Mid-majors are an integral part of college basketball, moreso than virtually any other sport. Responsible for magical Cinderella runs in March, stunning upsets, and – as shown by Monmouth – some of the best bench antics in the country, mid-major stars can either explode (like Obi Toppin), or run quietly under the radar, putting up big game after big game while the spotlight shines elsewhere. So, that led us to consider, who are the top returning mid-major players in the country. As we did yesterday in our Big 10 and ACC lists, this is covering Forwards/Centers, as we will rank returning guards in another article. Without further ado, here are the top five returning mid-major big-men.
#5. Gaige Prim, Missouri State
Despite only playing a little over 21 minutes per game, Prim became a consistent scoring threat for Missouri State in his first season at the NCAA level. A JUCO product, Prim showed out early in some non-conference action, dropping 18 points on Miami, although some of his early-season results were inconsistent, as was his playing time. However, as the season wore on, Prim’s consistency improved greatly, as he finished his 2019-2020 campaign by scoring at least 10 points in their final 13 contests, and in 18 of their last 19. Prim dropped a season-high 23 points in two different games, including a 23 point, 12 rebound effort against Drake. In a critical late-season victory over Loyola-Chicago, who finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference, Prim showed out with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and a steal. Prim’s steady improvement as he got adjusted to the college game is a great sign for the Bears heading into next season, as he already is looking like one of the best post players in the MVC, and potentially one of the best post players in the country.
#4. Ahsan Asadullah, Lipscomb
Playing 14 minutes a game his freshman year, Asadullah’s numbers were solid, if pretty modest. However, in his sophomore season, Asadullah became the primary post player for Lipscomb, and he became a monster in the paint for the Bisons. After averaging a little over 7 points and 4 rebounds per contest in his rookie year, Asadullah’s number skyrocketed to over 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, joining a short and exclusive list of players to average a double-double for the whole season. Asadullah scored more than 20 points on twelve different occasions, including a 40-point explosion against Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic-Sun quarterfinals. Asadullah didn’t back down from the spotlight, following his monster game against FGCU with a 27-point, 19-rebound onslaught, leading Lipscomb to a semifinal upset of North Florida. Although the Bisons ultimately fell short in the conference championship, it was hardly due to Asadullah, who dropped another 22 points and collected nine rebounds. Asadullah showed out all season, and he upped his game as the lights got brighter, so look for him to be one of the top big men at the mid-major level, and in the country, as Lipscomb looks to go dancing.
#3. Douglas Wilson, South Dakota State
Another JUCO product, Wilson played his first collegiate season last year, although you would hardly know it from his numbers. Shooting 63% from the field, Wilson averaged 18.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, exceeding double digits in scoring in his final 19 games of the year, topping 30 points several times. He came out of the gate strong, posting 15 points against Power-5 programs USC, Nebraska, and #14 Arizona. In Summit League play, Wilson consistently put up huge numbers. The Jackrabbits were firmly entrenched in the top three in the Summit League, and facing fellow tournament favorites North Dakota State and South Dakota, Wilson scored 20 points in each contest, along with a 25-point, 10-rebund performance against Oral Roberts, the fourth-place team in the Summit League. With a bevy of strong performances already under his belt, it’s scary to think of what Wilson will be doing next year, having already played a full collegiate season.
#2. Michael Hughes, Duquesne
In terms of experience, few can match Hughes on this list, as the Duquesne star has played three seasons, including over 24 minutes per game in his past two campaigns, shooting close to 60% in both his sophomore and junior years. Entering his final year, Hughes looks primed for an explosion in a very strong A-10, especially with Dayton stud Obi Toppin leaving the conference for the draft. Hughes’ battles against Toppin showcased some of his potential, as Hughes didn’t back down from one of the top players in the country, posting 29 points and 14 rebounds in two clashes with the Flyers. He posted a season-high of 23 points, and if Hughes can avoid the falls (7 foul-outs last season), I fully expect him to be one of the top mid-major players, and the best post player in the Atlantic-10.
#1. Filip Petrusev, Gonzaga
Save your debates about whether Gonzaga should count as a mid-major for another day. They are not in a power-6 conference, so Petrusev qualifies for this set of rankings, the Serbia native was a relatively easy choice to claim the #1 spot. After being a role player in his freshman season, Petrusev began to truly showcase his abilities last season, averaging 17.5 points per game, paired with 7.9 rebounds. The Bulldogs traditionally load their non-conference schedule to make up for their lackluster West Coast Conference slate, so Petrusev got a chance to show out in some high-profile games, and he didn’t fail to rise to the occasion. In an overtime victory over #11 Oregon, Petrusev went off for 22 points and 15 rebounds, and in back-to-back contests against ranked Arizona and Washington squads, the Gonzaga star combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds. In the regular season finale and conference championship clashes with St. Mary’s, Petrusev posted 37 points and 20 rebounds, putting up elite numbers through the season’s end. Gonzaga figures to be a national title contender next season, and expect Petrusev to be a major factor in their championship chase.