NCAA Basketball Predictions: Picking the 2011-12 All-American Teams
The Connecticut Huskies, led by All-American guard Kemba Walker, defeated the Butler Bulldogs to win the NCAA Tournament. While there are a few more months until the next college basketball season begins, it is never too early to look ahead.
The 2010-11 college hoops season lacked a truly elite team, made clear by the eventual champions sporting a 9-9 conference record. Yes, UConn did play in the ever-competitive Big East, but there were ten, yes ten, teams that finished with a conference win percentage equal to or greater than that of the Huskies.
Elite players, however, were certainly not lacking. The nation was swept with "Jimmer Mania," and Kemba Walker proved that a great individual can lead his team to the title.
Will there be another Jimmer next year? Can a star carry his team all the way come March?
I'm not sure of the answers to these questions, but I do think that these following players will indeed be All-Americans in the 2011-12 season.
First Team: Jared Sullinger
Jared Sullinger may leave Ohio State for the pros come the NBA Draft, but he has insisted that he will return for a sophomore season as a Buckeye. If he does, he will certainly be a repeat All-American.
This year, on a loaded Buckeyes team, Sullinger averaged 17.2 points per game, 10.2 rebounds per game, and shot 54.1 percent from the field. Next year, with the departure of Jon Diebler, David Lighty, and Dallas Lauderdale, more responsibility will fall on Sullinger's shoulders.
For Ohio State fans, and fans of college hoops, let's hope that Sullinger stays true to his word and returns.
Projected Stats: 21.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 55% FG
First Team: Shelvin Mack
Shelvin Mack will try to do the near-impossible and lead the Butler Bulldogs to a third-straight NCAA Championship Game. In the process, he will become an All-American.
Mack's situation is similar to that of Stephen Curry a few years back at Davidson: he emerged into the spotlight in the NCAA Tournament, and will be called on to carry his team throughout the next regular season.
Curry took advantage of the national coverage, finishing his career as an All-American.
Expect Mack to do the same.
Projected Stats: 17.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.0 APG
First Team: Jordan Hamilton
Jordan Hamilton transformed this year into a very mature player for the Texas Longhorns. He will look to lead his squad into the second, and perhaps third, weekend of March Madness next season.
The NBA might claim his talents, but as of now, it appears that Hamilton will return. If he, and other notable teammates, returns, then Texas will be a legitimate title contender.
With a combination of stats and wins, Hamilton will become a repeat All-American, after receiving Third-Team honors this season.
Projected Stats: 18.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 102 Three-Point Field Goals
First Team: Jordan Taylor
The Wisconsin Badgers tend to produce very consistent players: Jordan Taylor is no exception.
The junior guard, who was a Second Team All-American this season, will have to lead his team next season with the departure of Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil, the first- and third-leading scorers on the team, respectively.
Taylor and his Badgers departed from the NCAA Tournament a little earlier than they would've liked to, although his 22-point performance against Butler kept his team alive in the very end of their Sweet Sixteen loss.
Such big games will be the norm for Taylor, who will be a repeat All-American.
Projected Stats: 19.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 80 Three-Point Field Goals
First Team: Tu Holloway
Tu Holloway will be a senior next year for the Xavier Musketeers, if he opts to return to school. Xavier fans hope that he does, because his play this season was simply outstanding.
Holloway averaged insane numbers, putting up 19.7 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, and 5.4 assists per game. Defenses in the Atlantic 10 focused on him, yet his play would not be impeded.
The Marquette Golden Eagles, however, slowed Holloway down in the NCAA Tournament, limiting him to just five points. This will likely play a role in his decision to return to school, as he will look to prove himself as an elite collegiate player.
Projected Stats: 20.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.1 APG
Second Team: John Jenkins
John Jenkins does not have a complete game, but his scoring ability is absolutely uncanny. He possesses step-in-the-gym range, and converts at the free throw line at a very high rate. Vanderbilt will call on him once again next year to carry the scoring load.
Jenkins will have no problem with this task, as he averaged 19.5 points per game this season. A major concern is his passing ability; he averaged a mere 1.2 assists per game this year in over 34 minutes per contest.
If his assist numbers increase, Jenkins will be a no-brainer All American. If not, his scoring will probably propel him to the same heights.
Projected Stats: 21.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 114 Three-Point Field Goals
Second Team: Tristan Thompson
Tristan Thompson, teammates with the aforementioned Jordan Hamilton, has a very diverse skill-set. When called upon by his Texas squad to score, he converts (at a 54.6 percent clip). When the Longhorns need a stop on defense, he swats away opponents' shots (2.4 per game).
With a summer spent in the weight room, Thompson can be a force in the college ranks. His adroit play will propel him to All American status. Expect him to put up Tayshaun Prince-like numbers.
Projected Stats: 14.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 2.7 BPG
Second Team: Tyler Zeller
It's hard to believe that Tyler Zeller will be a senior next season. Despite that, the center on North Carolina will indeed be in his fourth season as a Tar Heel, and will finally live up to expectations.
Zeller put up career bests in multiple statistical categories this season, and will do the same again next season. If Harrison Barnes leaves, more scoring duties will be placed on his shoulders, and point guard Kendall Marshall is a capable setup man.
Projected Stats: 17.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.4 BPG
Second Team: John Henson
John Henson will partner up with Tyler Zeller next season to dominate the ACC down low. Henson, more of a defensive stopper than Zeller, will have a phenomenal junior season.
Henson averaged a double-double this past season, along with 3.2 blocks per game, good for eighth-best in the nation. Turning away shots will be routine again, and he will also be a force on the other end of the court.
Like Tristan Thompson, if Henson bulks up, he will be a serious threat in the post.
Projected Stats: 13.3 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.6 BPG
Second Team: Draymond Green
Draymond Green has been accused of underachieving throughout his entire collegiate career at Michigan State. As a senior, he will look to shake off these accusations, and lead the Spartans back to the Final Four.
Green's stats this year were outstanding, as he averaged 12.6 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game, 1.8 steals per game, and 1.1 blocks per game. Clearly, the talent is there.
As he demonstrated in the NCAA Tournament against UCLA, he is capable of putting up big stats in any category.
Beyond the numbers, Green hasn't proved to be much of a winner. If he comes back to Michigan State hungry, he and his team could do great things. If not, his stats will be there, but his legacy as a Spartan will be far from legendary.
Projected Stats: 14.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.2 BPG
Projecting Third Team All-Americans is a difficult task. The players are difficult to pinpoint, especially before players announce their decisions regarding the NBA. These decisions can alter the decisions greatly, but the following players can be All-Americans next season.
Some might declare for the NBA Draft, and incoming freshmen may have unpredictably outstanding years. Regardless, here are some more potential All-Americans.
Darius Morris, Michigan
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
Alec Burks, Colorado
Malcolm Lee, UCLA
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Keith Clanton, Central Florida
Scotty Hopson, Tennessee
Tobias Harris, Tennessee
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
If there is anyone else who you feel can be an All-American next season, feel free to comment with your selections.