2012-13 RTC Preseason All-American TeamsPosted by KDoyle on November 8th, 2012
With the season tipping off tomorrow, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason superlatives and All-America teams: National Player of the Year, National Freshman of the Year, and First, Second, and Third All-America teams. More than anything, our preseason All-America teams are here to foster discussion. Our crack panel of 10 national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this is where we ended up.
- Preseason National Player of the Year—Cody Zeller, Indiana
- Preseason National Freshman of the Year—Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
First Team All-America
Cody Zeller, Indiana (unanimous)—The day Cody Zeller committed to play basketball for Tom Crean at Indiana was the day Hoosier basketball would officially begin its climb back to national relevancy and prominence. The first three years weren’t easy for Crean, who compiled a dismal 28-66 combined record during those seasons, but Zeller was his key recruit that led Indiana to a 27-9 record last year and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Named Mr. Basketball for the state of Indiana as a senior at Washington High School, Zeller was destined for big things right from the get-go. His ability to run the floor like a 6’5″ athletic forward—despite standing at 7’0″ — and sound post-game with a smooth jumper — is a joy for purists of the game to watch. Now, in his sophomore year, he has the Hoosiers eyeing a National Championship.
Factoid: Sophomore Cody Zeller may be bigger than life on the basketball court, but his talents are multi-faceted. Off the court, he goes by the moniker The Big Handsome around the Indiana campus.
Doug McDermott, Creighton (unanimous)—The ability to score from virtually anywhere on the court—whether it is from in the post of either shoulder, or beyond the three-point line—McDermott is perhaps the most talented and feared offensive player in the country. Shooting better than 60% from the field and a ridiculous 48.6% from three, McDermott is poised to put up video game offensive numbers in the Missouri Valley. There may not be a more efficient offensive player in the game—averaging nearly 23 PPG on fewer than 15 shots is impressive.
Factoid: Similar to fellow preseason First Team All-American C.J. McCollum who is notorious for being lightly recruited out of high school, McDermott didn’t exactly have a laundry list of schools knocking on the basketball office door at Ames High School. In fact, his own father wouldn’t even offer him a scholarship to play at Iowa State. And now, well, he just may be the best player in college basketball.
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State—Canaan burst onto the national scene last year for two looming reasons: Murray State won its first 23 games, and he happens to be a damn good point guard. After averaging just shy of 12 PPG as a sophomore, Canaan developed more of a scorer’s mentality as a junior by averaging 19 PPG. He is, essentially, a shooting guard — albeit a big undersized for the position — with an exceptional handle as he shot a blistering 47.3% from three last season.
Factoid: Hailing from Biloxi—one of the southernmost cities in Mississippi—Canaan saw his life and the lives of his loved ones flash before his eyes during Hurricane Katrina. Persevering through this tough time in his life, winning basketball games at Murray State and having a professional career awaiting for him in the NBA is nothing.
DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State—Despite being overshadowed by Jared Sullinger and William Buford last year, no one doubted Thomas’ ability as a supremely explosive player who can play multiple positions on the floor. Thomas became increasingly active on the offensive end as a sophomore by more than doubling his scoring output from his freshman year, and those numbers figure to continue to rise with the Buckeyes losing both Sullinger and Buford.
Factoid: Just how good of an Indiana prep player was Thomas? Good enough to make the Indiana All-Century team, a group of 26 players chosen in 2010 to commemorate the Hoosier State’s long tradition of high school basketball excellence. Some of the names on this list: Bird, Oscar, Plump, Oden, Big Dog. It’s an elite group, and Thomas shares exceptional company.
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh—One of the best stories in college basketball, McCollum struggled to just pick up offers from schools in his own backyard of Ohio. Overlooked by virtually the entire MAC and other schools alike due to his size — McCollum had about a four-inch growth spurt as a senior in high school — and pudgy frame (if you can believe that), he has flourished on the hardwood since day one at Lehigh. He has already eclipsed the 2,000 point total for his career and has an NCAA win over Duke under his belt to boot. Not since Adonal Foyal at Colgate has the Patriot League witnessed such a talent.
Factoid: College hoop writers and broadcasters out there better hope that C.J. McCollum finds great success at the next level because he may be coming after their jobs if he doesn’t. McCollum explains that graduating from Lehigh will set him on the right path for a career in journalism and sports broadcasting. If McCollum is as strong of a writer as he is a player… look out!
