Introducing the RTC Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on November 8th, 2017

With the season tipping off on Friday, there’s no better time to roll out our 2017-18 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 10 writers provided their ballots over the last week and this is where we ended up.

First Team All-Americans

  • Jalen Brunson, Villanova – There are few things more daunting in college basketball than a talented team with a heady, veteran playmaker at the point guard position. Brunson certainly fits that bill, as he enters the season with great expectations following a sophomore campaign where the point guard earned unanimous all-Big East honors while averaging 14.7 points and 4.1 assists per game. Villanova is the preseason favorite to win the Big East title — and if that prediction comes true, it will be Brunson’s third in three years running the show for Jay Wright’s squad. Factoid: Many players with Brunson’s pedigree would at least test the NBA Draft waters either after their freshman or sophomore seasons, but Brunson is different, stating, “The NBA is not going anywhere. I can wait. I can still get better. I can still get my degree. That’s the approach I had. I talked it over with my parents, and they’re just 100 percent fully supporting me. So that’s where I am.”
  • Allonzo Trier, Arizona – Arizona experienced some offcourt drama late in the offseason when longtime assistant Book Richardson was arrested by the FBI on charges of bribery, corruption, conspiracy, and fraud stemming from improper conduct on the recruiting trail. That news figures to overshadow much of Arizona’s early season — which is a real shame, as the Wildcats are projected to be among the nation’s best teams. A major reason for that is the return of Trier for his junior year. The talented wing returned from a 19-game performance enhancing drug suspension during his sophomore season to lead the Wildcats to the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles. Many were surprised when Trier opted to return to Tucson in lieu of entering the NBA Draft, but he has acknowledged that last season’s suspension definitely factored in his decision to come back to school. Factoid: Trier was the subject of a New York Times Magazine feature when he was in sixth grade that highlighted his precocious basketball ability at a young age with an introduction to the AAU scene.
  • Michael Porter Jr., Missouri – A coaching change can often make a massive difference in a program’s fortunes. That was definitely the case with Missouri when the Tigers fired Kim Anderson in March after an underwhelming tenure and replaced him with Cal’s Cuonzo Martin, a coach who has long enjoyed a sterling reputation for his ability to recruit at a high level. Martin hiring paid off almost immediately when he secured the services of Porter, who was listed by 247Sports as the third-best player in the Class of 2017. The 6’10” forward will provide Missouri with scoring on the wing and has the versatility to defend a variety of positions. The Tigers are projected as one of the most improved teams in the country — and with Porter now in the fold, it will be intriguing to see just how far they can advance in the postseason. Factoid: It is a family affair for the Porters in Columbia this year, as Michael Porter, Sr. is an assistant coach, Jontay Porter reclassified to play with his brother, sisters Bri and Cierra Porter play for the women’s team, and aunt Robin Pingeton is the head coach of that women’s team.
  • Miles Bridges, Michigan State – Michigan State was the recipient of one of the best offseason surprises when the sure-fire lottery pick Bridges decided to return to East Lansing for his sophomore year. Once the national shock of the decision wore off, it became clear the Spartans would be one of the teams to beat in college basketball this season. Bridges will look to build on a terrific freshman year where he averaged 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. With a strong supporting cast in tow and uncertainty with many teams in the Big Ten, the star sophomore should lead the Spartans to a prosperous season on both the conference and national landscapes. Factoid: Like most of us, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo assumed Bridges would be a one-and-done player, going so far as to joke about how Bridges will have to carry bags this year as an NBA rookie. In response, Bridges may have hinted at his ultimate decision by questioning, “Coach, why you always trying to get rid of me?”
  • Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame – It is not a stretch for anyone to reference Colson as the most unique player in college basketball. After a turn as a significant role player on Notre Dame’s Elite Eight teams in 2015 and 2016, Colson became The Man in South Bend during his junior season. Standing at just 6’6″, Colson was the only ACC player last year to average a double-double — 17.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Notre Dame currently finds itself in one of the most successful stretches the program has ever had, and with the talented and experienced Colson as its go-to guy, look for the Irish to continue that run this season. Factoid: Throughout Colson’s career, he has stayed true to two beliefs: play hungry and stay humble. The ACC Preseason Player of the Year vows that will not change as he enters his senior season as one of the country’s top players.

