Introducing the RTC Preseason All-America TeamsPosted by Walker Carey on November 10th, 2016
With the season tipping off on Friday, there’s no better time to roll out our the RTC Preseason All-America Teams. More than anything, these three groups of outstanding players are here to foster and encourage discussion over the next four months. Our crack panel of seven national columnists provided ballots over the last week and this is where we ended up.
First Team All-Americans
- Grayson Allen, Duke (UNANIMOUS) – Allen enters his junior season after a wildly successful sophomore campaign where he emerged as one of the country’s most dynamic offensive players. Duke’s standout scorer led last season’s Sweet Sixteen squad with 21.6 points per game and shot a very efficient 41.7 percent from behind the three-point line. The Blue Devils are receiving considerable preseason hype because of the all-everything freshman class that arrives in Durham, but the return of Allen is the primary reason why Mike Krzyzewski’s squad is viewed as a legitimate National Title contender. Factoid: Allen was the culprit in two major tripping incidents last season, but the junior has moved on from those lapses in judgment, stating: “I knew that I made mistakes. I messed up. I always had to be reminded of that and see that on TV. It was tough. It’s embarrassing to see my mistakes, stuff I regret a lot, being replayed for everyone to see.”
- Josh Hart, Villanova — The defending National Champions figure to be a prime contender to repeat and a lot of that has to do with return of the senior Hart. During his junior season, Hart transitioned from his previous role as a reliable glue guy to becoming a serious offensive threat — pacing a balanced Villanova squad with season averages of 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Considering Hart’s contributions, it is reasonable to believe that the Wildcats will once again be the team to beat in the Big East. Factoid: Villanova head coach Jay Wright was thrilled when Hart decided to bypass the NBA Draft and return for his senior season, but he wants to see the senior step into a more serious leadership role now that Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu have graduated.
- Josh Jackson, Kansas — Kansas has had mixed success with elite recruits over the last few years, where some (such as Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid) experienced great success in their lone season in Lawrence, while others (Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo) struggled to find their place in Bill Self’s system. A consensus top-five recruit and explosive athlete, Jackson will try to join the former group as he enters his freshman campaign. While it is safe to assume that the precocious youngster will battle some common freshman growing pains, his supreme talents should make those easier to overcome. Factoid: Self has been quite impressed with his freshman’s maturity, stating: “He’s coming in as mature and worldly as any kid we’ve ever had. He’s well beyond his years for a college freshman.”
- Dillon Brooks, Oregon –– Brooks burst onto the scene during a sophomore season where Oregon earned a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the program’s first Elite Eight since 2007. The versatile forward averaged a team-high 16.7 points per game and became the first player in program history to reach 1,000 career points as a sophomore. Preseason expectations are very high for the Ducks again this season, and it is fair to conclude that Dana Altman’s squad have enough pieces to live up to the hype. Factoid: Brooks had surgery on his foot over the summer, and while his status for the first few games of the season is still unknown, Oregon does not anticipate its star will miss an extended period of time.
- Ivan Rabb, California — One of the real surprises of last spring’s NBA Draft season was that Rabb decided to return to Berkeley for his sophomore season. With Jaylen Brown now in the NBA and Jordan Mathews playing at Gonzaga, the Golden Bears will become Rabb’s team. The 6’11” forward had a great freshman season in helping push California to its first NCAA Tournament since 2013, averaging 12.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Factoid: In explaining his rationale for bypassing the NBA Draft, Rabb maturely noted: “At the end of the day, the NBA isn’t going anywhere. If I’m the guy I’m supposed to be, I should be there next year as well. I should be even better, even more comfortable on the floor, have a better mentality. There are some improvements on the floor I want to make, and why not make them in college before I get to the next level? I want to have fewer weaknesses, so when I get there, I can just continue to get better.”
Second Team All-Americans
- Monte’ Morris, Iowa State — Each season it seems like teams with experienced senior point guards are generally more successful than units lacking in that department. Iowa State hopes that will remain the case this season as Morris will lead a relatively young Cyclones squad through the perils of life in the Big 12. Morris is well-equipped for such a duty, as his durability (he played 718 of a possible 735 minutes in Big 12 play last season) and penchant for distributing and protecting the ball (he finished third nationally with a 4.23 assist-to-turnover ratio last season) place him among the best point guards in the country. Factoid: Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm is attempting to make small alterations to Morris’ game, as the team will need him to score more frequently this season. Prohm said of this tweak: “I like my point guards to be able to score. I’ve had a lot of really good point guards and they’ve scored at a really high clip. Last year, I’d even tell Monte’, ‘Go go go, push push push, shoot a transition three.’ I want him in attack mode. I don’t want him thinking set the offense.”
- Markelle Fultz, Washington — It has become exceedingly rare for an athlete to ascend from relative obscurity to become one of the nation’s top recruits, but that is the case for Fultz. For all intents and purposes, the freshman from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, became a young phenom seemingly out of nowhere. Fultz was toiling away on DeMatha High School’s junior varsity team just three short years ago when a sudden growth spurt — coupled with a second-to-none work ethic — pushed his status on to the short list of top prospects for the 2017 NBA Draft. Factoid: It may seem strange that a recruit from Maryland would end up 3,000 miles away at Washington, but Lorenzo Romar was one of the first coaches to recruit Fultz and he never forgot the interest his program showed throughout the process.
