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2017-18 Mid-Major Preseason All-Americans

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As is the case with your standard All-America teams, putting together squads of the best players at mid-major schools is a tough thing to do.

Narrowing down the lists of available high-scoring guards and productive front court players who post double-doubles more often than not tends to result in some players being either relegated to an “honorable mention” list or left out altogether.

Get to know these names. 

These are the players that, come March, are going to help you identify the best upsets and Cinderella runs. 

Below are the NBC Sports Preseason Mid-Major All America teams, following by a list of players who merited mention but did not make the cut.

For the sake of this post, members of the following conferences will be excluded: ACC, American, Atlantic 10, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC. We’ll also be leaving out BYU and Gonzaga of the WCC.

Tyler Hall (Montana State Athletics)

MID-MAJOR PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN FIRST TEAM

G Tyler Hall, Montana State

The 6-foot-4 junior guard has been a mainstay in head coach Brian Fish’s starting lineup for the past two seasons, starting all 63 games that he’s played in. Last season Hall averaged 23.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, shooting 47.6 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three and 83.7 percent from the foul line. Despite being the focus of opposing defenses, Hall manages to score points in an efficient manner.

G Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee

As cool as his name is, Giddy Potts is well-known for his game as well. Potts helped lead the Blue Raiders to a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance by averaging 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last season. And with the Blue Raiders having some holes to fill in their rotation, with Jacorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw Jr. out of eligibility, Potts could put even more points on the board as a senior.

F Kevin Hervey, UT-Arlington

The 6-foot-7 senior is a big reason why Scott Cross’ Mavericks are viewed as the preseason favorites in the Sun Belt. Last season Hervey averaged 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as he won Sun Belt Player of the Year honors. Through his first three seasons Hervey has improved his field goal and three-point percentages each year, shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three as a junior.

F Mike Daum, South Dakota State

“The Dauminator” is coming off of an outstanding sophomore season in which he averaged 25.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, earning Summit League Player of the Year honors as a result. The 6-foot-9 Daum factored into 33.1 percent of the Jackrabbits’ possessions last season, producing an offensive rating of 121.0 per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Capable of scoring from just about anywhere on the court, Daum shot 51.4 percent from the field, 41.8 percent from three and 86.9 percent from the foul line last season.

F Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s

Randy Bennett has a team capable of playing deep into March, and Jock Landale is one of the reasons why. As a junior Landale averaged 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, taking full advantage in the increase in playing time (28.3 minutes per game after playing 14.5 mpg as a sophomore). Landale shot 61.1 percent from the field last season, and he posted an offensive rating of 121.1 while ranking in the Top 25 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.

Carlos Morales/BigSouthPhotos.com
Carlos Morales/BigSouthPhotos.com

MID-MAJOR PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN SECOND TEAM

G Thomas Wilder, Western Michigan

The 6-foot-3 senior guard is one reason why the Broncos are viewed by many as the favorites to win the Mid-American Conference. Last season Wilder averaged 19.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, shooting 45.8 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from three and 83.2 percent from the foul line. Along with Montana State’s Tyler Hall, Wilder is a player who could threaten 50/40/90 status while either approaching or passing the 20 points per game mark as well.

G Kendrick Nunn, Oakland

Truth be told the Golden Grizzlies have three players who could make a case to be on one of these teams, with Martez Walker and Jalen Hayes (who’s been declared ineligible by the NCAA until December) being the others. But the pick here is Nunn, who makes his return to the court after off-court issues resulted in his being dismissed from the Illinois program in May of 2016. In his final season at Illinois, Nunn averaged 15.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, shooting 42.8 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from three.

G Chris Clemons, Campbell

Clemons, who submitted his name for the NBA Draft before deciding to return to school, is the nation’s top returning scorer (tied with the aforementioned Daum) as he averaged 25.1 points per game last season. In addition to the scoring Clemons contributed 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, and he attempted nearly as many three-pointers (333) as two-pointers (341) last season. Expect another big year from the 5-foot-9 junior guard.

F Alize Johnson, Missouri State

The Frank Phillips (Texas) JC product was the Missouri Valley’s top newcomer last season, averaging 14.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Johnson put up solid shooting percentages from the field (48.8 percent) and from three (38.8) in his first season at Missouri State, and he posted 17 double-doubles (the same number as Jock Landale). This year’s Johnson is expected to lead the way for the preseason favorites in the Valley, and he’s more than capable of doing so.

