Predicting Every Major All-Conference Team for 2017 College Basketball Season
Duke's Grayson Allen and Oregon's Dillon Brooks waged war this past March for a spot in the Elite Eight, and they might be battling each other for the 2017 Wooden Award as our still-way-too-early preseason favorites to appear on their respective all-conference teams.
With the exception of the Big 12, there's still at least one major pending NBA draft decision that could affect each conference's outlook. At the end of each slide, we've listed our guesses at what those players will decide to do and have picked our all-conference teams accordingly.
For each conference, we've projected a Player of the Year and his biggest challenger, in addition to rounding out the first team and projecting a second team with some honorable mentions. In a nutshell, we made a top 10 ranking for conference POY in nine major and mid-major conferences. (Sorry, Missouri Valley and West Coast, but we had to draw the line somewhere.)
As with any Player of the Year ranking, preferential treatment was given to who should be the top producers on the best teams, but there's always space in the top five for guys who should put up ridiculous numbers for teams that likely will not make the 2017 NCAA tournament.
Player of the Year: Grayson Allen, Duke
Among returning players, only Howard's James Daniel scored more points last season (812) than Allen scored (779). After barely touching the court as a freshman, Allen's playing time nearly quadrupled, while his scoring average almost quintupled from 4.4 to 21.6 points per game. He should be the leading scorer and the most loathed player on the best team in the conference.
Runner-Up: Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
He wasn't the most efficient scorer in the world—making just 28.1 percent of 114 three-point attempts will have that effect—but Bacon put up big numbers last season as one half of Florida State's freshman phenom duo. He led the team in both points and rebounds, and with Malik Beasley off to the NBA draft, Bacon will have even more responsibilities. He should be the driving force of one heck of a trio of Seminoles rounded out by Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes.
First Team No. 3: Dennis Smith Jr., NC State
Smith might be the best freshman guard in the entire country, and his stock only went up with Monday's announcement that the Wolfpack have signed Turkish center Omer Yurtseven. With Cat Barber, Abdul-Malik Abu and the Martin twins, Cody and Caleb, all leaving town, Smith's supporting cast was looking less than ideal. Depth is still a major concern for NC State, but there's enough talent now for Smith to steer this team to the NCAA tournament.
First Team No. 4: Joel Berry II, North Carolina
Berry's leap from freshman to sophomore year wasn't quite as explosive as Allen's, but he did evolve into an indispensable member of the Tar Heels rotation. With Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson both announcing that they will be returning to Chapel Hill, Berry will be surrounded by plenty of talent and experience in his quest to lead UNC to a second consecutive Final Four.
First Team No. 5: London Perrantes, Virginia
Rounding out a guard-dominant first team, Perrantes is arguably the most important player in this conference after the departure of teammates Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey. Perrantes only averaged 11 points per game last season, but he shot nearly 50 percent from three-point range. Expect a significant bump in his numbers as the primary scorer for the Cavaliers.
Second Team: Harry Giles (Duke), Jayson Tatum (Duke), Justin Jackson (North Carolina), V.J. Beachem (Notre Dame), Jonathan Isaac (Florida State)
Honorable Mentions: Isaiah Hicks (North Carolina), Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame), Zach LeDay (Virginia Tech)
Our assumptions on the ACC's remaining NBA draft decisions: Chinanu Onuaku, Jaron Blossomgame and Abdul-Malik Abu remain in the draft; BeeJay Anya returns to NC State.
Player of the Year: Monte Morris, Iowa State
This was by far the toughest call for a POY, considering we're of the mindset that Kansas is going to win the Big 12 by a multiple-game margin. However, the Jayhawks have a ton of talent, while Morris is clearly the best thing going for the Cyclones this year. They won't win the conference, but Morris should be able to lead Iowa State to a sixth consecutive season with at least 23 wins and a NCAA tournament appearance.
