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Under The Radar: Five Mid-Major Players With Major Game

G Damian Lillard, Weber State

2011-2012 Stats: 25.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.8 APG

The junior guard has seven games of 30 points or more this season, and is currently leading the nation in scoring at 25.5 points per game. He also has the No. 1 offensive rating in the nation (31.7), as calculated by Ken Pomeroy. Lillard, a native of Oakland, CA, was named the 2009-2010 MVP of the Big Sky Conference as a sophomore, but sat out last season with a medical redshirt after injuring his foot nine games into the year. The 6’3 guard is getting attention from NBA scouts, and is currently projected as a late first round pick in the 2012 draft by DraftExpress.

F Doug McDermott, Creighton

2011-2012 Stats: 23.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.3 APG

Doug, the son of Creighton head coach Gregg McDermott, has been outstanding this season for the nationally ranked Blue Jays. The 6’7 sophomore’s offensive production has vastly improved from his freshman season. McDermott averaged 14.9 points per game while shooting 53 percent from the field last yea. This year he’s averaging 23.4 points per game and shooting an outstanding 62 percent from the field. McDermott has scored over 30 points five times this season, including a 44 point effort against Bradley on Jan. 7.  McDermott played on the same high school basketball team in Ames, IO as North Carolina star Harrison Barnes. While McDermott and Creighton lost to Northern Iowa this past weekend, the Blue Jays should still be in line for a top five seed come NCAA Tournament time.

G Isaiah Canaan, Murray State

2011-2012 Stats: 18.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.8 APG

The 6 foot junior has been the spark plug for the undefeated Racers. He leads the team in points, assists and steals. Canaan exploded in the second half and had 32 points total in Murray State’s comeback victory against Southeast Missouri State last week. The Racers had to rely on Canaan even more the last few weeks as Ivan Aska, the team’s third leading scorer, missed six games with an injury. In a great match-up of mid-major guards, Canaan will face off with St. Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova in a BracketBusters game on Feb. 18. The game is probably the Racers’ toughest remaining challenge in their quest for an unbeaten season.

G Scott Machado, Iona

2011-2012 Stats: 13.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 10.0 APG

North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall gets a lot of buzz for being a sharp-passing, unselfish point guard, but Iona’s Machado might be the best assist machine in the nation. Machado (10.0) is first in the country in assists per game, just slightly ahead of Marshall (9.8). The 6’1 Queens native has racked up 14 or more assists in six games this season. Machado can also score himself. He’s averaging 13.6 points per game while shooting a solid 49 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc. Machado and Arizona-transfer Mo Mo Jones give Iona one of the best backcourts in the country. The Gaels are definitely a team no one wants to see in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament.

G Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

2011-2012 Stats: 21.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 6.2 APG

Wolters puts up one of the most complete stat lines of any guard in the country. He had 34 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in the Jackrabbits’ victory over Washington in December. Wolters is also garnering attention from NBA scouts. DraftExpress currently has him projected as a second round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. One thing that impressed scouts was the 6’4 Wolters’ three-point shooting. However, his percentage from behind the arc has dropped from 40 percent in 2010-11 to 25 percent this season.  The St. Cloud, MN native is attempting to lead South Dakota State to the first NCAA tournament appearance in school history. The Jackrabbits currently sit in second place of the Summit League, but they defeated first place Oral Roberts last week.

Others: Reggie Hamilton, Oakland; Arslan Kazami, Rice; Mike Muscala, Bucknell; C.J. McCollum, Lehigh; Casper Ware, Long Beach State

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