CBS Sports’ 2016-17 Preseason All-America Team, Coach and Freshman of the Year – CBSSports.com
Take a look at the CBS Sports All-America teams from the 2015-16 season and what you’ll find is that only one of the 15 players honored — Duke’s Grayson Allen — is actually back in school.
In other words, we’re basically starting from scratch, which is normal for the sport of college basketball, where new and/or unknown players annually become the faces of the sport.
We put it up to a vote this year.
College basketball writers from CBSSports.com, as well as college basketball analysts from CBS Sports and the CBS Sports Network, were asked to submit ballots for three All-American teams — plus a pick for National Player of the Year, National Freshman of the Year and National Coach of the Year.
We’ll announce the National Player of the Year later this week. But the results of everything else are below. And what we have is a First Team featuring two players from the East Coast (Duke, Villanova), two from the West Coast, (Washington, Oregon) and one from smack-dab in the middle of the country (Kansas). So it balances geographically, if nothing else.
There are two freshmen, two juniors and one senior on the First Team, and a total of six of the 15 players recognized are freshmen, which leads all classes and suggests this season could be highlighted by first-year players. If so, that would make sense. It’s a strong freshman class, especially at the top, and some of the best are playing for programs that should win their leagues — like Duke, Kentucky and Kansas, which are ranked first, second and third in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 (and one).
CBS Sports Preseason All-America
Grayson Allen | Duke | Junior | Guard
Grayson Allen is the ACC’s leading returning scorer and the top established player on a Duke team that is ranked No. 1 in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls. The 6-foot-5 junior averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season while shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range. He scored at least 30 points four times, got a career-high 33 in a win over Long Beach State last December, and was the ACC Player of the Week twice — first in November, then again in January.
To be clear, Allen isn’t Duke’s best NBA prospect. In fact, in that regard, he probably ranks behind teammates Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Marques Bolden. But the 2014 McDonald’s All-American Game dunk contest champion does project as a first-round pick and could be a nice combo guard at the NBA level.
For Duke, Allen will spend a lot of time with the ball in his hands, if only because the Blue Devils don’t have a natural point guard on the roster. That’ll give him plenty of opportunities to create for himself and others and maybe help coach Mike Krzyzewski win the sixth NCAA Tournament of his Hall of Fame career.
Markelle Fultz | Washington | Freshman | Guard
Markelle Fultz is a McDonald’s All-American and consensus top-five prospect from the Class of 2016 who has emerged as most people’s pick to go No. 1 overall in next year’s NBA Draft. The 6-foot-4 point guard has great size for his position, is explosive off the dribble, and is capable of making opponents pay from the 3-point line if they play too far off him or go underneath screens.
In a word, he’s special — someone who can make plays for himself or others. The only thing that might prevent him from stacking postseason awards would be a scenario where his team isn’t quite good enough to keep Fultz at or near the top of the national conversation. Hopefully, that’s not the case. Because it would be a shame if what will presumably be Fultz’s only year of college basketball goes down as statistically impressive but mostly irrelevant to the sport, similar to how Ben Simmons’ only year at LSU will be remembered.
Either way, if you can get the Pac-12 Network, here’s your excuse to get it. Fultz should be a fun watch basically every game he plays.
Josh Hart | Villanova | Senior | Guard
Josh Hart entered the 2016 NBA Draft and was one of 60 players to actually receive an invitation to the combine in Chicago. Eventually, though, the 6-foot-6 wing removed his name from consideration and returned to Villanova, at which point Jay Wright’s Wildcats became a real candidate to repeat as national champions.
Hart was a top-80 recruit in the Class of 2012 who has averaged at least 21 minutes per game in each of his first three years at Villanova and gotten a little better each season. He averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 assists as a junior and was widely regarded as the best player on a team that finished 35-5 and as champions of the Big East and the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
He scored a career-high 27 points in a November win over Akron and had 12 points and eight rebounds in the title game against North Carolina. As long as Villanova stays at or near the top of the Big East and national rankings this season, Hart should be a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate and in a good position to lead the Wildcats to another Final Four.
Josh Jackson | Kansas | Freshman | Forward
Josh Jackson is a McDonald’s All-American and the first consensus No. 1 overall prospect to enroll at Kansas since Andrew Wiggins in 2013. Most suspect his impact in Lawrence will be similar to Wiggins’, if not even better. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 26.9 points, 13.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists as a senior in high school, and he’s already won three gold medals while competing for USA Basketball.