Second Team All-Americans

  • Grayson Allen, Duke – Allen opted to return to Durham for his senior season following a junior year that was marred by nagging injuries and yet another tripping incident. There is no doubt that this year’s Duke team is among the most talented in the country, but for it to reach its ceiling, it will need Allen to lead the squad both on and off the floor. What often gets lost in the much of the hoopla surrounding the Blue Devils’ controversial guard is that he is also a terrific basketball player. Even in an uneven 2016-17 campaign, Allen still managed to average 14.5 points and 3.5 assists per game for the Blue Devils. Factoid: Allen spent three months away from basketball this offseason to recover from ankle surgery and refocus his priorities for what he hopes will be a great senior season.
  • Joel Berry II, North Carolina – It is always a good thing when the defending National Champion returns its starting point guard. That is the case for North Carolina this season, as Berry decided to stay in Chapel Hill for his senior  year. The 2017 Final Four Most Outstanding Player will need to improve on his 14.7 points and 3.6 assists per game, as the Tar Heels may have a potential transition season on their hands with a fairly young and inexperienced roster. Judging from Berry’s knack for clutch play during his first three seasons in Chapel Hill, it is fair to assume the they will remain in the thick of things in this year’s ACC race. Factoid: The start of Berry’s senior season is going to be somewhat delayed as he is recovering from a broken hand suffered after punching a door following a loss in a video game. North Carolina coach Roy Williams acknowledged that while what Berry did was silly, “One of his greatest characteristics is his competitiveness.”
  • Devonte’ Graham, Kansas – Frank Mason III has departed Lawrence, but that does not mean Kansas will necessarily take a step back at the point guard position. After excelling as Mason’s right-hand man over the last few seasons, Graham will now take over the controls for Bill Self’s Jayhawks. Much like Mason, the senior floor general was a sub-100 recruit that over time has developed into a college star. Graham has seen his scoring average climb from 5.7 per game as a freshman to a robust 13.4 last season as a junior. That number is likely to go up even further this year, as he is now unquestionably the Jayhawks’ go-to guy. Factoid: In Kansas’ exhibition win over Missouri last month, Graham was so impressive that Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin merely shook his head and smiled when his name came up during a postgame interview. The senior point guard finished the exhibition with a game-high 25 points to go along with a team-high 10 rebounds.
  • Trevon Bluiett, Xavier – Bluiett turned in a very strong junior season for the Musketeers, but his true coming-out party did not occur until Xavier’s surprise run to the Elite Eight. In upset victories over Maryland, Florida State and Arizona, Bluiett averaged 25.0 points per game and shot a very efficient 52.1 percent from the field. Chris Mack’s squad is expected to again be a significant player in what should be a competitive Big East — and if the Musketeers are able to take the conference reins from Villanova, it will likely be because Bluiett was able to build on his NCAA Tournament performance and take his game to new heights. Factoid: Following Bluiett’s superstar turn in the NCAA Tournament, many thought he would enter the NBA Draft but he pulled his name out after testing the waters. When asked about the decision, Bluiett responded, “I came to school because I wanted to win a National Championship, and that’s still my goal. As long as I’ve got a chance to play in college, why not take advantage of that year?”
  • Ethan Happ, Wisconsin – The Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes era may be over in Madison, but Badgers’ head coach Greg Gard has a very strong reinforcement in Happ. The junior big man has been impactful since the day he arrived at Wisconsin, averaging double figures in scoring during his first two seasons while shooting well over 50 percent from the field. With former Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan now in the NBA, Happ looks to be the cream of the crop when it comes to Big Ten big men. Factoid: Wisconsin is going to need Happ to be a leader this season, and he has taken that role seriously thus far, going as far as occasionally picking the brain of former Wisconsin All-America center Frank Kaminsky.