C Nana Foulland, Bucknell

The 6-foot-9 senior center won Patriot League Player of the Year honors last season after averaging 15.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game on the team that won the league’s regular season and tournament titles. And after shooting 53.6 percent from the field as a sophomore, Foulland made 63.0 percent of his field goal attempts as a junior. If he can improve the foul shooting (56.1 percent last year, which is a career-high), Foulland could add a couple points on his scoring average.

Makai Mason (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

MID-MAJOR PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN THIRD TEAM

G David Nichols, Albany

Albany boasts a backcourt in Nichols and Joe Cremo that deserves more national discussion that it received for much of last season. Nichols averaged 17.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as a sophomore, taking a substantial leap forward after appearing in only 15 games as a freshman. With Cremo and other experienced options by his side, Nichols leads a team that could unseat Vermont as the best team in America East.

G Devin Sibley, Furman

New Furman head coach Bob Richey won’t lack for options in his first season at the helm, with Devin Sibley being one of those key players on a team that returns all five starters. Sibley, the reigning Player of the Year in the SoCon, averaged 17.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game as a junior in helping to lead the Paladins to 22 wins. Sibley’s shooting percentages were impressive, as he made 52.2 percent of his shots from the field and 44.9 percent of his three-point attempts.

G Makai Mason, Yale

He’s back! After missing all of last season with a broken foot, Makai Mason is back to run the show for the Bulldogs as they look to make a return to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. In 2015-16 Mason averaged 16.0 points, 3.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game, and in Yale’s NCAA tournament win over Baylor he went off for 31 points, six rebounds and four assists. After he completes this season at Yale and gets his degree, Mason will play a year as a grad student at…Baylor.

F William Lee, UAB

With the exception of his sophomore season, when he came off the bench in 14 of the 33 games he appeared in, William Lee has pretty much been a fixture in the UAB starting lineup. Last season Lee averaged 13.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from three. With the Blazers expected to be a factor in a tight race at the top of Conference USA, Lee is a player talented enough to push them over the top.

F James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan

There are only two returning players in college basketball this season who had more double-doubles than James Thompson IV last season: Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado (27) and Louisiana’s Bryce Washington (22). Thompson racked up 20 double-doubles in 2016-17, averaging 14.8 points and 11.2 rebounds per game for the Eagles. Thompson, who ranked fifth in the country in offensive rebounding rate, also shot 57.4 percent from the field and 71.3 percent from the foul line.

Honorable Mention: Bryce Aiken (Harvard), G Joshua Braun (Grand Canyon), F Devontae Cacok (UNCW), G Joe Cremo (Albany), G KJ Feagin (Santa Clara), G Brandon Goodwin (FGCU), C/F Rokas Gustys (Hofstra), F Anthony Lamb (Vermont), G Garrison Mathews (Lipscomb), G Cameron Morse (Youngstown State), G Erick Neal (UT-Arlington), G Tyler Nelson (Fairfield), Micah Seaborn (Monmouth), G Jonathan Stark (Murray State), G Martez Walker (Oakland), F Bryce Washington (Louisiana).

No. 2 Arizona drops second-straight

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — SMU attacked the glass and kept scoring off turnovers to offset a bad shooting performance. It was enough to hand No. 2 Arizona a second stunning loss to an unranked opponent in two nights.

Ben Emelogu scored 20 points and the Mustangs upset the Wildcats 66-60 in Thursday’s consolation round at the Battle 4 Atlantis, a jarring start for an Arizona team that began the season as a Final Four favorite with a preseason Associated Press All-American in Allonzo Trier.

Arizona (3-2) lost to North Carolina State 90-84 in Wednesday’s first round. It’s the first time the Wildcats have dropped back-to-back games against nonconference opponents since losing to Mississippi State and San Diego State in November 2011.

“This is a different feeling,” coach Sean Miller said. “It might be healthy for our team because instead of everybody telling you how good you are and you’re going to get to a Final Four and you’re awesome, it’s going to go opposite now.