Second Team All-America
Mike Moser, UNLV—If UNLV is to have the kind of year that many believe it will, the junior transfer from UCLA will be the primary reason. There is a sour taste, no doubt, left in Moser’s mouth after UNLV lost six of its last 11 games and had an early exit in the NCAA Tournament, which may have deterred his decision to enter the NBA Draft. That, and how his game continues to develop at such a rapid pace, makes Moser one of the top big men in the country.
Factoid: After seeing limited playing time in his first year at UCLA, Moser elected to take the same route that former Bruin Chace Stanback took—head up I-10 to UNLV. Ben Howland certainly has an eye for talent, but too bad he let a couple of good ones get away. Moser explained: “(Chace) kind of had the same thing (at UCLA) before I did — we weren’t playing, it was real tough not getting an opportunity. A lot of things were predetermined when we got there and it just didn’t work out.”
Trey Burke, Michigan—Not projected by many as one of the top recruits in the country last season, Burke took the college hoops world by storm in quickly elevating himself as a top point guard in the game. Despite playing in a slow and methodical Michigan offense, Burke has demonstrated the ability to run in the open floor and make split-second decisions with the best of them. There was a reason, after all, he was named co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year alongside Cody Zeller.
Factoid: Such a relentless defender and menace on the basketball court as a youngster, the league Burke played in had to change the rules to make the game fair for everyone else—Burke wasn’t allowed to play defense.
Phil Pressey, Missouri—One of the best distributors in the country sporting a 2.7 A/TO ratio last season, Pressey did an exceptional job facilitating arguably the best offense in college basketball. If his shooting percentage continues to rise — it went from 38.7% to 42.8% from his freshman to sophomore year — Pressey becomes an even more potent offensive threat.
Factoid: Between a father who played and now coaches in the NBA, playing against Chris Paul who has become a de facto mentor, an older and six-inch taller older brother to work on his game with, and hundreds of calf raises nightly — yes, calf raises — Phil Pressey is destined to have a long and successful career in basketball.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State—Pretty much any and every cliché in describing Aaron Craft’s prowess as a point guard will suffice: “High basketball IQ,” “Heady player,” “An extension of the coach on the floor” — you name it, Craft probably aligns with it. His numbers aren’t overly impressive (8.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.6 APG), but that’s because there aren’t many statistics that track defensive ability and production. You’d be hard pressed to find a point guard in the game who understands the defensive side of the perimeter game quite like Craft.
Factoid: The whole “High basketball IQ” thing translates to Craft’s life off the floor; he is just as apt breaking down a defense as he is taking pre-med courses. The valedictorian of his high school class, Aaron Craft is, no doubt, a dream player for any coach.
Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State—His numbers would suggest that he’s a bruising big man (17.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.5 APG), but his stature (6’5″, 205 lbs) and ability to run the floor suggests something totally different. One of the most versatile players around, Jamaal Franklin burst onto the national scene as a sophomore. After seldom touching the floor as a freshman averaging a mere 8.1 MPG and 2.9 PPG, Franklin emerged as the top player in the Mountain West last season and was named an honorable mention All-America by the Associated Press.
Factoid: Does Franklin wear the long sleeves that have become such a trademark of his just for the look? Hardly. In a postgame interview last year, Franklin explained: “My sleeve is for my shoulder. I took a hard foul against UNLV so I keep a little patch on it and I like to cover it up so I wear long sleeves, so I can keep my shoulder warm after that foul.”
Third Team All-America
James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina—Statistics say that James Michael McAdoo is a role player. Flashes of brilliance last year when not overshadowed by Tyler Zeller and John Henson make McAdoo a legitimate All-America type of player. He will be Carolina’s go-to man in the frontcourt and one of the top big men in the country. There was a reason McAdoo probably would have been a Lottery pick if he had entered the NBA Draft.
Factoid: McAdoo traveled nearly 20,000 miles across the globe to decide when the best and most opportune time was for him to enroll at North Carolina, and he did some very noble work during the process.
Tony Mitchell, North Texas—It isn’t too often that the Sun Belt sees a player of Mitchell’s caliber, as the former Missouri commitment took the mid-major conference by storm last season. Averaging a double-double and three blocks to boot makes Mitchell one of the best big men in the country regardless of conference affiliation.
Factoid: It hasn’t been the easiest of paths for Mitchell to play Division I basketball, but he seems to have found his way. The non-basketball side of his life is catching up with his prowess on the court as exhibited by his wise decision to remain at North Texas for another year to become a more emotionally mature person. If Mitchell continues on the right path, this is a true feel-good story in the making.
