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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).

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.