NCAA Tournament Mid-Major Player to Watch: Isaiah Canaan, Murray State

NCAA Tournament Mid-Major Player to Watch: Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
Photo by Larry Ellis (Bullsville.com)

If you've never heard of Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan, I highly suggest that you watch the Racers' NCAA Tournament opener today against Colorado State.

With Butler making it to the Final Four the last two years, more people than ever are paying attention to mid-major players. This might make it impossible for any player to truly come out of nowhere in the tournament, but certainly the casual fan has never heard of Canaan.

People may scoff at Murray State's schedule, but they beat the good teams they played. Canaan had 15 points and seven assists as the Racers beat Memphis 76-72, and the Tigers are a #8 seed in the NCAA Tourney.

Southern Miss is a #9 seed, and Canaan had a season-high 36 points on 11/22 FG (6/11 3's) in a 90-81 Murray win. Western Kentucky just won their first NCAA game, and Canaan had 18 on 5/10 FG in a 70-59 Murray State win over the Hilltoppers.

And in the biggest game in Murray State history- with 14th-ranked (and NCAA Tourney #7 seed) St. Mary's, Dick Vitale and a Saturday night ESPN TV national audience, and yours truly in the CFSB center, Canaan put up 23 points on 9/13 FG, hitting 5/8 three's in a 65-51 Racer win.

In four games against NCAA Tournament teams, Isaiah Canaan averaged 23 points, 5 rebounds and 4.3 assists. This is a guy who shows up big for big games.

He may only be 6'0", but his step-back three-point shot is deadly, and he can get it off over anyone. He has the strength to finish in traffic, taking a bump isn't a problem for Canaan.

Canaan led the Racers in scoring with 19.2 points per game, and he did it on an unheard of 11.9 shots per game. Perhaps the most amazing statistic about Canaan is that he averaged 19.2 points while attempting 15 or more shots in a game only five times.

He leads the team with 3.7 assists, and he shoots .484 from the floor, .840 from the line, and .473 from behind the arc (while attempting 6.5 a night).

Don't be surprised if the Racers make a Sweet 16 run in this year's tourney, and don't be surprised if you hear the name Isaiah Canaan called out in this summer's NBA draft.

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    Don Ellis

    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. He attended Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (columnist) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters, SportsCenter anchor) . In addition to running Bullsville.net and writing for ChicagoNow, TheSportsBank.net, and SportsBlog.com, he is also a KHSAA and semi-pro baseball umpire. He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. Follow Don on Twitter @Bullsville.

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