Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @zhayes9.
The 2011-12 Rush the Court preseason All-American team only verifies the notion that the ongoing NBA lockout was a godsend for college basketball.
It can be argued that, if the NBA was enveloped in a state of stability with an agreed-upon revenue split and owners raking in profits everywhere from Boston to Sacramento, this All-American team would have a completely different look. If first-teamers Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Terrence Jones, along with second team selection Perry Jones, felt completely comfortable they’d be gearing up for their first professional game right about now, they may have opted for guaranteed riches instead of another campaign on campus. We’ll never know if, say, Sullinger was 100% coming back to Ohio State regardless of the Buckeyes early exit in the NCAA Tournament or a mid-season promise to Thad Matta.
One thing we do know: college basketball fans certainly aren’t complaining.
Without further ado, here’s this year’s first, second and third RTC All-American teams. Get ready to hear their names a lot over the next five months.
Taylor Was a Unanimous First Team Selection
G- Jordan Taylor, SR, Wisconsin- Given his leadership abilities and on-court performance, Taylor is everything you want in a collegiate point guard. He’s developed from a sporadically-used freshman into one of the most efficient backcourt cogs in America. Taylor led the nation with a 3.83:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season and was named to the Big Ten all-defensive team. His scoring prowess was on full display during a monumental win over top-ranked Ohio State when Taylor scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half. He added a career-high 39 points at Indiana three weeks later.
G- Tu Holloway, SR, Xavier– The reigning Atlantic 10 POY is the engine that fuels Xavier’s potent offensive barrage. Holloway was asked to play an astounding 94.5% of available minutes last season and took full advantage, finishing second in the A-10 in both assist rate and free throw rate while compiling absurd 20/5/5 averages. Xavier legend David West was the only non-senior All-American in school history before Holloway earned third-team honors as a junior. Opposing guards also must respect Holloway from deep (35% 3pt). Expect him to become a household name by next March.
F- Harrison Barnes, SO, North Carolina– A preseason All-American last year, Barnes struggled under the weight of unfair expectations before exploding in the second half of the season, averaging nearly 16 PPG in league games, including 40 against Clemson in the ACC Tournament. Barnes only improved during the Heels’ Elite Eight push (21.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG), showing a new-found aggression and confidence sure to continue into his sophomore year. Barnes finished eighth in the ACC in scoring, posted the fifth-highest scoring average ever by a Carolina rookie and scored in double-figures 30 times last season.
F- Terrence Jones, SO, Kentucky- If the reports are true that Jones has added 10 pounds of muscle and improved his conditioning to avoid a repeat of last season’s second-half decline, the SEC better watch out. Jones averaged 16/17/4 during the loaded Maui invitational, scored 35 vs. Auburn and averaged a robust 16/9 as a freshman, but his contributions extend deeper than scoring. Jones finished near the top of the SEC in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, defensive rebounding percentage and block percentage.
F- Jared Sullinger, SO, Ohio State- The third sophomore to earn first team honors, Sullinger garnered the most votes among our panel for National Player of the Year. Sullinger was the most productive freshman on the planet last season, averaging 17/10 on 54% FG in 31.7 MPG. An unstoppable force in the paint from day one for Thad Matta, Sully drew double teams, crashed the backboard and instantly becamethe Buckeyes most reliable scorer. Sullinger has shed some unnecessary baby fat and spent the offseason developing a face-up game to compliment his advanced post repertoire.
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