Runner-Up: Josh Jackson, Kansas
First Team No. 3: Frank Mason, Kansas
If Morris doesn't have a monstrous senior season, the Big 12 POY will almost certainly go to one of these two Jayhawks. Of the pair, Jackson has the much higher ceiling. Even Kansas head coach Bill Self has been favorably comparing the top incoming freshman to Andrew Wiggins. But Mason's metronome-like consistency as a highly productive ball-handler could garner a lot of votes.
First Team No. 4: Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma
Like Morris at Iowa State and Perrantes at Virginia, Woodard is yet another senior point guard thrust into a position of almost single-handedly carrying a perennial tournament team back to the Big Dance. Also like Perrantes, Woodard was quietly one of the most lethal three-point shooters in the country last season, improving from 25.4 percent as a sophomore to 45.5 percent as a junior.
First Team No. 5: Johnathan Motley, Baylor
There aren't many quality big men in the Big 12. Of the 13 players to average at least 5.4 rebounds per game last year, only Zach Smith and Landen Lucas are back for another season. But with Rico Gathers no longer blocking his path to production, Motley could be the best power forward in this conference by a country mile. He averaged 21.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per 40 minutes in 2015-16 and should receive a major uptick in both minutes and percentage of possessions used.
Second Team: Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State), Devonte' Graham (Kansas), Chauncey Collins (TCU), Wesley Iwundu (Kansas State), Matt Thomas (Iowa State)
Honorable Mentions: Phil Forte (Oklahoma State), Zach Smith (Texas Tech), Landen Lucas (Kansas)
No pending NBA draft decisions in the Big 12.
Player of the Year: Josh Hart, Villanova
Without a close challenger, Hart is the biggest remaining domino in the eternal "Will he stay in the draft?" debate. If he returns for his final season of NCAA eligibility, Hart would be the preseason favorite for the Wooden Award, and Villanova would be one of the top preseason candidates for the 2017 national championship. If he stays in the draft, Villanova might not even be the favorite to win the Big East.
Runner-Up: Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
Bluiett's draft decision will also have national ramifications, albeit not quite as large. Xavier is a borderline preseason Top 10 team if the forward—who had 15.1 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game and shot 39.8 percent from three last season—is able to put off the pros for one more year.
First Team No. 3: Kris Jenkins, Villanova
Long before hitting the shot to win the 2016 national championship, Jenkins had one heck of a second half to last season, blossoming from a one-trick, three-point pony into a multifaceted contributor. If Hart does stay in the draft, Jenkins becomes the most important player in the Big East.
First Team No. 4: Kelan Martin, Butler
The only member of our projected All-Big East first team who didn't test the NBA draft waters, Martin could be headed for a ridiculous junior year. He averaged 15.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while sharing the rock with Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. He'll likely score at least 20 per game with that duo out of the picture, but the Bulldogs might not have enough talent around him to win the necessary number of games for conference POY candidacy.
First Team No. 5: Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton
It took about a month for him to shake off the rust of sitting out the 2014-15 season, but Watson was almost unstoppable by the time conference play arrived. The Boston University transfer averaged 15.9 points and 6.7 assists per Big East game. And with Marcus Foster (formerly of Kansas State) as his backcourt running mate this season, Watson might put up even better numbers.
Second Team: Isaac Copeland (Georgetown), Khadeen Carrington (Seton Hall), Desi Rodriguez (Seton Hall), Edmond Sumner (Xavier), Billy Garrett (DePaul)
Honorable Mentions: Luke Fischer (Marquette), L.J. Peak (Georgetown), Rodney Bullock (Providence)
Our assumptions on the Big East's remaining NBA draft decisions: Isaiah Whitehead and Ben Bentil remain in the draft; Josh Hart and Trevon Bluiett return to school.
Player of the Year: Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
Hayes struggled in his first season without the likes of Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky to help occupy the attention of opposing defenses. He was nothing but fumes by the end of the year, shooting 29.8 percent from two-point range in his final 11 games. But if Wisconsin is going to meet expectations as a projected Top 10 team, it'll be because Hayes bounces back and has a great senior year.
