Introducing the RTC Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on November 2nd, 2018

With the season tipping off next Tuesday, there’s no better time to roll out our 2018-19 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 RTC writers provided their ballots over the last week and this is where we ended up.

First Team All-Americans

  • Carsen Edwards, Purdue (unanimous) – Purdue has plenty to replace this season with former mainstays Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas now gone from West Lafayette. Luckily for Matt Painter’s Boilermakers, Edwards opted to return to Purdue for his junior season. The standout point guard will look to build on what has been a dynamic collegiate career. Following a freshman season where Edwards showed he belonged in the Big Ten, he took a big step forward in his sophomore campaign, averaging 18.5 points per game and shooting a commendable 40.6 percent from the three-point line. The Boilermakers lose nearly 50 points per game from last season’s Sweet Sixteen team, but it would not be surprising to see the play-making floor general take Purdue back to the second weekend next March. Factoid: Edwards participated in the NBA Draft combine last spring before deciding to return to Purdue. A noticeable change since his return has been in his physical stature, as he added around 10 pounds to his frame. Purdue men’s basketball strength and conditioning coach Gavin Roberts attributes Edwards’ strength gain to a “professional” demeanor in the weight room.
  • R.J. Barrett, Duke – Duke bringing in a star-studded recruiting class is certainly nothing new, but you would be hard-pressed to find another time when such a unique talent as Barrett descended on Durham. At 6’7″, the incoming freshman can handle the ball, create his own shot and relentlessly attack the basket. His size and athleticism will also allow him to effectively defend multiple positions and contribute on the boards.  The Blue Devils figure to once again be an offensive juggernaut, and it is fair to speculate that Barrett will be their most productive component. Factoid: Hailing from Canada, Barrett has a unique connection to basketball lore. He is the godson of two-time NBA MVP — and fellow Canadian — Steve Nash.
  • Caleb Martin, Nevada – Nevada exploded onto the scene last season, as the Wolf Pack won the regular season Mountain West title and earned the program’s first Sweet Sixteen berth since 2004. Expectations are now sky high for Eric Musselman’s group entering this season, as his team is already ranked #8 in the preseason AP Top 25. A major reason for all the lofty hopes in Reno is that Martin decided to put the NBA on hold in returning for his senior season. The rangy forward will look to build on a junior campaign when he averaged 18.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. If Martin can once again put up dominant numbers, the preseason hype encompassing the Wolf Pack will likely prove to be warranted. Factoid:In addition to the RTC All-America team, Martin was named a preseason first team All-American by the AP, becoming the first player in program history to receive the honor.
  • Luke Maye, North Carolina – There might not be a player in the country that has had as unique of a collegiate career as the North Carolina senior. Recall that Maye did not have a guaranteed scholarship in place when he originally committed to the Tar Heels in high school, and while playing time was difficult to earn through a majority of his first two seasons in Chapel Hill, his breakout finally came in the 2017 Elite Eight when he scored 17 points and buried a game-winning jumper to beat Kentucky. Maye followed up those heroics with a junior season averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest while earning first team All-ACC honors. The Tar Heels have a lot of new faces in place this season, but the transition should be relatively seamless with double-double machine Maye on the blocks. Factoid: Maye joined rarefied North Carolina air last season with a 32-point, 18-rebound performance against Boston College and a 33-point, 17-rebound effort against NC State. Those two performances made him only the fourth player in program history with multiple 30/15 games in a season.
  • Ethan Happ, Wisconsin – Last March represented the first time since 1998 that Wisconsin did not earn an NCAA Tournament bid. The young Badgers battled injuries and inconsistency throughout the season as they sputtered their way to a 15-18 overall record. Despite the lost season, Happ still managed to contribute very productive numbers. Building on impressive freshman and sophomore campaigns, the junior forward tallied 17.9 points and 8.0 rebounds per game on his way to becoming a first team all-Big Ten player. Assuming Happ takes another step forward during his final season in Madison, it is likely Wisconsin will find its way back to the NCAA Tournament. Factoid: Happ was so distraught about Wisconsin not making the NCAA Tournament lats year that he kept the TV in his apartment from showing anything about March Madness.

Second Team All-Americans

  • Tyus Battle, Syracuse – Battle decided to return to Syracuse for his junior season after testing the NBA Draft waters, which is terrific news for Jim Boeheim as the guard played 96.2 percent of the available minutes last season en route to an average of 19.2 points per game. Syracuse made a surprise appearance in the Sweet Sixteen last spring and Battle’s return to school and continued durability will likely be important reasons why the Orange have an excellent shot to get back there again. Factoid: Battle is quite pleased he chose to go through a portion of the NBA Draft process. “I feel like I have the answers to the test now,” Battle said. “I know what I have to do. I took away great things from the process.”
  • Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s – The Red Storm have not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2015, but they will have a good chance to get back there this season since Ponds decided to return to Queens for his junior season. The dynamic guard is an elite scorer (21.6 PPG) who has shined the brightest in his team’s marquee games. As a sophomore, Ponds scored 33 points in an upset of then-#4 Duke and followed that up with a 26-point effort in a stunning victory at then-#1 Villanova. Factoid: Ponds was chosen as the Big East’s Preseason Player of the Year, becoming the first St. John’s player to garner the honor since Malik Sealy shared it with Alonzo Mourning way back in 1991.
  • Tremont Waters, LSU – Last season was supposed to be another down year in Baton Rouge as the Tigers broke in a new coaching staff with a roster full of unknowns. While LSU went just 18-15 overall, it also showed its pluckiness with good wins over five eventual NCAA Tournament teams. A major facet of the team’s surprising success was the emergence of the freshman Waters, an energizing guard who led the Tigers with 15.9 points and 6.0 assists per game. He also showed a flair for the dramatic with an incredible buzzer-beating three-pointer that lifted LSU to a victory at Texas A&M. Factoid: In his freshman season, Waters served as a quiet leader who let his game do the talking. He knows he has to use his sophomore season to develop into more of a vocal leader given that LSU has nine scholarship players that have yet to suit up.
  • Grant Williams, Tennessee – The reigning SEC Player of the Year returns to Knoxville for a junior season filled with a healthy dose of preseason hype. The Volunteers are ranked sixth in the preseason AP Top 25 – their highest preseason ranking in program history — and Williams will give Tennessee a great chance to live up to those projections from the post (15.2 PPG; 6.0 RPG). Factoid: Williams took five classes this summer with the goal of earning his degree next spring. He did so in order to have the opportunity to work towards a master’s degree during his senior year.
  • Dedric Lawson, Kansas – The top newly eligible transfer in college basketball will lead the new-look Jayhawks in their quest for a 15th consecutive regular season Big 12 title and possible return to the Final Four. Lawson was very productive in his two seasons at Memphis, averaging over 15 points and nine rebounds per game in both campaigns. With Kansas sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa being withheld from competition because of the college basketball FBI scandal, Lawson will have plenty on his plate in what very well could be his only season in Lawrence. Factoid: Kansas coach Bill Self is highly complimentary of Lawson’s passing ability, saying, “He’s the best passer we’ve ever had here.”

