College Basketball: 10 Mid-Major Players Who Could Be All-Americans
Not a single mid-major player appeared on the 2011-12 preseason All-American team—not that we expected anything else.
However, by season's end, there's a decent chance you'll see mid-major names on at least one of the three All-America teams.
In 2010-11, Kenneth Faried of Morehead State worked his way onto the third team. While several mid-major players earned an honorable mention, he was the only one to be a full-fledged All-American.
So, which mid-major players stand a chance this year?
Doug McDermott, So., Creighton
In his first season under his father's tutelage at Creighton, Doug McDermott averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 52.5 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from deep.
McDermott played with the USA U-19 in the FIBA World Championships this offseason and improved his ballhandling and face-up game.
Slated as the MVC favorite, Creighton will ride McDermott as far as he takes them. If that's to a 30-win season, he could be an All-American.
Robert Sacre, Sr., Gonzaga
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Robert Sacre's 2010-11 numbers don't do the 7-footer justice. Anyone who has watched Gonzaga play multiple times knows Sacre is better than 12.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Without Steven Gray, Sacre will be asked to produce more on the offensive end—he's certainly capable of doing so.
If he averages 17 and 10 as a senior for the nationally ranked Zags, how could he not be considered in All-America talk?
Mike Glover, Sr., Iona
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Mike Glover had a huge impact on the Iona Gaels in his first season in New Rochelle.
After transferring from junior college, Glover averaged 18.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Glover was strongest in the post and in transition last year, but according to Iona head coach Tim Cluess via ESPN.com, the MAAC preseason Player of the Year improved in other facets this offseason:
"I think Mike added a lot of perimeter skills to his game," Cluess said Tuesday. "His shot has gotten a lot better. He's putting the ball on the floor to drive it much better than he was a year ago. Put on about seven to 10 pounds of muscle as well. I think he'll be a tougher, more durable player than he was last year. We'll use him in the inside-out role not strictly on the blocks anymore because he has improved that part of his game."
If opposing defenses struggled to contain Glover last season, planning to contain him in 2011-12 will be even more of a challenge.
Iona has received copious hype in the weeks leading up to the preseason. The NCAA granted Lamont "MoMo" Jones a hardship waiver, making him eligible to immediately join Iona's top-four scorers from last year's 25-win team on the court.
If the Gaels win in the vicinity of 27-30 games and make a tournament run with Glover leading the charge, the forward could see his name on the AP All-America list in March.
Justin Greene, Sr., Kent State
Justin Greene, an honorable mention AP All-American in 2010-11, is expected to lead the Kent State Golden Flashes to a MAC championship.
As a junior, Greene averaged 15.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
College Insider ranked the Golden Flashes at No. 12 in their Mid-Major Top 25, so if Greene can carry his team into the top five and to another regular-season championship, he'll probably at least be an honorable mention again.
Keith Wright, Sr., Harvard
Keith Wright, the defending Ivy League Player of the Year, led Harvard in points (14.8 PPG), rebounds (8.3), blocks (1.8) and field-goal percentage (58.4 percent) as a junior.
He's the foundation of a Crimson team expected to roll over its Ivy League competition, which would earn them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. If Wright can play at a slightly higher level than last year—when he was an honorable mention AP All-American—he'll be considered for inclusion on the All-America team.
Kyle Weems, Sr., Missouri State
Photo: Chris Lee
As a junior, Kyle Weems led Missouri State to 26 wins, including one over Murray State in the NIT.
The senior averaged 16 points and 6.9 boards last year. Those aren't gaudy numbers, but if you lead your team to the top of the MVC, you're on one of the better mid-major teams in the country—definitely a plus in the All-America voting.
Missouri State was picked to finish sixth in the conference this year, so if Weems boosts his averages and can help his team exceed low expectations, he could potentially be an All-American.
Elias Harris, Jr., Gonzaga
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
As a freshman, Elias Harris averaged 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds, earning praise and "sky-is-the-limit" projections.
However, Harris' numbers dipped last season.
According to ESPN.com's Diamond Leung, Harris attributed his sophomore slump to the weight he gained from American food—he's a native of Germany. Harris shed 11 pounds of body fat this offseason, and he thinks being lighter will help him return to his freshman form.
Here's what Harris told ESPN:
"Being lighter contributes to my game because I’m a player that uses quickness and speed and balance," he said. "I feel bouncier and quicker with my moves. I didn’t lose my strength. For me, that’s a perfect combination."
If Harris can just play at the same level as he did as a freshman, he'll at least earn an honorable mention on the AP All-America list.
Kevin Foster, Jr., Santa Clara
Photo: National Hoops Report
Santa Clara won 24 games, earned a fourth-place finish in the WCC and captured the CIT championship.
This year, the Broncos could be just as successful because Kevin Foster is still in town. The junior led the team in scoring with 20.2 points and 3.7 assists per game while connecting on 36.8 percent of his treys.
Foster's a threat to pull-up—and connect—from anywhere on the floor. He's probably this year's favorite to do the Jordan Crawford (skip to 1:25).
Orlando Johnson, Sr., UC-Santa Barbara
Keep in mind that Orlando Johnson was just a sophomore in that video.
As a junior, the guard-forward averaged 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. His UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos underachieved during the regular season but won their second consecutive Big West championship.
If Johnson can lead the Gauchos back to the Big Dance, he'll be considered in All-America discussions.
Casper Ware, Sr., Long Beach State
In 2010-11, Casper Ware became the first player in Big West history to collect the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards. He also earned an honorable mention on the AP All-America list.
He's small—listed at 5'10"—but he's quick and smooth on the floor. As a junior, Ware averaged 17.2 points, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
From my "Mid-Major Watch" article on Long Beach State:
"The point guard gained invaluable experience this summer, teaming up with Lebron James in the Drew League and garnering Player of the Week honors in Week Six. For some perspective, Oklahoma City’s James Harden and Washington’s Nick Young received the honor in Week Five and Week Seven, respectively."
On Nov. 16, Long Beach State takes on No. 10 Pittsburgh in the first of five games against nationally ranked opponents. Don't be surprised if Ware leads the 49ers to upsets in a couple of those games—with the exception of No. 1 UNC, they can beat anyone on their schedule.
Ware's that good—so is the rest of the team—and if you don't believe what you read here, tune into ESPN3 next Wednesday at 7 p.m.