Runner-Up: Thomas Bryant, Indiana
Bryant had a few big games last season—the most impressive coming against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament—but there's still a ton of untapped potential for this Hoosier. Yogi Ferrell, Max Bielfeldt and Nick Zeisloft are all gone, and Troy Williams might still join them in departing Bloomington. That's a ton of slack for Bryant to help pick up.
First Team No. 3: Malcolm Hill, Illinois
Because Illinois tied a school record for losses in a season, Hill's fantastic junior campaign went largely unnoticed. He led the Illini in points, rebounds, assists and steals and trailed only Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff for most points scored in the Big Ten. If Illinois can avoid the heinous injury bug this year, Hill could be the driving force of one heck of a bounce-back season.
First Team No. 4: Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
When is the last time a redshirt freshman had a debut season as great as Happ's? The big man had 10 double-doubles while averaging nearly two steals and one block per game. He was the most valuable player on Wisconsin's roster and still has plenty of room for growth in both minutes played and offensive assertiveness.
First Team No. 5: Peter Jok, Iowa
Jok will probably lead the Big Ten in scoring this season, but what else do the Hawkeyes have? They lose four of their top five scorers and both of their primary ball-handlers.
Second Team: James Blackmon Jr. (Indiana), Andrew White III (Nebraska), Marc Loving (Ohio State), Eron Harris (Michigan State), Miles Bridges (Michigan State)
Honorable Mentions: Shep Garner (Penn State), Kendrick Nunn (Illinois), OG Anunoby (Indiana)
Our assumptions on the Big Ten's remaining NBA draft decisions: Melo Trimble, Caleb Swanigan and Troy Williams remain in the draft; Nigel Hayes, James Blackmon Jr., Peter Jok, Andrew White, Trevor Thompson, Vince Edwards and Corey Sanders return to school.
Player of the Year: Dillon Brooks, Oregon
The only thing more consistent than Brooks' production is how overlooked he has been. Despite averaging 16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for a team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Brooks was passed up for last year's Pac-12 POY in favor of Jakob Poeltl. Now that Poeltl is gone, Brooks is clearly the class of this conference.
Runner-Up: Allonzo Trier, Arizona
One of the more surprising decisions to return for another season, Trier should be the leading scorer for a deep Arizona rotation. He averaged 14.8 points per game as a freshman at a surprisingly efficient rate of 1.52 points per field-goal attempt.
First Team No. 3: Ivan Rabb, California
Probably the most surprising decision to return to school, Rabb might be a preseason national first-team All-American. But with Arizona, Oregon and UCLA to compete with, will California be able to finish high enough in the conference standings to produce the Pac-12 POY? Rabb will need some help from the likes of Jordan Mathews and Grant Mullins in order to pull it off.
First Team No. 4: Lonzo Ball, UCLA
UCLA has been desperately lacking a true point guard for the past two seasons, but the Bruins are getting one of the best available in this year's recruiting class. In the world's obsession to compare high school kids to NBA players, I've seen such names as Jason Kidd, Penny Hardaway, D'Angelo Russell and Michael Carter-Williams mentioned in the same breath with Ball, so expect big things from this primary ball-handler of a potential Top 10 team.
First Team No. 5: Markelle Fultz, Washington
As Scott Phillips wrote for B/R earlier this month, "Now that Washington has Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss leaving for the 2016 NBA draft, it has a big hole to fill, and Fultz can take over and play on the ball immediately. The Huskies are searching for a takeover guy, and Fultz can fit the bill." From Isaiah Thomas to Nigel Williams-Goss and Murray, Washington has been spoiled with talented point guards in the recent past. That trend will continue for at least one more year.
Second Team: Bryce Alford (UCLA), Josh Hawkinson (Washington State), Chris Boucher (Oregon), Jordan McLaughlin (USC), Shannon Evans (Arizona State)
Honorable Mentions: Dylan Ennis (Oregon), Malik Dime (Washington), Isaac Hamilton (UCLA)
Our assumptions on the Pac-12's remaining NBA draft decisions: Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, Julian Jacobs, Nikola Jovanovic, Rosco Allen and Josh Hawkinson all return to school.