Third Team All-Americans

  • Markus Howard, Marquette – Howard is an elite scorer who leads Marquette’s excellent offensive attack. He was solid as a freshman (13.2 PPG) but took a huge step forward in his sophomore season (20.4 PPG). His scoring prowess was highlighted by exploding for 52 points in an overtime victory at Providence last January. Factoid: Howard was afforded the opportunity this summer to attend the Chris Paul Elite Guard Camp where he participated in competition, drill work, and personal film sessions with CP3 himself.
  • De’Andre Hunter, Virginia – Virginia’s stunning upset loss to UMBC in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament will go down in college basketball history. And while the Cavaliers were totally outplayed in the defeat, it needs to be remembered they were without Hunter because of a broken wrist. As a freshman, Hunter was the most versatile cog in the Virginia system, with his length and athleticism creating a reoccurring match-up nightmare for opponents. Factoid: Hunter’s teammate Kyle Guy is very high on the sophomore’s prospects for the season, saying, “I don’t think everyone understands how good he is.”
  • Zion Williamson, Duke – The Youtube viral sensation has finally arrived on a college campus and he will likely make Duke games appointment television all season long. Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer most aptly described Williamson’s size and athleticism by saying, “Imagine Vince Carter’s leaping ability in the body on an NFL defensive end.” It will be interesting to see how Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski uses Williamson, as his versatility will allow him to be a force at the power forward position or a match-up nightmare at the center spot. Factoid: Krzyzewski has been adamant that Williamson is much more than just an athletic specimen, stating, “He’s smart. He can handle. He has guard skills. He’s a beautiful athlete to watch and one of our better passers.”
  • Mike Daum, South Dakota State – The South Dakota State forward is set to cap off what has been an outstanding collegiate career. Through his first three seasons in a Jackrabbits uniform, Daum has averaged 21.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. In fact, the two-time reigning Summit League Player of the Year needs just 132 points to become South Dakota State’s all-time leading scorer, and 768 points to become just the ninth player in Division I history to score 3,000 career points. Factoid: Daum could have gone the graduate transfer route and ended up at a major program for his final year of eligibility, but he never seriously explored the option. Of the decision, Daum said, ““I had a bunch of fans from other schools reach out on social media, but it wasn’t really an option for me because of how awesome my head coach is and how awesome my teammates are.”
  • Reid Travis, Kentucky – Kentucky’s newcomers normally consist solely of ballyhooed freshmen making a one-year stop in Lexington prior to departing for the NBA. While John Calipari brought in his typical group of elite freshman recruits, the new Wildcat garnering the most headlines is Stanford graduate transfer Reid Travis. Travis begins his Kentucky career following an impactful career in a Cardinal uniform, averaging over 17 points and eight rebounds per game during his last two seasons. He gives the Wildcats a veteran offensive presence they have not possessed since Patrick Patterson was in Lexington. Factoid: Travis gave Kentucky fans a glimpse of what he will bring the Wildcats during the final game of the team’s summer tour in the Bahamas, scoring 19 points and collecting 15 rebounds.

Honorable Mentions: Charles Matthews (Michigan), Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga), Eric Paschall (Villanova), Cassius Winston (Michigan State), Kyle Guy (Virginia), Ty Jerome (Virginia), Killian Tillie (Gonzaga), Kris Wilkes (UCLA), James Palmer, Jr. (Nebraska), P.J. Washington (Kentucky), Kamar Baldwin (Butler), Kellan Grady (Davidson), Sagaba Konate (West Virginia), Juwan Morgan (Indiana), Chris Clemons (Campbell), Oshae Brissett (Syracuse).

Some brief analysis on this year’s selections:

  • Thirty-one different players earned nominations to our three teams.
  • Purdue’s Carsen Edwards was the only player to earn consensus nomination as an RTC First Team All-American. Duke‘s R.J. Barrett and North Carolina‘s Luke Maye missed consensus status by only a single vote.
  • Thirteen of this year’s 15 selections play for Power Six schools. Nevada‘s Caleb Martin and South Dakota State‘s Mike Daum are the only mid-major representatives.
  • With the season set to begin on Tuesday night, we definitely realize that there will be some different names on this list come March 2019. 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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