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).

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.