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.”