Jackson is a versatile wing with great size for his position — especially in college but even at the NBA level. And Jackson’s willingness to use his physical gifts to actually create problems on the defensive side of the ball will earn him the necessary trust from coach Bill Self that, for instance, former fellow five-star wing Kelly Oubre didn’t have early in his freshman year.
Bottom line, Jackson has all of the tools to be a terrific college player who becomes a top-five NBA Draft pick after one season at KU. And that’s exactly what plenty of people suspect he’ll prove to be in the process of helping the Jayhawks win a 13th consecutive Big 12 title.
Dillon Brooks | Oregon | Junior | Forward
Brooks is the first and only player in Oregon history to reach 1,000 career points by the end of his sophomore year, which is the result of him starting all 38 games last season and averaging 16.7 points for the Ducks. The 6-foot-7 forward got a career-high 30 points in a January win over Utah and ended up averaging 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists to go with those 16.7 points while leading Oregon to a Pac-12 title and the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, where the Ducks were eliminated by Buddy Hield’s Oklahoma Sooners.
The issue for Brooks — and, by extension, for Oregon, at least early — is that he’s still recovering from off-season foot surgery and likely won’t be ready to start the season when the Ducks open against Army next Friday. That’s not ideal. But assuming there are no further setbacks, and there shouldn’t be, Brooks will be available for the bulk of Oregon’s schedule — and all of the Pac-12 schedule — and thus be in a position to lead the Ducks to back-to-back Pac-12 titles and, perhaps, the first Final Four of Dana Altman’s coaching career.
Monte Morris | Iowa State | Senior | Guard
Iowa State will go as Monte goes. He’s a tremendous all-around guard, and he’ll be asked to play a lead/combo type of role as the “point” guard for ISU this season. Expect gaudy numbers and really good play from the best veteran guard in college basketball. The Cyclones are hovering between 23-30 on most people’s rankings right now, and if Morris wasn’t on the roster, ISU wouldn’t be a top-40 team. He’s really valuable, so much so that Steve Prohm’s team should go to the NCAAs for the sixth straight year. Morris averaged 13.8 points, 6.9 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals last season.
Melo Trimble | Maryland | Junior | Guard
He’ll be asked to do a lot, because Maryland’s starting over with its front court. For as much as Morris means to Iowa State, Trimble is even more vital to Maryland. He was expected to be a Second Team All-American at worst entering last season — then merely cracked the Big Ten Second Team. We think he has a huge bounce-back season, nationally speaking. Trimble’s decision-making will be key, and his shooting percentage needs to go back up, but overall, his talent can’t be denied. When he cooks, he’s as fun as almost anyone in college basketball to watch.
Bam Adebayo | Kentucky | Freshman | Forward
A freshman with a fun attitude, aggressive nature in the paint and a skill set that’s probably going to get him drafted in the 2017 lottery. Kentucky’s got a bevy of freshmen who look to be (again) of the one-and-done nature. Adebayo’s ceiling is so, so high. He’ll be a defensive force, a rebounding machine and probably the vocal leader of a Kentucky team that should be must-watch from game No. 1. Our projected numbers for Adebayo: 13.5 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 58 percent from the field.
Jayson Tatum | Duke | Freshman | Forward
Tatum will probably become the most important freshman for Duke this season, as Harry Giles’ health is still the X-factor for the Blue Devils. Tatum has a pro’s body and skill set already. He’s a lengthy wing with a feathery jump shot and a great ability to use his body to pivot and first-step his way to space. He can also get up — plenty. Duke, our clear No. 1 team, will not be short on offensive options, and Tatum should complement Grayson Allen very well. Duke hasn’t had two players average above 18 points since 2005-06 (J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams). That could change with Allen and Tatum this season.
Ivan Rabb | California | Sophomore | Forward
Rabb was the highest-rated college basketball player to NOT leave for the NBA Draft — and Cal lost a lot, meaning Rabb’s usage is going to skyrocket. He should be an elite shot-blocker and should also become a well-rounded offensive player. Watch his game move farther away from the hoop — while still being tethered to creativity in the paint. If Rabb is healthy, he seems a lock to average a double-double this season, plus get close to two blocks/game. Cal is ranked outside of KenPom’s top 50 to start the season, but we think the Bears firmly make it into the NCAAs due to Rabb having a huge sophomore campaign.
