AP Preseason All-America Team Snubs Big 12 Talent

Posted by Chris Stone on November 4th, 2014

On Monday, the Associated Press released its 2014-15 preseason All-America team. The leading vote getter was North Carolina junior guard Marcus Paige, who appeared on 58 of the 68 ballots after averaging 17.5 points and 4.2 assists per game for the Tar Heels last season. He is joined in the backcourt by Wichita State junior Fred VanVleet. The leading vote getter in the frontcourt was Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell, a 6’8″, 240-pounder who figures to be a force inside for the Cardinals this season. Harrell is joined up front by Wisconsin senior big man Frank Kaminsky and Duke’s highly touted freshman, Jahlil Okafor. Okafor is only the third freshman to make the preseason All-America team in the past five years, joining North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins in receiving the honor.

Georges Niang (AP)

Georges Niang (AP)

Noticeably absent from this preseason’s AP team were any players from the Big 12, which is a bit of a surprise given the projected strength of the league as a whole. The Big 12 has four teams ranked in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, including Kansas (#5), Texas (#10), Iowa State (#14) and Oklahoma (#19). The conference also has four other teams — Kansas State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Baylor — that received votes in that poll. With so many quality squads playing in the conference this year, there are certainly some players who could find their way on to one of the AP All-American teams by the end of the season.

Perhaps the Big 12 player most likely to find his name on the list by the end of the season is Iowa State forward Georges Niang. Niang averaged 16.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game as a sophomore for the Cyclones, and he was the most highly-utilized player in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, finishing the year with a 27.8 percent usage rate. Expect Niang’s production to only increase this season as Iowa State looks to replace the void left by the departure of last year’s Big 12 Player of the Year, Melvin Ejim. Another experienced Big 12 forward with a good chance to make one of the postseason teams is Kansas junior Perry Ellis. Ellis returns to Lawrence after averaging 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game last year. The 6’8″ big man will likely see an expanded role for the Jayhawks this season, providing experience for a team that will be integrating young players like Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre into its regular rotation. The Big 12 also features a few guards who will fight for spots on the postseason All-America teams. The most likely candidate is West Virginia’s senior point guard Juwan Staten. Staten made the All-Big 12 First Team last season while averaging 18.1 points per game for the Mountaineers. If West Virginia is able to earn an NCAA Tournament berth after a couple of down years in Morgantown, it will be due in large part to the play of Staten.

While the above list isn’t meant to be comprehensive, it provides some insight into the quality of players that exist in the Big 12 this season. It is certainly reasonable that none of them have been included on the preseason team — there are only five spots, after all — but don’t be surprised if a few Big 12 players end up on the AP All-American teams at the end of the year. After all, the voters aren’t perfect. Neither Barnes nor Wiggins made the postseason first team as freshman, which may bode poorly for Duke’s Okafor. In fact, over the past 10 seasons, only 17 of the 51 preseason All-Americans have made the postseason first team, a 33 percent rate of accuracy. With that kind of room for error, there is plenty of opportunity for a Big 12 player or two to make their way onto the list by the end of the year.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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