If the list of All-America contenders is any indication, this will be a fascinating year in college basketball.
Teams like Kentucky and North Carolina are no strangers to the All-America teams. But it’s also a turn-back-the-clock kind of season for Indiana, Michigan and UNLV, who are producing All-America contenders for the first time in more than a decade.
And those aren’t even the most unlikely teams with player of the year candidates: Creighton, Murray State and North Texas all have players counted among the national elite.
Here are our picks for the preseason All-America team, where a veteran forward playing in the Missouri Valley and a guard in the Ohio Valley will compete with star freshmen for Kentucky and UCLA for postseason hardware.
FIRST-TEAM PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA
G Pierre Jackson, Baylor
Particulars: 5-10/180, Sr.
As quick as any guard in the country, Jackson is also as clutch as they come. Behind the play of Jackson, a finalist for the Bob Cousy award presented to the nation's best point guard, Baylor reached the Elite Eight. Jackson led the Bears in scoring (13.8 points per game) and was one of 15 players nationally with 200 assists.
G/F Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Particulars: 6-6/225, Fr.
The Bruins are still waiting for their prized freshman to be declared eligible, but once he’s on the court, he’ll be the key to turning UCLA’s fortunes. He’s a strong, athletic wing who will bring toughness to the program -- probably for just one season before leaving for the NBA Draft.
F Doug McDermott, Creighton
Particulars: 6-8/220, Jr.
McDermott is entering rarefied territory. His 801 career points trails only Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird in Missouri Valley history. And beyond the sheer numbers (22.9 points, 8.2 rebounds), he’s tremendously efficient, shooting 60.1 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from 3-point range.
Related: Q&A with Doug McDermott
F Mike Moser, UNLV
Particulars: 6-8/210, Jr.
Moser may be in line to be UNLV’s most decorated player since the Jerry Tarkanian era after earning honorable mention All-America honors after last season. Moser averaged a double-double per game (14 points, 10.5 rebounds) and also led the Mountain West in steals (1.9).
C Cody Zeller, Indiana
Particulars: 7-0/240, Soph.
Zeller delivered on his potential as a transformative player for the Hoosiers’ program, leading Indiana to its first Sweet 16 in a decade. Now, Zeller (15.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg) will have a chance to be Indiana’s first National Player of the Year since 1992-93.
Related: Q&A with Cody Zeller
Top Floor Leaders
Top Inside-Out Threats
SECOND-TEAM PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA
G Trey Burke, Michigan
Particulars: 6-0/190, Soph.
The return of Burke means Michigan enters 2012-13 with the highest expectations since the late ‘90s. Burke is a high-energy floor leader who averaged 14.8 points and 4.6 assists last season with room to thrive as a sophomore. He’ll have a more balanced supporting cast than he did as a rookie.
G Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
Particulars: 6-1/195, Sr.
Canaan emerged from obscurity last season to lead Murray State to a 23-0 start and a 31-win season. Canaan won’t sneak up on anyone this season after averaging 19 points per game last season.
F Tony Mitchell, North Texas
Particulars: 6-8/235, Soph.
Potential NBA Draft Lottery picks don’t often turn up in the Sun Belt or in Denton, Texas, but that’s what the Mean Green have in Mitchell, who signed with Missouri before being ruled academically ineligible. Mitchell was the only freshman in the country to average a double-double last season (14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg).
F Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
Particulars: 6-8/245, Sr.
Mbakwe believes this season will be better for Minnesota, so much so he vowed to pay back his scholarship if the Gophers don’t reach the NCAA Tournament. His return from a torn ACL is a major reason why Minnesota is a postseason contender. He averaged 13.9 points and 10.5 rebounds in his last healthy season.
C Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Particulars: 6-10/205, Fr.
Noel is simply stepping into the shoes of Anthony Davis, who had one of the most decorated seasons in college basketball history. Noel is another elite freshman who will probably stick in Lexington for just one season. He may be a better shotblocker than his predecessor, who set the NCAA freshman record for blocks.
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THIRD TEAM PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA
G Phil Pressey, Missouri
Particulars: 5-11/175, Jr.
Pressey is one of the best players in the country in breaking down a defense off the dribble and finding the open man. After averaging 10.3 points, 6.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds last season, Pressey will make Missouri an instant contender in its first season in the SEC.
Related: Q&A with Phil Pressey
G Peyton Siva, Louisville
Particulars: 5-11/180, Sr.
Siva struggled through part of last season, though he remained of the Big East’s best point guards. Siva rebounded in the postseason, earning MVP honors at the Big East Tournament. Siva went on to average 6.2 assists per game in the run to the Final Four.
G C.J. Leslie, NC State
Particulars: 6-9/200, Jr.
The McDonald’s All-American was more consistent as a sophomore, especially at the end of the season. Leslie averaged 17.1 points per game over the final 16 games as NC State reached the Sweet 16 for only the second time since 1989.
G Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
Particulars: 6-5/195, Jr.
Franklin returns to a loaded Aztecs team that should contend for the Mountain West title and a run in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Franklin averaged 17.4 point and 7.9 rebounds with a knack for clutch shooting.
F James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
Particulars: 6-9/230, Soph.
The Tar Heels are counting on their talented sophomore to carry his late season momentum into this season. McAdoo could become consistent double-double threat and a potential NBA first-round draft pick.
More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store
Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
8. Ohio State
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
19. Notre Dame