“And I think that it could be something that drives our team to have even better practice to fix a few things and hopefully get back in the winner’s circle.”

The Mustangs (5-1) blew an 11-point lead in the second half but responded with a 10-2 run to go ahead for good. SMU won despite shooting 31 percent and going eight minutes without a basket in the second half.

“I always say — and everybody thinks I’m lying but I’m not when I say this — the best wins of the year are always when you can’t get your shots to go in the basket and you find a way to win anyway,” SMU coach Tim Jankovich said. “That’s how great seasons are made. Everybody wins when they shoot great and feel great and all that.”

The Mustangs hung on in two ways. First, they capitalized on 20 Arizona turnovers by scoring 19 points off those miscues. Then there was their effort on the boards; they were outrebounded 43-39 overall but nearly doubled up Arizona on the offensive glass (20-11) to finish with 23 more shot attempts and 14 second-chance points.

“We talk about this all the time,” Jankovich said. “Really break it down: Does it take a lot of talent to go run after a ball? Does it take a lot of talent to dive on a ball? … And the answer is no. So really what it takes is the character and it takes an unselfishness and a commitment to the things that win rather than the things that necessarily make me look good.

“And in the end, if you have a team full of those guys, then you’re going to have a successful team.”

Trier scored 22 points to lead the Wildcats, who shot 47 percent. Arizona freshman Deandre Ayton added 17 points and 15 rebounds, but no other Wildcats player scored in double figures. Arizona also shot just 5 of 20 on 3-pointers.

“No, our confidence isn’t affected at all,” freshman forward Ira Lee said. “We’ve just got to see these two games as a learning experience and move on.”

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: Miller immediately said offense wasn’t the problem after the loss to N.C. State, noting the Wildcats haven’t dropped many games when scoring 84 points. Rather, he was concerned about a bad defensive effort. This time, his team had some good defensive moments, but Miller said there was something missing in glaring fashion.

“Maybe we did play some good defense,” Miller said, “but defense always ends with the rebounding. And we were unable to rebound.”

SMU: The Mustangs trailed much of the way against Northern Iowa in their first-round tournament game, but played from ahead in this one. They also came up with a counterpunch, regaining the lead after Arizona erased that 11-point deficit.

“The effort, gosh darn, I don’t care if we were big or tiny or medium-sized out there or who was guarding who, I saw some fighting cats out there,” Jankovich said. “And I loved it.”

EMELOGU’S NIGHT

Emelogu went 7 of 11 from the field and 5 of 7 on 3-pointers to lead SMU’s offense. The rest of SMU’s starters made 12 of 53 shots (23 percent).

“A lot of times, you just play hard and play defense, you win games even though offense didn’t go our way,” Emelogu said.

UP NEXT

Arizona: The Wildcats will play No. 18 Purdue in Friday’s seventh-place game.

SMU: The Mustangs will play Western Kentucky in Friday’s fifth-place game.

Western Kentucky upsets No. 18 Purdue 77-73 in Bahamas

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Darius Thompson scored 12 points and hit two clinching free throws with 5.1 seconds left to help Western Kentucky upset No. 18 Purdue 77-73 in Thursday’s consolation round at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The Hilltoppers (3-2) led nearly the entire night, but needed to make several clutch plays late to hang on.

P.J. Thompson hit a corner 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds remaining to bring the Boilermakers (4-2) to 75-73, but Thompson answered with two free throws that made it a two-possession game and all but sealed the win.

Justin Johnson led the Hilltoppers with 17 points, including a tough driving score for a five-point lead with 21 seconds left.

Isaac Haas scored 22 points to lead Purdue, which shot just 32 percent in the first half. The Boilermakers trailed 42-31 at the break and never fully recovered.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: That’s an 0-2 showing in two days for the Boilermakers in the Bahamas. The high-scoring, 3-point shooting offense hasn’t found its rhythm here, though Purdue shot 50 percent after halftime in this one to give itself a chance late.

Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers were coming off a loss to No. 5 Villanova, making this the first time they had played consecutive games against ranked opponents since the 1993 NCAA Tournament. But they earned a win against a ranked team for just the second time in the last 15 tries.

UP NEXT

Purdue: The Boilermakers will play the Arizona-SMU loser in Friday’s seventh-place game.

Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers will play the Arizona-SMU winner in Friday’s fifth-place game.

Duke overcomes tenacious Portland State 99-81

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Marvin Bagley III said the Blue Devils knew they had to wake up for the second half against Portland State.

And eventually, they did. Trevon Duval had 22 points and No. 1 Duke pulled away for a 99-81 victory over the surprisingly tenacious Vikings on Thursday to open the Phil Knight Invitational.

 Bagley added 18 points, and Grayson Allen had 14 points and nine assists. The Blue Devils (6-0) will face the winner of the Thursday game between Butler and Texas.

Duke trailed by as many as eight points but took control midway through the second half when Wendell Carter Jr.’s dunk put the Blue Devils in front 67-62. They would go on to lead by as many as 21 points.

“The first half we obviously weren’t playing like we were normally do. We weren’t doing the things that we do well. We weren’t going to our strengths. We kind of came out sluggish,” Bagley said. “But going into the second half it was just ‘You have to wake up.’ They (the coaches) mentioned to us that these are the type of games that are going to be like that if you don’t come out ready to play.

It was coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 200th victory as coach of a No. 1-ranked team. He’s 200-29 when the Blue Devils sit atop the poll.

Deontae North led the Vikings (4-1) with 24 points, including 20 in the first half, but fouled out with 8:39 left in the game.

It was the first time in program history that the Vikings had faced a top-ranked team. Portland State’s last win over a ranked opponent was an 86-82 victory over then-No. 25 Portland in December 2009.

“I thought they just knocked us back the whole first half,” Krzyzewski said. “We were in a reactionary mode the first 20 minutes.”

The tournament involves 16 teams playing in two brackets on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with a break on Saturday. The field also includes No. 4 Michigan State, No. 7 Florida and defending national champion North Carolina.

Dubbed the PK80, the tournament celebrates Nike co-founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday.

Duke and Portland State were in the Motion Bracket, playing Thursday at the Memorial Coliseum. Teams in the Victory Bracket played at the adjacent Moda Center.

Knight was sitting courtside for the game.

The five-time NCAA champion Blue Devils were coming off a 92-63 victory over Furman on Monday night, led by Bagley with 24 points.

Portland State was coming off an 83-79 victory over Utah State at the Memorial Coliseum on Monday. The Vikings are playing the first season under coach Barret Peery.

“I’m proud of our team,” Peery said. “But I was proud of our team before the ball went up.”

Portland State was no pushover from the start, taking a 12-11 lead on North’s 3-pointer with 16:54 to go in the opening half. North hit another 3 that put the Vikings up 19-15 and Michael Mayhew’s jumper extended the lead.

North made another 3 to make it 33-26 with 8:33 left in the half. The Vikings stayed out in front until Gary Trent Jr. made a pair of free throws for Duke to tie it at 42 with 2:09 left in the half.

Mayhew hit a long 3-pointer and Portland State led 49-45 at the half. Mayhew was among five Vikings who fouled out in the second half.

Carter’s layup put Duke out in front 54-53, but North answered with a jumper and Bryce Canda added a 3-pointer.

Carter had another layup to give the Blue Devils a 61-60 lead and Bagley’s tip-in pushed the lead to 63-60, energizing the mostly blue-clad crowd at the Coliseum. Duke never trailed again.

“This was a big stage for us,” said Canda, who finished with 14 points. “But we can’t hang our heads.”

BIG PICTURE

Duke: Allen scored just five points against Furman, and Krzyzewski said he was banged up and held out of a couple of practices going into the game. But he was back in form against Portland State. He taunted a Portland State player late in the game and got a technical, eliciting a strong reaction from Krzyzewski.

Portland State: It was the first time Portland State had faced a No. 1-ranked team. The Vikings have twice faced a No. 2 team, including Duke in 1997. … The Vikings play in the Big Sky conference. They’ve made the NCAA tournament twice, in 2008 and 2009, with first-round losses both times.

MORE COACH K: Krzyzewski has coached 229 games with a No. 1-ranked team, surpassing John Wooden for the lead. … It is the 500th week that Duck has been ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll under him, most by a coach in the AP Top 25’s history.

