Over the past few days, I've presented my first-ever preseason All-Freshman and All-Transfer teams. Today, it's the best of the best, the top 15 players in the country--in my own very humble opinion--broken down into three teams.
Yes, I said "returning" players. I haven't listed any freshmen on my preseason All-America list. Why? I don't believe in hyping players too much before they've seen actual college action. Derrick Favors, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins, among others, are certainly players to watch for the postseason list, however.
Much like with my other two sets of teams, there are players who probably could be listed here that aren't. Or you might feel someone is rated too high or too low. Feel free to share your opinions on my picks in the comments. (Maybe I'll even do some polls on the subject in the coming days.) With everyone having 30 or more games ahead of them, there's lots of time to make the case to be on the teams that actually mean something, the ones at the end of the season.
My preseason teams, however, are after the jump, with the third team first in the order.
3rd Team All-America
Ed Davis, 6-10 F, So. (North Carolina): Davis is the only real "potential" player on this list, as he only averaged a little more than 6 points and 6 rebounds a game. However, he also only averaged about 18 minutes per contest. With the departure of Tyler Hansbrough, that's bound to increase (as Davis, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller will have to fill Hansbrough's considerable Nikes). Look for Davis to average a double-double this season.
Devin Ebanks, 6-9 F, So. (West Virginia): Ebanks' averages don't look that impressive (10.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg), but he is a player who really turned it on late in the season. His numbers were brought down by some early season performances that were subpar, as you'd expect out of a freshman. But in the final 13 games of last season, Ebanks hit double figures in points 12 times, and in the one game he only managed single digits (against Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament), he pulled down 18 boards. Ebanks put up 6 double-doubles in that 13 game span. However, he really needs to be a more consistent scorer. If he can do that, look for Ebanks to be a major focus of Bob Huggins' offense along with Da'Sean Butler, another player who could have easily been on this list.
Manny Harris, 6-5 G, Jr. (Michigan): Harris is a do-everything player who led the Wolverines in scoring (17 ppg), rebounding (6.9 rpg), steals (1.2 spg)--though DeShawn Sims was right behind him in those categories--and assists (4.4 apg) . He and Evan Turner were the only Big Ten players to feature in the conference's top ten lists for points, rebounds, assists, and steals. Harris should only get better in John Beilein's third season in Ann Arbor, meaning he is a legit Big Ten Player of the Year threat.
Matt Howard, 6-8 F, Jr. (Butler): Howard, the Horizon League's 2007-08 Newcomer of the Year and 2008-09 Player of the Year, doesn't just want trophies for his mantelpiece this season. No, he wants to lead the Bulldogs, who have made quite a name for themselves over the past decade, a true breakout season. Last season, Howard averaged 14.5 points per game, while shooting 55% from the field, to lead Butler. He was also the team's leader in both boards (6.8 rpg) and blocks (1.5 bpg). Another year like that out of Howard, combined with continued improvement from 2008-09 Horizon Newcomer of the Year Gordon Hayward (yet another All-America contender) and star guard Shelvin Mack, could see the Bulldogs exceed fairly lofty expectations.
Greivis Vasquez, 6-6 G, Sr. (Maryland): If you wonder why Terp fans are happy why their Venezuelan point guard is back, maybe you need to ask Michigan State (17 pts., 6 assists, 4 boards), North Carolina (35 pts., 11 boards, 10 assists), and Wake Forest (22 pts., 8 boards, 9 assists in the ACC Tournament), among others, what Vasquez can do when he's on. Vasquez led UMD in minutes (34.6), scoring (17.5 ppg), boards (3.5 rpg), assists (5.0 apg), and steals (1.4 spg). His return gives him a chance to improve his already high draft stock and his team's fortunes, particularly in a year when the ACC is fairly open.
2nd Team All-America
Cole Aldrich, 6-11 C, Jr. (Kansas): Aldrich's return, along with that of Sherron Collins and Bill Self's highly-rated recruiting class, cemented the Jayhawks' status as this year's preseason number 1. Last season, Aldrich averaged a double-double (14.9 ppg and 11.1 rpg), while blocking nearly 3 shots per game. Few teams can say they have a post presence like that on their roster. As this post from Rock Chalk Talk discusses, returning to Lawrence gives Aldrich a chance to improve his post moves and work on his condition. That should further boost his already high draft stock.
