Player of the Year:
Obi Toppin, SF/PF, #3 Dayton Flyers
From the beginning of the season until the unfortunate premature ending, Obi Toppin cemented his status as the best player among mid-major prospects, as well as players in the entire country. Even the best team in the country, the Kansas Jayhawks, could not find a way to stop the emerging sophomore. Toppin became so unstoppable this year because of his ability to stretch the floor, drive to the hoop, and also dominate in the post with his 6’9, 220-pound frame.
Dayton’s superstar carried the Flyers all year long and finished with a 20 point, 7.5 rebound, and 2.2 assist average per game. He also became one of the most consistent superstars all year long and wowed every audience placed in front of him. His conference play averages essentially mirrored his total averages for the season to show just how consistent he was. It is a shame he couldn’t lead the Flyers on a March Madness run, but it was truly a pleasure to watch him for as long as we could.
Team of the Year:
#3 Dayton Flyers, 29-2, 18-0 Atlantic-10 Conference
In a season defined by unthinkable upsets and unpredictable champions, the third-ranked Dayton Flyers followed suit and surprised the entire country. Obi Toppin led the Flyers to their best season in program history, which has tragically been cut short by a devastating pandemic. Nonetheless, the 2019-20 Dayton Flyers will go down as the best team in program history and one of the best mid-major teams in recent memory.
The mid-major team of the year almost always goes to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, but the Flyers ensured that this season was going to be different. Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher led the way for one of the most prolific offenses in college basketball. Trey Landers and Ibi Watson played crucial roles as secondary scorers to the stars. And Anthony Grant implemented an unstoppable spread offense to get the most out of his players. All of this contributed to the unstoppable force that Dayton became down the stretch, landing them the honor as Mid-Major Team of the Year.
Coach of the Year:
Brian Dutcher, #6 San Diego State Aztecs
While Anthony Grant of Dayton is more than deserving of this honor, the job that Brian Dutcher did at San Diego State was one of the more impressive coaching jobs in all of college basketball. The Dayton Flyers probably had the best player in college basketball in Obi Toppin and even with a great coach, players still need to go out there and make the shots. Dayton’s players were talented scorers with a good amount of experience playing together.
Brian Dutcher took 3 starters who were in their first season at San Diego State as well as two more role players in their first season with the Aztecs and created a nearly unbeatable end product. You’d think that with this inexperience playing together that the team would start off slow, right? Think again. The Aztecs started off 26-0 and skyrocketed to the #4 team in the country. Dutcher’s players bought in to his philosophy as they turned into one of the most ferocious defenses in the entire country. I’ve always believed that the best basketball coaches are the ones that can establish a great defense and that is why I gave Dutcher the edge over Grant for this season’s Mid-Major Coach of the Year.
Freshman of the Year:
Precious Achiuwa, SF/PF, Memphis Tigers
With the departure of James Wiseman after only two games, Precious Achiuwa stepped up as the best player for the Memphis Tigers and the best freshman among mid-major prospects. The majority of the top mid-major teams were composed of standout upperclassmen while the top four prospects who went to mid-major schools all went to Memphis. Of the four, Achiuwa easily stood out the most as he averaged nearly 20 points per game.
Wiseman’s departure did create some problems for Achiuwa, too. The extra dependence on the star freshman led to less efficient scoring statistics and a lack of publicity as the Tigers highly anticipated season fell through the cracks. But loads of credit must be given to Achiuwa who stayed consistent all year long and kept Memphis’ NCAA Tournament hopes alive until there was no tournament to qualify for. All in all, an impressive season for Achiuwa all but guarantees him a first-round selection and the honor of Mid-Major Freshman of the Year.
Top 5 Mid-Major Prospects
1. Obi Toppin, SF/PF, #3 Dayton Flyers
While covering mid-major NBA prospects this season I have found myself writing about Obi Toppin more than anyone else, and rightfully so. He has every trait you would want in a stretch four at the next level and he is only going to improve. He is strong enough to play in the post, athletic enough to blow by wing defenders, and has a high release jumper that is improving every game. With what I have seen this year, I would pull the trigger on Toppin before any other player when the NBA Draft rolls around.
2. Precious Achiuwa, SF/PF, Memphis Tigers
The other prospect projected in the first round of the NBA Draft is Precious Achiuwa. Achiuwa has a similar physique to Toppin but is nowhere near the jump shooter that Toppin is. However, Achiuwa has been one of the best rebounders in college basketball this season. The true freshman averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds on the season for the Tigers and became their lone reliable threat offensively down the stretch. If he can develop a better jumper, Achiuwa could become one of the more dynamic power forwards in the NBA during his career.
3. Malachi Flynn, PG, #6 San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State went as Malachi Flynn went throughout the course of the 2019-20 season. The Aztecs’ 30-2 record tells you everything you need to know about this prospect when you consider the previous statement. With an average of 17.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, Flynn emerged as one of the best, most well-rounded point guards in the nation. He is not too undersized for an NBA point guard at 6’1 and has limitless range from beyond the arc. Flynn is currently projected in the second round, but do not be surprised if a team takes a chance on him a bit earlier.
4. Malik Fitts, SF/PF, Saint Mary’s Gaels
Malik Fitts was one of the more physically gifted players in the entire country this year. I would argue that he is the most athletic big man in this year’s draft class. Fitts stands at 6’8 but consistently drove right past his defenders with speed and strength. Not only is he great at getting to the tin, but he is also a knockdown three-point shooter at 40% on the season. In the likely final game of his career, he combined with Jordan Ford for the first 34 points of the game against Gonzaga, including a 4-4 start from distance. Fitts may just have the highest upside for any player projected in the second round of the NBA Draft.
5. Killian Tillie, PF, #2 Gonzaga Bulldogs
If Killian Tillie could have stayed healthy throughout his career, he would be a lot higher on mock drafts than he is right now. However, due to the long list of injuries he endured, he sits at the bottom of the second round on our 2020 mock draft. Tillie has the size to play in the post at the next level, but he will also need to bulk up if he’s going to play with some of the strongest men in the sport. What will set him apart from these beasts in the paint is his three-point shooting that has steadily sat above 40% for his career. The biggest question mark for Tillie remains as his ability to stay healthy, and if he can, he could put together a great NBA career.
1st Team All Mid-Major
G- Malachi Flynn, San Diego State Aztecs
G- Jordan Ford, Saint Mary’s Gaels
G- Sam Merrill, Utah State Aggies
F- Obi Toppin, Dayton Flyers
F- [Player:Yoeli Childs], BYU Cougars
2nd Team All Mid-Major
G- Jalen Crutcher, Dayton Flyers
G- Grant Riller, Charleston Cougars
F- Malik Fitts, Saint Mary’s Gaels
F- Filip Petrusev, Gonzaga Bulldogs
F- Precious Achiuwa, Memphis Tigers