- Melo Trimble, Maryland — For the second straight year, Trimble turned down the NBA Draft to return to College Park. While the spirited point guard’s numbers dropped a bit between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Trimble was still the straw that stirred the drink for a Terrapins squad that advanced to the program’s first Sweet Sixteen in over a decade. Maryland will be a young team this season, but it would be wise to believe the program can make its third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance with Trimble once again leading the charge. Factoid: Trimble turned his ankle in Maryland’s recent exhibition finale against Catawba, but he is still expected to play in Friday’s season opener against American.
- Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin — It is always a good thing when the best player returns for his senior campaign after leading his team to the Sweet Sixteen. That is the situation in which Wisconsin finds itself with the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year returning to Madison to close out his collegiate career. In his junior season, Hayes was named first-team All Big Ten after averaging 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Factoid: When Hayes decided to return for his senior season, he made a list of goals he wanted to accomplish during his final year. At the top of that list was to earn his degree from the Wisconsin School of Business.
- Thomas Bryant, Indiana — After winning the outright Big Ten conference title last season, Indiana is expected to once again be a major contender in the conference race this season. A prime reason for that projection is the return of Bryant. The freshman averaged 11.9 points per game on a very efficient 68.3 percent shooting last season, punctuated by dominating the Kentucky front line for 19 points in just 24 minutes of action during the Hoosiers’ NCAA Tournament Round of 32 victory. Factoid: Today’s one-and-done culture was never the plan for Bryant. His high school coach Jon Boon at Bishop Kearney in Rochester, New York, acknowledged as much by saying: “He loves it there. He just really enjoys college, and he told me the plan all along was to stay at least two years. He felt that was what he needed.”
Third Team All-Americans
- Dennis Smith Jr., NC State — After earning four consecutive NCAA Tournament bids from 2012-15, NC State finished just 16-17 overall last season. Hopes are high in Raleigh this fall, though, because of Smith’s arrival. Although he is coming off a knee injury that robbed him of his senior season, the freshman point guard is an explosive athlete who has drawn rave reviews for both his distribution and scoring abilities. Factoid: Because of the injury, Smith graduated high school early and spent last spring’s semester at NC State, taking part in team workouts and watching games from the bench.
- Edmond Sumner, Xavier — Sumner’s ascent during his redshirt freshman season a year ago was truly unexpected. He sparsely played in six games during his true freshman season before getting shut down for medical reasons, so he entered last season as a virtual unknown. It did not take long, though, for the point guard to become one of the most reliable players in college basketball. The 6’6″ floor general averaged 11.0 points and 3.6 assists per game to earn a unanimous spot on the Big East All-Rookie Team. Factoid: Xavier coach Chris Mack asked Sumner to take acting classes to put him in positions where he was uncomfortable and had to talk.
- Jayson Tatum, Duke — Tatum is one of several gems in Duke’s star-studded freshman class. The forward arrives on the college basketball scene with a great deal of fanfare, as he already owns three gold medals as part of USA Basketball (2015 FIBA U-19 World Championship, 2015 FIBA U-17 World Championship, and 2013 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship). Factoid: Tatum injured his foot during a recent preseason practice, but he is hoping to be available for Friday’s season opener in Durham against Marist.
- Trevon Bluiett, Xavier — Not only does Xavier return Sumner but also its leading scorer Bluiett. The junior forward has been a dynamic scorer during his first two seasons in Cincinnati, culminating in averages of 15.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore. His outside shot also improved from 32.6 percent as a freshman to 39.8 percent last year. Factoid: It is no surprise that Bluiett maintains such a workmanlike attitude, given that his parents met when they were both Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
- Bam Adebayo, Kentucky — Adebayo brings a physical inside presence to Lexington that the Wildcats have not seen since DeMarcus Cousins roamed the paint in 2009-10. The freshman is a rare breed in that “he is athletic enough to play power forward and strong enough to play center.” Kentucky head coach John Calipari has coached his fair share of terrific big men, so it is significant that he said of Adebayo: “Of all the players I saw in the summer, no one had a dominating spirit and a physical presence like Bam.” Factoid: Adebayo earned the nickname “Bam” from his mother when he flipped over a coffee table while watching “The Flintstones” as a one-year old.
Honorable Mentions: E.C. Matthews (Rhode Island), Harry Giles (Duke), Frank Mason (Kansas), Lonzo Ball (UCLA), Moses Kingsley (Arkansas), Caleb Swanigan (Purdue), Markis McDuffie (Wichita State), Alec Peters (Valparaiso), Malik Monk (Kentucky), Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga), Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson), Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State).
Some brief analysis on this year’s selections:
- Twenty-seven different players earned nominations to our three teams.
- Grayson Allen was the only player who was a consensus RTC First-Team Preseason All-American. Josh Hart and Dillon Brooks each missed unanimous status by just one vote.
- Two players in each of the last two years earned RTC First-Team Preseason All-American status with Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor earning the honor in 2014 and Kris Dunn and Ben Simmons earning it in 2015.
- All 15 selections play for Power Five + Big East Schools.
- With the season set to begin Friday afternoon, we definitely realize that there will be some different names on this list come April 2017. Until then, let’s all debate and discuss intelligently to enjoy what should be another very entertaining season of college basketball.