Jeff Withey, Kansas—Just ask Anthony Davis what he thinks of Jeff Withey, and he’ll tell you what a tremendous defensive player he is. Withey made life miserable for the #1 pick in last year’s Draft as Davis shot just 1-10 in the National Championship game, thanks in large part of Withey’s extraordinary length and shot-blocking ability. With Thomas Robinson gone for the NBA, Withey becomes the focal point of Kansas’ frontcourt this year.
Factoid: If his basketball career doesn’t work out, Withey could almost assuredly find a spot on the 2016 Men’s Olympic Volleyball team. Given his wingspan and leaping ability, one can only imagine what an asset he’d be on a volleyball team. Remember, he did have 3.30 BPG last season.
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA—It was big news for Ben Howland and the rest of the UCLA basketball program when Shabazz Muhammad — the nation’s undisputed top recruit prior to Nerlens Noel’s reclassification — signed to play for the Bruins. Although he remains ineligible to play as UCLA’s season gets underway, Muhammad will immediately emerge as perhaps the Pac-12’s best player when he takes the floor.
Factoid: Basketball families are a dime a dozen around the sport, but it’s somewhat rare to see a tennis family produce an elite basketball player. Shabazz’s older sister, Asia Muhammad, has been on the professional women’s circuit since 2007 and has reportedly cleared over $100,000 in winnings while reaching a peak singles ranking in 2009 of #348 in the world.
Michael Snaer, Florida State—Nobody in the ACC gets it done on the defensive end quite like Florida State’s ultra-athletic 6’5″ guard Michael Snaer. While his defense has always been solid, his offense really caught up to speed last season as he averaged 14 PPG and shot better than 40% from three.
Factoid: Snaer does not lack for confidence. Over the offseason at the Lebron James Skills Academy, the guard declared himself the top shooting guard (“if I’m not the best, I’m one of the best…”) in college basketball this season. “I can’t be guarded,” he bragged. We can’t disagree with him, as he’s certainly moving up our list.
Also receiving votes: C.J. Leslie (NC State), Otto Porter (Georgetown), Lorenzo Brown (NC State), Mason Plumlee (Duke), Nerlens Noel (Kentucky), Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota), Patric Young (Florida), Pierre Jackson (Baylor), Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee), Kyle Anderson (UCLA), Chane Behanan (Louisville), Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Matthew Dellavedova (St. Mary’s), Nate Wolters (South Dakota State), Christian Watford (Indiana), Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), Allen Crabbe (California), Myck Kabongo (Texas), Alex Poythress (Kentucky), Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), Peyton Siva (Louisville), Solomon Hill (Arizona)
Some brief analysis on the selections:
- A staggering 37 players were nominated for the three teams. Only two players—Zeller and McDermott—were consensus 1st Team Preseason All-Americans.
- Six of the 15 players on our All-America teams come from outside the “Power Six” conferences, and three of these players made the First Team.
- It was a two-man race for the preseason NPOY as Cody Zeller received six votes, while Doug McDermott received four.
- As for the preseason NFrOY, there was a bit more diversity. A total of five freshman received consideration, but Muhammad was ultimately the choice by accruing five votes. (Marcus Smart, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, and Alex Poythress received the others.)
- With the games kicking off in a bit more than 24 hours, we readily anticipate many more names appearing on this list come March 2013. But, for the time being, let the debates, discussion, and roundball begin.
A Note on an Inexact Science (or, Why This Will Be Wrong)
Preseason teams and polls in any sport, not just college basketball, is far from a science. Predicting how one player will perform throughout an entire season compared to hundreds of other talented players across the nation is nearly impossible. Look no further than the preseason All-American teams last year as voted by the Associated Press, and then compare them to the final teams:
2011-12 AP Preseason All-Americans
- 1st Team: Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Jordan Taylor, Tu Holloway, Terrence Jones
- 2nd Team: Jeremy Lamb, John Jenkins, Ashton Gibbs, Perry Jones, JaMychal Green
- 3rd Team: Austin Rivers, Trevor Mbakwe, Robbie Hummel, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, John Henson
2011-2012 AP All Americans
- 1st Team: Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Doug McDermott, Thomas Robinson, Jared Sullinger
- 2nd Team: Isaiah Canaan, Jae Crowder, Marcus Denmon, Kevin Jones, Tyler Zeller
- 3rd Team: John Jenkins, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Damian Lillard, Kendall Marshall, Tyshawn Taylor
The AP named just three players to their preseason All-America team that actually finished on an All-America team at season’s end. Anthony Davis, the National Player of the Year, wasn’t even named!