Player of the Year: Malik Monk, Kentucky
Runner-Up: De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Most of the recruiting sites have Fox rated slightly ahead of Monk, but they're close enough and plenty talented enough that we might as well just flip a coin when deciding which freshman guard for Kentucky is most likely to be named SEC POY. The Wildcats will probably have the youngest and most talented roster in the country, and these replacements for Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray will determine whether they're able to reach their potential.
First Team No. 3: J.J. Frazier, Georgia
Anything but a freshman phenom, Frazier is a senior combo guard who has developed nicely over the past few seasons. He has evolved from a 3.7 PPG freshman into a one-man wrecking crew who averaged 16.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists last year. Georgia faces an uphill battle to reach the 2017 NCAA tournament, though, so his efforts might be all for naught.
First Team No. 4: Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
Like Frazier, Kingsley blossomed somewhat unexpectedly into a stud as a junior. One year removed from averaging 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, he put up 15.9 and 9.3 per night for the 2015-16 Razorbacks. Arkansas is reloading in a huge way with JUCO transfers, but Kingsley will remain the go-to big man in Mike Anderson's offense.
First Team No. 5: Antonio Blakeney, LSU
Keith Hornsby and Josh Gray were seniors, and Ben Simmons and Tim Quarterman declared for the NBA draft. If LSU is going to do anything this season, Blakeney needs to be a star. He averaged 12.6 points per game as a freshman, but don't be shocked if he comes close to doubling that rate this year.
Second Team: Tyler Davis (Texas A&M), Yante Maten (Georgia), KeVaughn Allen (Florida), Quinndary Weatherspoon (Mississippi State), Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina)
Honorable Mentions: John Egbunu (Florida), Isaiah Briscoe (Kentucky), Mustapha Heron (Auburn)
Our assumptions on the SEC's remaining NBA draft decisions: Malik Newman remains in the draft; Moses Kingsley and Isaiah Briscoe return to school.
Player of the Year: Gary Clark, Cincinnati
Clark has been too passive to this point in his career, rarely commanding the ball despite serving as Cincinnati's best offensive option in each of his two seasons. Now that Farad Cobb, Octavius Ellis, Coreontae DeBerry and Shaq Thomas are gone, though, this could/should be the year that Clark breaks out for at least 17 points per game.
Runner-Up: Dedric Lawson, Memphis
If you thought Memphis ran a lot of its offense through Lawson last year, wait until you see how hard the Tigers ride him this season after losing Shaq Goodwin, Ricky Tarrant, Trahson Burrell and Avery Woodson. He won't quite put up Michael Beasley numbers (26.2 PPG, 12.4 RPG), but he might come close given the supporting cast he'll have.
First Team No. 3: Rodney Purvis, Connecticut
With Sterling Gibbs, Daniel Hamilton and Shonn Miller all gone, Purvis will likely be Connecticut's go-to guy this season. The Huskies do have an excellent recruiting class in addition to another year of Jalen Adams and (presumably) Amida Brimah, but Purvis should battle for the AAC scoring crown as the leader of this team.
First Team No. 4: Ben Moore, SMU
The Mustangs lose a lot this offseason in Nic Moore, Jordan Tolbert and Markus Kennedy, but they should still vie for the conference title with Ben Moore leading the way. The power forward averaged 11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 blocks per game last season while serving as the third or fourth option in the offense. If nothing else, his point total should increase considerably this year.
First Team No. 5: Damyean Dotson, Houston
Don't sleep on Houston as a potential NCAA tournament team. The Cougars won 22 games last year and return a number of key players, including this former Oregon Duck. Dotson averaged 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 65.8 percent inside the arc and 36.7 percent beyond it.
Second Team: Tacko Fall (Central Florida), Rob Gray (Houston), Sterling Brown (SMU), Amida Brimah (Connecticut), Troy Caupain (Cincinnati)
Honorable Mentions: Pat Birt (Tulsa), Danrad Knowles (Houston), Shake Milton (SMU)
Our assumptions on the AAC's remaining NBA draft decisions: Dedric Lawson and Amida Brimah return to school.
