2011-12 Rush the Court All-America TeamsPosted by zhayes9 on March 29th, 2012
If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s Rush the Court All-America team, it’s that none of us are as smart as we think.
Back in November, our voters were on the same page as the majority of national writers, pegging Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Jordan Taylor, Terrence Jones and Tu Holloway for our preseason All-America first team. Only Sullinger followed that up with a spot on the postseason squad. As for our Ashton Gibbs-John Jenkins-Jeremy Lamb-Perry Jones-Tyler Zeller second team, only Zeller lived up to the billing. Nostradamus is not walking through that door.
Rather than discussing players who failed to match those high hopes, let’s delve into the players who exceeded or met expectations. After tallying the votes and discarding any hanging chads, here are our postseason 2011-12 RTC All-Americans:
Note: voters took conference and NCAA Tournament results into consideration.
First Team All-America
Anthony Davis, Kentucky (RTC National Player of the Year)– A near-unanimous player of the year selection, Davis made more of an impact on the defensive end of the floor than any other contender for the award. His 4.6 blocks per game doesn’t adequately account for how many shots he altered, turnovers he caused and general fear he struck in the minds of opponents. Causing havoc on defense is one thing, but Davis also showed off a rapidly improving post-up and face-up repertoire, displaying incredible offensive versatility in an efficient manner. Davis picked his spots well on a loaded Kentucky team, shooting 67% from inside the arc, grabbing 10 rebounds per game and shooting 71% from the charity stripe. From overlooked recruit to McDonald’s All-American to Final Four to Player of the Year frontrunner and soon the number one overall pick, it’s been quite the magical ride for Davis.
Thomas Robinson, Kansas- After coming off the bench behind the Morris twins last season, Robinson was pegged as the popular pick to break out in a big way in 2011-12. Robinson delivered on those predictions and more, averaging 17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and shooting 51% from inside the arc. Robinson, who was asked to carry the load for a Jayhawks squad ravaged by early entry and graduation, quickly emerged as the premier low-post scorer in America. Robinson is flush with gifted athleticism, an NBA veteran’s body and unstoppable post moves. For a player who overcame indescribable adversity a season ago, any neutral observer during this year’s Final Four could do a lot worse than root for Robinson.
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State- I’m thankful that Sullinger was honored as a first team player because it’s laughable when critics suggest he’s disappointed or even regressed from his freshman campaign. His 17.6 points per game, 9.1 rebounds and 51% shooting are even more impressive when you realize every scouting report is geared toward containing him in the post. Sullinger added a reliable jumper which extends to the three-point line, rendering the Buckeye star nearly unstoppable when he’s in a groove. Sullinger also utilized his sturdy frame to rank among the nation’s elite in free throws drawn where he converts at a 77% rate.
Draymond Green, Michigan State- No player meant more to his respective team than Green meant to the Spartans. Remove Sullinger or Davis and their teams are still top-25 caliber, but Green was so valuable in so many different areas for Tom Izzo this season. Not only did Green become the first major conference player to average 15 points, ten rebounds and three assists per game since Wake Forest star and fellow four-year contributor Tim Duncan, but the intangible and leadership qualities to lead Sparty out of the embarrassing mess that was the Lucas/Summers-led 2010-11 squad was invaluable. He should be mentioned in the same breath as Magic Johnson and Mateen Cleaves in Michigan State lore.
Doug McDermott, Creighton- The biggest reason why the Bluejays finished in the nation’s top-five in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage and three-point shooting was McDermott, a former high school teammate of Harrison Barnes told by his own father he wasn’t good enough to play at Iowa State. Turns out McDermott can play with anyone in the nation after completing an absurd sophomore season in which he scored 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest with video game efficiency: 63% from two, 49% from three and 80% from the line. McDermott possesses soft hands, quick feet, an off-the-charts basketball IQ and is uncontainable when he establishes position in the post and has room to score over either shoulder.
Second Team All-America
Tyler Zeller, North Carolina- On a team with four all-ACC first team caliber players, Zeller was the most consistent of the lot and a guarantee for 17 and 9 every single night. The often overlooked trait of Zeller’s repertoire is his tremendous post defense and positioning. He”s constantly in the perfect spot to take that crucial game-changing charge. Zeller, who improved his field goal percentage, points and rebounds in each of his four seasons in Chapel Hill, is all but unstoppable with that patented left shoulder jump hook.
Jae Crowder, Marquette- If Green is the country’s most valuable player relative to his team, Crowder is a close second. There’s nary a weakness in Crowder’s game, a former junior college transfer who plays with an irrepressible toughness and infectious enthusiasm. Crowder is comfortable making any type of basketball play on any spot on the floor. He’ll nail a three-pointer in your face, switch onto a quick guard on the other end, haul in a rebound over a player four inches taller and block a layup into the stands in a matter of minutes.
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State- The Racers were college basketball’s feel good mid-major this season and their unprecedented success was largely due to Canaan’s exceptional play. The junior made a staggering 46% of his threes despite being the focal point of every team’s defense and has shot over 40% from deep during all three seasons in Murray. Canaan is also lightning quick to the bucket, contributes on the boards, runs the point with aplomb and provides valuable leadership for coach Steve Prohm.
Kevin Jones, West Virginia- Jones was the most productive player in the Big East this past season and a near-lock for 20 points and 10 rebounds every time he stepped on the floor. Jones was forced to play a staggering 93.4% of his teams’ minutes for a Mountaineer squad that started three freshmen. The accomplished senior may have been the best offensive rebounder in the country. He was an unstoppable force establishing position on the weak side boards and finishing in the post.
Marcus Denmon, Missouri- Denmon played the role of steady cog on the country’s most efficient offensive powerhouse. The Kansas City native finished in the top-20 in offensive rating for the second consecutive season after shooting 53% from two, 41% from three and 90% from the line. Despite his 6’3” stature, Denmon is one of the toughest players in the sport and a road runner in transition.
Also receiving votes: Damian Lillard (Weber State), Scott Machado (Iona), Kendall Marshall (North Carolina), Will Barton (Memphis), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky).
Coach of the Year
Bill Self- The job that Self did in Lawrence this season cannot be overstated. The Jayhawks lost three rotation seniors, two top-20 draft picks, a one-and-done freshman and two of their top recruits were deemed ineligible on the season’s eve. Needless to say, Self faced an uphill battle to win his eighth straight Big 12 regular season title. His team had to replace four starters while trying to survive with a bench consisting of a Loyola Marymount transfer and a former walk-on. The transformation of Jeff Withey, the maturation of Tyshawn Taylor and the breakout play of Thomas Robinson opened the door for more Rock Chalk magic. Any player who stays three or four years in Lawrence is destined to improve under Self, who willed one of his least talented teams to a top-five defensive efficiency, another league title and a spot in the Final Four this weekend. Now that’s making the most of what you have.
Also receiving votes: John Calipari (Kentucky), Rick Pitino (Louisville).