Team success matters when it comes to postseason recognition.
In the last two seasons, Doug McDermott (twice) and Trey Burke are the only players to be first-team All-Americans off teams that did not get a top two seed in the NCAA tournament. Burke played on a team that was No. 1 at one point and made the national championship game, so it's not like he wasn't on a contender.
If you're trying to predict next season's All-Americans, identifying the best player on each of the best teams is probably a good place to start. Also, go ahead and pen in McDermott. He's made the first team twice. He's a good bet to make it as a senior.
To figure out who will join him, I identified the best player on the top 10 teams from our latest preseason rankings.
Aaron Craft would be the obvious pick, but it's rare that someone is an All-American based on great defense and leadership.
LaQuinton Ross has the best chance to become the next Deshaun Thomas in Ohio State's offense.
Before Thomas became a major contributor, he was a high-volume shooter as a freshman who averaged 7.5 points in 14 minutes per game. Ross played a similar role last season, averaging 8.3 points in 16.9 minutes.
Ross also has a lot of momentum going into 2013-14 after his final three games in the NCAA tournament in 2013. In those three games, he scored 53 points in 61 minutes and hit the game-winner against Arizona in the Sweet 16.
Patric Young has spent the last couple of years playing with veteran guards who liked to get their shots up.
Those shoot-first-second-and-third guards are gone now, and Young could benefit as more of a focal point of the offense. He averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds last season. Those averages will need a healthy uptick for Young to get All-American consideration, but he'll at least get more opportunities to make it happen.
In Ken Pomeroy's player comparisons for Marcus Smart as a freshman, James Harden (2007-08) and Scottie Reynolds (2006-07) are both listed. Harden was a first-team All-American the following season in 2008-09. Reynolds was a first-team All-American three years later in 2009-10.
Smart figures to be on the same track and was already a second-team Associated Press All-American as a freshman. Also, take a look at Smart's freshman year averages compared to Trey Burke as a freshman.
- Smart: 15.4 PPG, 4.2 APG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 SPG
- Burke: 14.8 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.5 RPG, 0.9 SPG
Like Smart's Cowboys, Burke's Wolverines got upset in the Round of 64 of the NCAA tournament. Sophomore year could be a good one for both team and player.
Jabari Parker is the first of four freshman on this list. Ten years ago that would have been absurd. From 1990 through 2006, not one freshman was an AP first-team All-American. Then the NBA age limit went into effect, and there have been eight since.
If we're ranking the chances of the top freshmen making it, Parker would rank No. 2 behind Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is definitely the better athlete of the two and could have more of an impact on the defensive end. Parker's offensive game might be the most refined of any of the top freshmen, including Wiggins.
The one hurdle that both Parker and Wiggins have is out of those eight freshmen All-Americans since 2007, none have been small forwards.
Every single person that has seen Andrew Wiggins live gets asked at some point, "Is he worth the hype?"
I've yet to hear someone say no. The latest to get the question was Texas coach Rick Barnes during the Big 12's conference call this week.
"Believe the hype," Barnes said. "He's a special player."
I saw Wiggins live for the first time last week, and even when he missed a shot, he looked good doing it. He hasn't done anything on the college level yet, but good luck finding anyone who doesn't believe he's going to produce.
It's not often that we throw the first 33 games of a player's season out and evaluate him based on a six-game stretch at the end of the year.
But that seems to be the accepted practice for Mitch McGary. Everyone believes in McGary because of how he played in the NCAA tournament, averaging 15.3 points and 10.7 rebounds. And why not? That was McGary performing in the most pressure-packed situation a college freshman can face. It's not unrealistic to believe he can carry that over.
Rob Dauster over at NBCSports.com wrote a smart column earlier this summer about why Aaron Gordon should play power forward this season for Arizona.
Gordon fancies himself as a small forward, but Dauster is right in that Gordon would be wise to embrace the role of a stretch 4. If he's worried about how he's perceived by NBA scouts, the NBA likes to see production. And Gordon is going to produce better numbers as an inside player because he'll be such a tough matchup.
If Gordon wants a role model, show him some tape of Kevin Durant at Texas. Durant played inside, and that seems to be working out all right for him.
Gary Harris or Keith Appling could be the pick here as Michigan State's All-American candidate. Both averaged more points last season than Adreian Payne.
Based on ability and the potential to be a superstar, Payne is the best pick.
Payne is a player who could have easily left for the pros and came back to school with something to prove. What he can prove is that he's capable of being assertive and dominating at the college level. If he does that, the numbers will follow and he'll be in consideration as an All-American.
Both DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis were first-team All-Americans as freshmen.
You could make the case for several of the Kentucky freshmen. The most likely to be the go-to scorer and put up the numbers worthy of consideration is Julius Randle.
Randle, like Cousins and Davis, is an tough matchup for anyone at the college level. It shouldn't be hard for John Calipari to figure out a way to utilize him.
If I were to tell you that the leading scorer on the national championship team averaged 18.7 points per game, you would think that player was a lock to a be a first-team All-American, right?
Someday we will look back on Russ Smith's junior season and scratch our heads as how he was just a third-team All-American.
Smith can be out of control and take questionable shots, but you cannot argue with his production or his significance on a great team. It's tough to envision that the voters will be as hard on Smith again next year if he puts up the same kind of numbers and Louisville has as much team success.