with 11-for-13 floor shooting. Ten of those were 3’s (10-for-12), which always sets us to scrambling towards that dearly beloved stat called Effective Field Goal Percentage, which weights long balls (FGM + (0.5 x 3PM))/FGA). Samuel earned a 123.1 percent mark, which is far and away the highest value recorded this season.

Haanpaa nailed 10 3’s on Saturday to break the school record of nine, which had been held by Bryce Drew, who became famous worldwide for that sort of thing back in the 1990’s. Bryce had a front-row seat for the performance (he’s the associate head coach there now), but I don’t think he minded his record being broken. Did we mention that Samuel is 6-8?

Here are some fun facts about Mr. Haanpaa. He’s from Finland! There are actually umlauts over the last two “a”‘s, but a lot of people read this site with Google Reader and we don’t want to break the RSS feed. Aw, heck, let’s do it anyway. Onnittelut, Samuel, te olette meidän keski viikon enemmistön ballemme.

[Samuli checks in from Finland with a better translation than the compu-tron one: Onnittelut Samuel, olet meidän keskiviikon enemmistön palloilija. Thanks, Samuli!]

brumagin2.jpgThe Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos (3-7, 0-2 SL) are off to a tough start in Badlands Conference play, dropping their first couple of games on the road. But that shouldn’t detract from a week by a player whose team just hasn’t caught up with his greatness yet. For scoring 75 points in two league away games, UMKC junior guard Dane Brumagin is our fifth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

Last week, we made prominent mention of his Thursday performance at Oakland, a 114-105 overtime loss in which Brumagin became the first 40-point scorer this season to do so in under 30 minutes — our database doesn’t go far enough back to find the last time that happened in a game between two Division I schools. In just 28 minutes, Brumagin shot 12-for-17 from the floor, added nine free throws, and scored 40 before fouling out. His followup performance was nearly as impressive: 14-for-20 shooting and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line on the way to 35 points at IPFW in a nine-point loss. Sure, the Kangaroos didn’t get any wins out of the trip, but Brumagin’s two stellar performances came on the road, which is always impressive on own merits.

Mr. Brumagin hails from nearby Montgomery City, Mo., a three-hour drive east on I-70. It looks like an absolutely great place to live and raise your kids, if you don’t ming having a dot-matrix mayor. He was a prep star at Warrenton Christian high school, where he was honorably mentioned on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch all-metro team for averaging nearly 26 points and 14 rebounds as a senior. His college career has been slowly ascendant: showing up for some minutes as a freshman, cracking the starting five as a sophomore and emerging as the team’s shooting star this year. Brumagin leads the team in scoring (20.3 ppg), field goal percentage (54.4 percent), and a bunch of efficiency stats: points per shot (1.41), average efficiency (20) and points per 40 minutes (28.5). His school bio says he’s undecided on a major. We suggest a B.A. in basket-filling. Congratulations, Dane, you’re the Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

686785.jpgMichael Bramos of Miami (Oh.) was Michigan’s Mr. Basketball runner-up coming out of high school, and he’s spent most of his college career as a solid, dependable yet overlooked third option — he’s that guy out on the floor who plays 35 minutes but usually puts up more intangibles and Charlie Points than eye-popping stats. He’s working on the stats part, and we’re doing all we can to help change that overlooked part: he’s our fourth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

In the space of seven days, Bramos shattered his career high in points twice. In a 67-60 win over Mississippi State on Nov. 25 that came in too late for Week 3 MMBOW voting, Bramos shot 9-for-18 and made 9 of 11 freebies to accumulate 30 points. But his performance against Dayton on Wednesday that ranked among the most efficient and explosive by anyone, anywhere at any level last week. He scored 36 points on 11-for-17 shooting, made nine 3-pointers, and chipped in five rebounds too. That, according to the NBA Efficiency model, is a one-game score of 39, which is real good. We’re going to overlook his 2-for-9 performance in the Redhawks’ 47-44 loss to Louisville, but as you can see just from the boxscore, there wasn’t a lot of good shooting in that one (except if you were Tim Pollitz). Besides, it wouldn’t be fair to have Bramos slip under the radar again, just because of that game.

It’s a lot of hyperbole, sure, but Michael Bramos might be the most under-appreciated and underrated player in the Mid-American Conference, much less on his team. Pollitz was the star of the MAC tournament last year as well as of the NCAA first-round close call to Oregon… but there was Bramos, scoring in double figures and shooting well, making the All-MAC Tournament Team, doing all the little things. If he does more of the big things — like he did last week — the Redhawks are going to very difficult to beat in the tough MAC East division. Michael Bramos, we salute you, you are the Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

The Rider Broncs went 1-2 over the weekend at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, but one of the top stories coming from that tourney was the performance of a certain 6-11 center, number 1 in maroon and a likely NBA pick. Fresh off a nationally televised showcase that lasted all weekend long, Jason Thompson is our third Mid-Majority Baller of the Week for the 2007-08 season.