Player of the Year: Jack Gibbs, Davidson
Gibbs averaged an impressive 16.2 points and 4.8 assists per game as a sophomore before finding an even higher gear this past season. He put up 23.4 points, 4.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game in 2015-16, and he might kick it up another notch with Brian Sullivan (244 three-point attempts) no longer in the picture.
Runner-Up: E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island
Matthews lasted just 10 minutes before suffering a season-ending injury, but he was last year's preseason favorite for A-10 POY. He averaged 16.9 points per game as a sophomore and was expected to be the star of Rhode Island's first NCAA tournament team since 1999. After putting that show on hold for one season, we're once again expecting big things from him.
First Team No. 3: Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington
The former Wake Forest transfer scored in double figures in all 38 of GW's games last season, including averaging 19.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game during the run to the NIT title. The Colonials lose a ton of key pieces from that roster, but Cavanaugh will be enough to keep them competitive.
First Team No. 4: Charles Cooke, Dayton
Cooke had an excellent first season with the Flyers, averaging 15.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game after transferring in from James Madison. He also shot 39.6 percent from downtown after barely hitting 30 percent of those attempts with the Dukes. With Dyshawn Pierre graduating and Steve McElvene tragically passing away, Cooke could take on an even bigger role this season.
First Team No. 5: Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure
Three players averaged at least 16.7 points per game for the Bonnies last season: a pair of seniors (Marcus Posley and Dion Wright) and Adams. The sophomore point guard shot 43.8 percent from three-point range while leading the team in assists and steals. The only other players in the country to average at least 17 points and five assists while shooting at least 40 percent from three-point range were Denzel Valentine and Yogi Ferrell. Adams is for real, even if his team's NCAA tournament hopes are slim to none.
Second Team: Hassan Martin (Rhode Island), Mo Alie-Cox (VCU), JeQuan Lewis (VCU), T.J. Cline (Richmond), Jordan Price (La Salle)
Honorable Mentions: JaVontae Hawkins (Fordham), Peyton Aldridge (Davidson), Donte Clark (Massachusetts)
Our assumptions on the A-10's remaining NBA draft decisions: Charles Cooke returns to school.
Player of the Year: Elijah Brown, New Mexico
Runner-Up: Tim Williams, New Mexico
Normally a breeding ground for mid-major studs, the Mountain West is starting to look like more of a barren wasteland. Unless Colorado State's Gian Clavell is granted a fifth year of eligibility (medical waiver), New Mexico has the only two returning players who averaged at least 14.5 points per game. As such, this should finally be the year that things return to normal for the Lobos as one of the top teams in the conference.
Look for Brown (21.7 PPG) to flirt with the national scoring title while Williams (16.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG) becomes more of a nightly double-double threat.
First Team No. 3: Cameron Oliver, Nevada
Speaking of double-doubles, Oliver quietly had a dozen of them as a freshman this past season. The former Oregon State signee averaged 13.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game in leading the Wolf Pack to their best season since joining the MWC.
First Team No. 4: Nick Duncan, Boise State
The Broncos might be up a creek without a paddle. All three of their leading scorers and five of the top seven will not be coming back, leaving Duncan (11.6 PPG) as their best returning option by far.
First Team No. 5: Jeremy Hemsley, San Diego State
It's almost a given that at least one Aztec will be represented on the Mountain West first team. Maybe it's Zylan Cheatham or Trey Kell. Perhaps it's Missouri transfer Montaque Gill-Caesar. But we're going with Hemsley with the hope that he can rebound from a disappointing March to be the stud he was for the first few months of his freshman year.
Second Team: Jason McManamen (Wyoming), D.J. Fenner (Nevada), Trey Kell (San Diego State), Emmanuel Omogbo (Colorado State), Hayden Graham (Air Force)
Honorable Mentions: Trevor Lyons (Air Force), Montaque Gill-Caesar (San Diego State), Jalen Poyser (UNLV)
Our assumptions on the MWC's remaining NBA draft decisions: Malik Pope and Jalen Moore remain in the draft; Elijah Brown and Cameron Oliver return to school.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.