Dennis Smith | NC State | Freshman | Guard
Smith could very well wind up as the best all-around true point guard in college basketball this season. He’s quick, athletic, smooth, and he makes a lot of terrific decisions. He’s just what NC State needs, and now he’ll have a lot of weapons around him. BeeJay Anya will anchor the post. Abdul-Malik Abu is a power wing. Omer Yurtseven, a lanky, 7-foot Turkish freshman with gobs of talent, is going to create matchup problems. Smith is likely to dominate games in five, six, seven different kinds of ways and styles. You’ll want to see him play as often as possible. He could land a few triple-doubles, too.
Malik Monk | Kentucky | Freshman | Guard
Monk should lead Kentucky in scoring. He will show he can score at three levels, will show flashes of NBA-level athleticism and prove he can hit shots from beyond 16 feet with consistency. Kentucky doesn’t have any real reliable offensive options from distance on the wing — except for Monk. UK looks to be the SEC’s best team, far and away, and if Monk is going to average north of 15 points per game, it only makes sense to put him on an All-American team in the preseason. Oh, and get ready for his dunks.
Jaron Blossomgame | Clemson | Senior | Forward
He’s going to face double teams every night, and I bet he averages more than 20 points per game anyway. Blossomgame is the best player you don’t know about. He could’ve gone pro, but instead returns to the Tigers in hopes of getting Brad Brownell back to the NCAAs for the first time since 2011. In terms of modern college basketball wings, it doesn’t get better than this guy. He’s about 6-7, can shoot above 40 percent from 3, makes it look easy in transition and plays great help-side defense. He’ll probably become a better all-around player, and in doing so, lock himself up as a first round pick. He might eclipse 1,700 career points this season.
Nigel Hayes | Wisconsin | Senior | Forward
Wisconsin’s going to get another great year from Hayes, who’s at 16.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists for his career per 40 minutes. Hayes, a combo forward, was the Big Ten pick in the preseason for player of the year. He’ll team up with Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ for a great trio in Madison, but we’ve got Hayes making All-America because his shooting percentage almost certainly should go up, and his all-around numbers will likely spike as well. Plus, Wisconsin’s bringing back almost everyone, so this should be a 4 seed at worst.
Thomas Bryant | Indiana | Sophomore | Center
The big man in the middle for the Hoosiers has as much expectation for a breakout season as almost any other player in college basketball. The Hoosiers have talent around him (James Blackmon, Jr. and OG Anunoby being the two most notable), but it all begins with Bryant. And isn’t that refreshing? So few college teams truly start in the middle to create their dynamic these days. Bryant only played 22.6 minutes per game last season, but his usage and volume should take a big jump. If he can come close to his 68-percent shooting clip, look out. The Hoosiers are right there with Wisconsin at the top of the Big Ten chase.
Freshman of the Year
Markelle Fultz | Washington
He’s expected to carry Washington back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Fultz, a 6-4, 195-pound 18-year-old out of Upper Marlboro, Md., is a combo-style point guard. He’s crazy athletic and not shy on confidence.
In an absolutely stacked freshman class — this might be the best crop of first-year players in a decade, really — he’s our pick for FOY because he’ll have the ball in his hands so much, he’ll probably get Washington over the hump and in doing so, he’s going to put up a lot of big numbers while wowing us on the way to a tremendous season. Fultz also has crazy-good instincts on defense. He swoops into passing lanes with ease and also has very quick hands.
Because of his size and shooting ability that matches with his athleticism, Fultz, as mentioned above, is being discussed as a potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft. In a year where a lot of teams out West will get pub (Gonzaga, Oregon, Washington, UCLA, Arizona, Saint Mary’s, Cal, San Diego State and BYU and are all interesting), Fultz will draw as much attention as almost any other player. A close but confident pick from us to have him as the Freshman of the Year.
Coach of the Year
Mike Krzyzewski | Duke
Mike Krzyzewski is a Hall of Famer who is already the winningest Division I men’s coach in history. His five national championships rank second only to UCLA’s John Wooden, and he’s also led the United States to gold medals in three different Summer Olympics. For these reasons and more, Krzyzewski is arguably the greatest basketball coach at any level in history, and, even at the age of 69, there seems to be no end in sight.
Coach K is still recruiting and operating at the highest of levels, which is why his Blue Devils are ranked first in the preseason AP poll, the preseason Coaches poll and the preseason CBS Sports Top 25 (and one). It won’t be easy for him to mesh his talented veterans with those talented newcomers, but nobody is better at maximizing talent than Krzyzewski. It would be foolish to bet against him.