Jason Thompson, RiderOn Thanksgiving Day in the opening round, Thompson asserted himself with a 24-and-15 double-double. The next day, he added 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Broncs’ win over Big Ten squad Penn State. On Sunday, in the Broncs’ consolation matchup with Kansas State, Rider lost by 13 but Thompson shot 9-for-14 for 24 points, nearly doubling the scoring output of K-State phenom Michael Beasley (13 points).

As he did last season, Thompson is averaging a double-double for the season: 20.8 points, and 11.3 rebounds. In addition to his two dub-dubs in Orlando, he unleashed a ferocious 23-and-21 performance on Delaware on Nov. 17. He’s shooting an even 50 percent for the year, and is also averaging four blocks a game, tied for sixth in the nation.

Thompson has made no secret of his desire to play in the NBA, and his fallback position is ESPN sports anchor. He’s even been taking the speech communication classes at Rider to polish his delivery, and he’s already got it over Kenny Mayne in the looks department. For now, though, he’s pulled the “Yahtzee!” of being named Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

There were plenty of deserving candidates in the season’s second week, lots of big-time performances by big-time players on teams in the lower 22 conferences. But we’re going to use this space this time to recognize the efforts of a little guy from a little conference that gets little exposure back east. The second Mid-Majority Baller Of The Week for 2007-08 is Josh Akognon of Cal State Fullerton.

67191.jpgOn Saturday, the 5-10 junior shooting guard scored 23 points at Southern Utah as the Titans stormed to a 78-63 win. He did so on 8-for-19 shooting and a 5-for-12 mark from beyond the arc. This contributed to a season average of 25.3 ppg (currently first among all Big West Conference players), and national-grade scoring efficiency with 34.5 points per 40 minutes (12th in D-I as of Sunday). He’s shooting 51 percent from the floor on the campaign, along with a very nice 47.4 percent from threeland (18 in 38 attempts).

Akognon played for two years at Washington State before transferring south to CSF last July for his final two years of eligibility. At Wazzu, he led the team in scoring (10.3 ppg), and there was that time on Feb. 11, 2006 when he dropped 16 points in a row on USC. But the sharpshooting Californian, a McDonald’s All-American nominee out of high school, was was hemmed in by a methodical system — one columnist said the shoehorning of Akognon into the Cougars’ style was like “trying to convince a firearms salesman to believe in gun control.” The Titans are more than happy to cut him loose in a league that’s dominated by little guards.

He’s a veteran of international play, having represented Nigeria at the 2006 World Basketball Championship. And he’s also a veteran of the nickname factory, being labelled the “Petaluma Pistol” by broadcaster Steve Physioc (after the city of Akognon’s origin) and “The Torch” by the CSF faithful. We’ll just call him The Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.

Kyle Hines, North CArolina-GreensboroOne of the most common e-mails I received last year was the repeated question about where the Mid-Majority Baller of the Specified-Time-Period went. I can’t even remember why I took a year off from doing it, it was always such a fun part of every Monday. It had become such an honor that school SID’s would put it in press releases, and I got to shake the hands of some of the deserving winners. A couple even sounded honored to receive the title, but I’m sure they were just being kind.

So it’s back, Jack. And it’s one-man unanimous for our first selection: Kyle Hines is the first Mid-Majority Baller Of The Week of the 2007-08 season.

Hines was the Southern Conference’s player of the year last season, and no stranger to the Whelliston hype machine (we take care of our namesakes, we do). But last Friday night, Mr. Hines exploded out of the 2007-08 gate for 25 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in an 83-74 win at the home of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. That, in case you’ve forgotten, is an ACC team. The Spartans took full control of a tight game after halftime, and the final point total matched Hines’ shooting percentage — he went 10-for-12. (The number was also two short of his wingspan: 85 flippin’ inches.)

It was the latest in a series of big early-season performances for the 6-6 senior — and torched Marshall for 38 to open the 2006-07 season and went 9-for-13 against Vanderbilt as a sophomore. Kyle is involved in lots of series, like his 51-game consecutive double-figure scoring streak. He could also close his college career with consecutive All-America nods, having been named to the 50-man Honorable Mention list during his junior season.

Kyle was recruited by former UNCG head man (and current Siena leader) Fran McCaffery and has become the main engine under current bench boss Mike Dement, averaging 20.1 points per ballgame last season. He’s an undersized big, but forget the Barkley references: Cliff Ellis, a SoCon broadcaster before being named Coastal Carolina head coach this season, drew solid parallels between his game and that of Adrian Dantley. He’s also considered a great and quotable man, as he has his own entry at ThinkExist. That’s right, quotes about Elon games sharing database space with Shakespeare and Chaucer… it’s a proud moment for mid-major philosophers everywhere. But if you want something a little more in-depth, bookmark or RSS his new blog at the NCAA’s site. One entry (written before the GT game), and it’s already better than The Big Lead.