Midseason 2016-17 All-America Teams for College Basketball
We've reached the midpoint of the 2016-17 college basketball season, with the NCAA tournament only about two months away. That means it's time to take stock of what we've seen so far, which also involves singling out the best players in the game to date.
Our midseason All-America teams includes 15 players, five each on a trio of teams. Because we've made sure to include at least two frontcourt players and two backcourt standouts on each team, that doesn't necessarily mean these are the 15 best in the country (and thus not all of them are in the running for National Player of the Year honors, as Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller broke down last week).
Check out who made our mid-year All-America teams, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.
G Joel Berry, North Carolina (15.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.6 APG): Berry is North Carolina's on-court coach and its best three-point shooter, making 42.2 percent from outside. When he missed a pair of games with an ankle injury, the Tar Heels, who average 89.3 points and shoot 47.6 percent, shot under 40 percent each night.
G Markelle Fultz, Washington (22.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.4 APG): Being on a bad team shouldn't preclude Fultz from getting the praise he deserves. He could be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, and he's played like someone a team wants to build around, leading Washington in scoring and assists. He's the only player in the country averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.
G Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga (15.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 4.8 APG): The Washington transfer is Gonzaga's leading scorer, rebounder and assist man while shooting 42 percent from three-point range and better than 93 percent from the foul line. It's been a team effort that's made the Bulldogs the last remaining unbeaten team, but without Williams-Goss, that might not be the case.
F Johnathan Motley, Baylor (15.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 APG): Baylor's rise to No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history has been paced by the 6'9” junior, who has taken on the role as floor leader while also being its most reliable scorer. Motley has six of the Bears' nine double-doubles this season.
F Alec Peters, Valparaiso (24.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 2.1 APG): The best mid-major player in the country—and a likely first-round draft pick in June—is good enough to contribute to any program in Division I, but with Valpo, he's an unstoppable force. Peters accounts for almost 32 percent of the Crusaders' scoring and pulls down more than twice as many rebounds as any teammate.
Second-Team All-American: G De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Season stats: 16.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 46.9% FG, 73.4% FT
Why he's here: Kentucky's latest collection of McDonald's All-Americans needed someone to bring them all together on the court and bring out the best in each of them. De'Aaron Fox has taken on that role and run with it, with rarely a possession occurring in which the ball doesn't pass through his hands. With that in mind, his 2.78-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (fourth-best among players with at least 100 assists) is pretty exceptional.
Rest-of-season outlook: Fox's only weakness is the lack of a three-point shot, having made only four of 32 attempts, but he makes up for it by being able to drive to the hoop for his scoring. Being able to make a few more outside shots would only increase his driving ability, since defenders wouldn't be able to play off him on the perimeter.
Second-Team All-American: G Luke Kennard, Duke
Season stats: 20.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 53.2% FG, 44.7% 3PT, 86.3% FT
Why he's here: With all of the turmoil Duke has been through this season, Luke Kennard has been a source of consistency and reliability. The sophomore is the only Blue Devil to start every game, and he's had at least 10 points in all but one contest.
Rest-of-season outlook: Kennard has surpassed Grayson Allen as Duke's go-to player, and he figures to be the one taking the biggest shots. More and more offense will start going through freshman Jayson Tatum, but it's Kennard's play that will determine how far this team goes.
Second-Team All-American: G Frank Mason III, Kansas
Season stats: 20.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 53.2% FG, 54.9% 3PT, 74.7% FT
Why he's here: The addition of No. 1 prospect Josh Jackson was expected to give Kansas a big offensive boost, and he has, but not nearly as much as Frank Mason has in his senior campaign. The 5'11” guard leads the Jayhawks in scoring and assists not to mention clutch plays.
Rest-of-season outlook: Mason would rank second in the country in three-point shooting percentage if he made more long shots per game. He was 5-of-6 from deep in Tuesday's comeback win at Oklahoma, while the rest of Kansas was 7-of-21 from three, so expect him to be even more active in that area.
Second-Team All-American: F Jock Landale, Saint Mary's
Season stats: 18.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 BPG, 64.8% FG, 74.7% FT
Why he's here: Find a preseason list that included Jock Landale on it, and you'll be looking as the sports equivalent of #FakeNews. No one outside of Moraga, California, was expecting such a breakout season from the 6'11” Australian junior, who is leading the nation in player efficiency rating and win shares per 40 minutes.