Kalin Lucas, 6-0 G, Sr. (Michigan State): The Big Ten Player of the Year had a pretty inconsistent season last year, but not without reason.. As this piece from The Only Colors points out, Lucas had an amazing assist-to-turnover ratio during the non-conference season, but he wasn't shooting well. When the Big Ten season started and the Spartans had to adjust to a different style of play, Lucas' game changed as well. While his assist-to-turnover ratio dropped to a decent, but not otherworldly level because of the defenses MSU faced, Lucas' shooting improved markedly. The piece also mentions the main reason why I have Lucas on the second team and Sherron Collins on the first. With Travis Walton's graduation, Lucas will have to guard the opposing point guard more this season, a new task for him. However, this is something Collins has handled quite well for the Jayhawks.
Patrick Patterson, 6-9 F, Jr. (Kentucky): Patterson decided to return for his junior season, lessening the blow of sharpshooter Jodie Meeks' departure. Patterson averaged almost 18 points per game and a little more than 9 board per game in Billy Gillispie's system, so the main question will be how does he adjust to John Calipari's dribble-drive offense. He will probably bring an entirely different dimension to the system, as Calipari didn't have such a talented big man during his entire Memphis tenure. (And look at how well those teams did.)
Kyle Singler, 6-8 F, Jr. (Duke): Singler was the Blue Devils leading rebounder (at almost 8 per contest) and second leading scorer (16 ppg.). This season, he'll probably lead Duke in both categories as the Blue Devils lost leading scorer Gerald Henderson's 16-plus points per game. Singler, with his inside/outside flexibility, is the player best able to carry a bit more of the scoring load this season.
Willie Warren, 6-4 G, So. (Oklahoma): Now that Blake Griffin plays for the second-class citizens of the Office Supplies Center, it's time for Warren to take the lead role in Norman. Last season, Warren averaged 14.6 points per game, while shooting 37.2 percent from beyond the arc. He didn't test the NBA Draft waters, even though his stock was fairly high. Warren will have to boost his scoring in the absence of Griffin, last year's Big 12 scoring leader, particularly by focusing more on slashing to the basket. Warren will also need to cut down on the turnovers (He averaged 2.2 per game last year, against 3.1 assists), as he may have to spend some time at the point this year.
1st Team All-America
Craig Brackins, 6-10 F, Jr. (Iowa State): Brackins, a likely NBA first round pick, stayed in school because he felt he had business to take care of in Ames, namely bringing the Cyclones back to the NCAAs. He put himself on everyone's radar when he scored 42 and snagged 14 boards against Kansas last season. But that was in a 15-point loss. Brackins even went 3 for 5 from three-point range in that game, and his outside shooting makes him even more dangerous (especially as he worked on it while on the American team for the Universiade). If the newcomers Greg McDermott has lined up for the Cyclones are able to help Brackins out at all, they'll have a chance to dance. Having someone who averaged 20 points and almost 10 boards a game on the roster is a great start.
Sherron Collins, 5-11 G, Sr. (Kansas): Collins wasn't as highly regarded as Aldrich by NBA scouts because of his size (especially in a draft class full of point guards), so it was fairly easy for him to give up the chance at NBA riches for a chance at April glory. Collins averaged nearly 19 points per game last season, while contributing almost 5 assists per contest. Collins is the team's heart and soul and his senior leadership will be a positive influence on a team with so many newcomers who are expected to contribute immediately. The one aspect of his game he could stand to improve is turnovers. His assist to turnover ratio of 4.9/3.3 is a bit high for an elite point guard.
Luke Harangody, 6-8 F, Sr. (Notre Dame): Harangody returns for his senior year in South Bend after a junior campaign that was an individual success, but a team disappointment. Harangody averaged a stout 23.5 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game. He shot well overall (46.3%) and from three-point land (36.1%). With his return, Harangody has the chance to set all-time Big East marks in both scoring and rebounds, which, given the history of the conference, would be quite an accomplishment.
Jerome Randle, 5-10 G, Sr. (California): Randle is an offensive force, plain and simple While his average of 18.3 points per game is impressive enough, his percentages are staggering--50 percent from the floor, 46 percent from three-point range, and 86 percent from the charity stripe. Even with all of that shooting, Randle still managed to chip in 5 assists per contest. He could work on his defense a little, as he only managed 0.7 steals per contest, but his efficient offensive output more than makes up for any defensive efficiencies.
Evan Turner, 6-7 G/F, Jr. (Ohio State): If I were to designate one player on this team as "Mr. Versatility," it would be Evan Turner. He's spent time at both guard positions, small forward, and power forward during his time at Columbus. As I mentioned in Manny Harris' entry, Turner does a little bit of everything and is quite good at it. Offensively, he could shoot the three a bit more, as he shot 44% from distance, while averaging under an attempt a game. His assist-to-turnover ratio is also shockingly close to 1 (4/3.5), but the presence of healthy contributors on the floor (I'm looking at you, David Lighty.) should decrease the pressure on Turner to do everything for the Buckeyes.
Look for the first of my quick hit conference previews Friday night.