NORTH’S SECOND TECH: North was on the floor in front of the scorer’s desk, getting ready to check into the game when he earned his second tech of the game. Coach Peery said apparently the ref thought North had commented on the previous play.

UP NEXT

Duke: The Blue Devils go on to face the winner of the late Thursday afternoon game between Butler and Texas when the tournament continues on Friday.

Portland State: The Vikings will face the Butler-Texas loser.

Terrell lifts Rhode Island past No. 20 Seton Hall, 75-74

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jared Terrell made a running layup with 5.2 seconds left to give Rhode Island a 75-74 victory over No. 20 Seton Hall on Thursday night in the second game of the Preseason NIT.

Terrell finished with 32 points to help the Rams improve to 3-1. Stanford Robinson added 15 points.

Myles Powell led the Pirates (4-1) with 21 points. Angel Delgado had 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez had 12 points each.

Following Terrell’s layup, Seton Hall inbounded the ball to Carrington, who raced up court but lost his dribble and the Pirates were unable to recover the loose ball before the buzzer sounded.

Trailing by nine at halftime, Seton Hall outscored Rhode Island 27-17 in a 14:06 span to take the lead at 72-71. Carrington made two free throws with 5:54 left to give the Pirates their first lead since his jumper 5:09 into the game.

Defense was both the cause and effect for Seton Hall’s turnaround. Specifically, the Pirates played defense in the second half after surrendering 60.7 percent (17 of 28) shooting from the field — including 77.8 percent (7 of 9) from 3-point range — —in the first 20 minutes.

The Rams regained the the lead, 73-72, on Andre Berry’s layup with 4:05 left. The lead lasted for 2:02 until Ismael Sanogo’s layup gave Seton Hall a one-point advantage.

BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: The Pirates entered the game having yielded just 254 points_or an average of 63.5 points per game_in winning their first four games. Against Rhode Island, Seton Hall allowed 54 points in the first half and the Rams broke the 64-point barrier with 11:03 left in the second half on Jared Terrell’s 3 in front of the Rhode Island bench.

Rhode Island: The Rams authored an otherworldly offensive performance — in the first half. Rhode Island scored 54 points on 60.7 percent shooting. But college basketball is a two-half game and, in the second, Rhode Island only made 8 of 31 shots from the field.

NOTABLE

Seton Hall Fell to 7-2 against Rhode Island

Rhode Island: The second of two games at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center also marked the second time Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley coached against his alma mater. Hurley scored 1,070 points in five years at Seton Hall.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: Plays Vanderbilt in the consolation game Friday.

Rhode Island: Plays Virginia in the championship Friday.

No. 5 Villanova beats Tennessee 85-76 in Battle 4 Atlantis

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 16: Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats drives against Elijah Long #55 of the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers in the first half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 16, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Jalen Brunson scored 25 points to help fifth-ranked Villanova rally from 15 down and beat Tennessee 85-76 in Thursday’s semifinals at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The Wildcats (5-0) trailed 44-29 with 1:39 left before roaring out of a break with a dominating run. Villanova scored the first 11 points as part of that 23-2 burst, with the Wildcats playing far more aggressively and getting out in transition.

Mikal Bridges added 21 points for Villanova, which shot 52 percent after halftime and built a 15-point lead with 4:40 left before having to hold off a late rally by the Volunteers.

Grant Williams scored 20 points for Tennessee (3-1), which clawed to within 79-76 on Admiral Schofield’s 3-pointer with 51.6 seconds left. But that was as close as the Volunteers got, with Villanova hitting four free throws and getting a breakaway dunk from Donte DiVincenzo with 13.2 seconds left to seal it.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers were coming off an overtime win against No. 18 Purdue in the first round and they were poised to add an even bigger upset. But that flat second-half start wiped out a strong half’s worth of work and squandered the momentum that came through their board work and converting turnovers.

Villanova: That’s two straight days the Wildcats put together a second-half spurt to take control in the Bahamas. They did it in Round 1 against Western Kentucky to finally break the game open, but this one — full of active hands, deflected passes and guys diving on the floor — brought them back in a game that was once getting away from them.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers will play the North Carolina State-Northern Iowa loser in Friday’s third-place game.

Villanova: The Wildcats will play the N.C. State-Northern Iowa winner in Friday’s championship game.