Rest-of-season outlook: Landale, who has shot 70 percent or better in seven games this season, had those performances against some of the Gaels' toughest opponents. But the most difficult are yet to come, as Saint Mary's still has at least two games remaining against unbeaten Gonzaga and one more against BYU and big man Eric Mika.
Second-Team All-American: F Dedric Lawson, Memphis
Season stats: 20.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.7 BPG, 49.4% FG, 30.2% 3PT, 72.7% FT
Why he's here: Dedric Lawson isn't the entire Memphis team, but he's pretty close. He's the Tigers' leading scorer and rebounder and one of three players in Division I to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. He's also Memphis' best defender, his long 6'9” frame taking up a lot of space on the back line.
Rest-of-season outlook: Lawson may have to be resigned to putting up great numbers on a mediocre team, since teams that manage to keep the ball from him have been most successful. Memphis is 9-2 when he has at least 14 field goal attempts and 3-3 when he takes 13 or fewer.
First-Team All-American: G Lonzo Ball, UCLA
Season stats: 14.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 8.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 52.8% FG, 43.2% 3PT, 66.1% FT
Why he's here: Lonzo Ball came to UCLA with as much hype as any freshman in recent memory, and he's more than lived up to it. He's ranked second in the country in assists per game but also has the ability to take over as a scorer with a trio of 20-point efforts.
Rest-of-season outlook: Ball is more accurate on two-point field goals (66.2 percent) than free throws, which could be an issue in late-game situations if he's fouled. He's only taken 56 free throws so far but figures to be sent to the line more often as the season progresses.
First-Team All-American: G Josh Hart, Villanova
Season stats: 19.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 54.2% FG, 38.4% 3PT, 79.3% FT
Why he's here: He's the best player on the defending national champions who may be better than a year ago. Josh Hart isn't resting on his past accomplishments, upping his scoring by nearly 28 percent from 2015-16 and also improving his shooting numbers across the board.
Rest-of-season outlook: Hart is one of three senior starters for Villanova, and he's the one that's looked to most for leadership. He'll get the right of first refusal in all late-game situations and isn't likely to pass up those chances.
First-Team All-American: G Malik Monk, Kentucky
Season stats: 21.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 50.4% FG, 41.0% 3PT, 83.9% FT
Why he's here: Malik Monk has been one of the most explosive scorers in the country this season, and we're not just talking when he went off for 47 against North Carolina. A year after Jamal Murray set the record for highest scoring average (20.0) at Kentucky under John Calipari, Monk is on pace to shatter that mark.
Rest-of-season outlook: As the Wildcats' only true three-point threat, Monk risks getting run off the perimeter to keep him from doing damage out there. Good thing he also makes nearly 60 percent of his two-pointers, shooting at least 60 percent from inside the three-point line in 10 of 16 games.
First-Team All-American: F Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Season stats: 13.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.9 SPG, 65.0% FG, 53.8% FT
Why he's here: Teammate Nigel Hayes was tabbed as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, but it's been Ethan Happ that has been Wisconsin's best performer in the first half of 2016-17. The redshirt sophomore leads the nation in box plus/minus and is fourth in defensive rating, showing his value on both ends of the court.
Rest-of-season outlook: With Hayes mostly abandoning his desire to be a perimeter scorer, it means the Badgers have arguably the best frontcourt in the country. Happ is the one doing the dirty work, though, with more rebounds than almost any other two Wisconsin players combined.
First-Team All-American: F Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Season stats: 18.3 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 55.4% FG, 43.8% 3PT, 77.6% FT
Why he's here: The 6'9”, 260-pound sophomore known simply as "Biggie" has been—pardon the pun—huge for Purdue this season. His 14 double-doubles are the most in Division I, and he's logged as many 20-point, 20-rebound games (four) as the rest of the country.
Rest-of-season outlook: If Swanigan could cut out the turnovers—he has a team-high 58, 20 more than any other Boilermaker—he's more than capable of leading Purdue to its first Big Ten regular-season title since 2010.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.