Third Team All-Americans

  • Jevon Carter, West Virginia – Carter was the engine of the “Press Virginia” machine that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before bowing out to Gonzaga last March. The athletic guard often filled up the stat sheet, scoring 13.5 points, grabbing 5.0 rebounds, dishing out 3.7 assists and collecting 2.5 steals per game. Carter’s best game of the season came in the Mountaineers’ Round of 32 victory over Notre Dame, as he scored 24 points and connected on four of his five three-point attempts. Factoid: Carter tested the NBA Draft waters last spring but he insists that he always knew he was going back to school and was just seeking feedback on how to improve his game.
  • Bruce Brown, Miami (FL) – Brown is a prime candidate for a breakout season in the ACC. He struggled with consistency somewhat as a freshman, but showcased his pure scoring ability predominantly in a 30-point effort in a win over North Carolina and a 25-point showing in a victory over Duke. Factoid: Brown already holds the top Miami (FL) freshman mark for scoring, field goals made, free throws made, free throws attempted and minutes played.
  • Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s – Landale exploded onto the scene in his junior season with the Gaels. The Australian big man upped his scoring average from 7.9 to 16.9 points per game and upped his rebound totals from 3.9 to 9.5 per game. Gonzaga lost big man Przemek Karnowski to graduation and athletic post player Zach Collins to the NBA, so it is reasonable to expect Landale to be the WCC’s best interior presence. Factoid: Landale’s excellent junior season resulted in him finishing second in advanced statistician Ken Pomeroy’s Player of the Year ranking.
  • Angel Delgado, Seton Hall – Delgado emerged during his junior season as a legitimate threat to collect a double-double every night, scoring 15.2 points and grabbing 13.1 rebounds per game. During the 2016-17 season, the big man boasted a 62.2 percent clip around the rim. Over the summer, Delgado made a commitment to developing more of an outside game, as Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard and his staff recognized the value of increasing his versatility for both his college and professional career. Factoid: Delgado joins teammates Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez as returning 1,000-point scorers for the Pirates.
  • Marvin Bagley, Duke – The versatile and explosive forward made the decision to reclassify to the Class of 2017 over the summer and Duke was the program he chose to showcase his skill set for what is widely thought to just be one season. Bagley’s multifaceted game and ability to make plays on both ends of the court has resulted in his projection as the #2 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft by Factoid: Bagley opened up to’s Reid Forgrave about his grievances with the one-and-done rule, but he also made sure to express that deciding to play one year for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was the absolute best move he could have made for his ultimate basketball development.

Honorable Mentions: Marcus Foster (Creighton), DeAndre Ayton (Arizona), E.C. Matthews (Rhode Island), Yante Maten (Georgia), Matt Farrell (Notre Dame), Collin Sexton (Alabama), Robert Williams (Texas A&M), Mike Daum (South Dakota State), Tyler Hall (Montana State), KeVaughn Allen (Florida), Landry Shamet (Wichita State),  Jordan McLaughlin (USC), Jaylen Adams (Saint Bonaventure), Nick Ward (Michigan State), Kelan Martin (Butler), Mikal Bridges (Villanova), Bennie Boatwright (USC), Deng Adel (Louisville), Kevin Knox (Kentucky), Mo Bamba, (Texas), Shake Milton (SMU).

Some brief analysis on this year’s selections:

    • Thirty-six different players earned nominations to our three teams.
    • Zero players earned consensus nomination as an RTC First Team All-American. Michael Porter Jr., Miles Bridges and Bonzie Colson all missed consensus status by a single vote.
    • Fourteen of this year’s 15 selections play for Power Five + Big East schools. Saint Mary’s Jock Landale is the only mid-major representative.
    • With the season set to begin Friday afternoon, we definitely realize that there will be some different names on this list come April 2018. Until then, let’s all debate and discuss intelligently to enjoy what should be another very entertaining season of college basketball.
WCarey (318 Posts)

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