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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).

Chris Silva returning to South Carolina for senior season

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South Carolina is getting an first-team all-SEC performer back.

Chris Silva, who led the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding last season, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, the school announced Monday.

“I’m thankful for the experience of going through the draft process,” Silva said in a statement. “I want to thank all of the teams that gave me the opportunity to workout for their organization. I’m excited to announce that I’m returning to South Carolina for my senior season. I can’t wait to get back on the court with my brothers and continue to work on my game.”

The 6-foot-9 Silva, who did not get an NBA draft combine invite, averaged 14.3 points and 8 rebounds per game as a junior.  He shot 46.7 percent from the floor.

“Going through the evaluation process was an unbelievable experience for Chris and us,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said in a statement. “He comes back to a place he loves with some knowledge on some of the things that we have to help him improve on in his efforts to one day fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.”

In addition to being South Carolina’s leading scorer, he was the SEC co-defensive player of the year last season after averaging 1.4 blocks per game. His return to Columbia gives the Gamecocks a potential contender for SEC player of the year in 2018-19.

Kansas fires athletic director Sheahon Zenger

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Kansas has fired athletic director Sheahon Zenger, effective immediately, citing a lack of progress in key areas within the athletic department.

“Sheahon has been a loyal Jayhawk, and our athletics department has improved in many areas under his leadership,” Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod wrote in an email to KU faculty and staff. “But athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive. To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary.”

Zenger had been in the role of AD since 2011.

The issue, of course, is not the play of the Kansas basketball program. The Jayhawks have won every Big 12 regular season title since 2004, and head coach Bill Self has taken the program to two Final Fours since Zenger was hired.

The football team is still a disaster, but one can’t help but wonder whether or not the real issue at hand here is Kansas’ getting tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.

The Jayhawks were not mentioned in the initial indictments that were handed down, but Kansas was a central figure in the superseding indictments that were dropped after the national title game. The mother of Billy Preston, who did not play for the Jayhawks this season, was alleged to have been funneled $90,000 by Adidas, while Silvio De Sousa’s status is currently in question after the FBI alleged his guardian was paid at least $20,000 to help offset money that the family had already accepted from a rival shoe company.

All of that came in the aftermath of dealing with Cheick Diallo and Cliff Alexander, both of whom had their one season in Lawrence reduced due to off the court issues.

“Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with higher education peers and Jayhawks to hear their perspective on KU,” Girod wrote. “A common thread in these conversations is that, as a major public university with national aspirations, we must continue to strive for excellence in all areas — including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our broader mission as a flagship research university.”

Louisville, ex-AD Tom Jurich reach $4.5M settlement

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville has reached a $4.5 million settlement with former athletic director Tom Jurich, who was fired in the wake of a national federal corruption investigation of college basketball.

Jurich disputed his Oct. 18 firing for cause after nearly 20 years as AD and had considered suing the school. The University of Louisville Athletic Association and Board of Trustees on Friday approved the settlement. Jurich’s employment ended “without cause” as a result of his resignation, also described in the settlement as “retirement.”

He’ll also receive another $2.6 million in accrued employment benefits, along with home game tickets and parking for Louisville football and basketball for 20 years.

An audit of the University of Louisville Foundation released last June showed that Jurich averaged annual compensation of more than $2.76 million from 2010-16, including more than $5.35 million in 2016.

Then-interim president Greg Postel had placed Jurich on paid administrative leave in September after the school’s acknowledgement of its involvement in the investigation. Trustees voted 10-3 to fire Jurich, two days after the ULAA unanimously fired Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.

The former AD said in a joint statement that he “spent the better part of my career” working with dedicated athletes, coaches and staff to elevate Louisville. He added, “I am proud of what we accomplished, which is well documented.”

Jurich’s legal team had stressed that the ex-AD did nothing illegal and hadn’t violated NCAA rules.

Trustee chairman J. David Grissom said in the statement that “Everyone is pleased that this matter has been successfully resolved. All parties can move forward to begin the next chapter.”

Jurich played a major role in Louisville’s success on the field and how the school handled issues off it. He led the school’s 2014 entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference and oversaw numerous program and facility upgrades, including a $63 million expansion of the football stadium due for completion by fall.

He also hired several successful coaches including Pitino, who guided the Cardinals to the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball championship. Louisville ultimately vacated that title in February as part of NCAA penalties for a sex scandal after an escort’s book allegations that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with players and recruits.

Pitino has filed a $38.7 million federal lawsuit against Louisville, alleging breach of contract.

Georgia Tech’s Okogie to sign with agent

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Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie, one of the big winners from this past weekend’s NBA combine, announced on Monday that he will be signing with an agent and remaining in the NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-4 Okogie finished his sophomore season averaged 18.5 points and shooting 38.4 percent from three. The numbers he posted during the athletic testing at the combine, as well as his 7-foot wingspan, makes Okogie an ideal 3-and-D wing at the NBA level.

“Josh is a tremendous young man and an excellent student-athlete,” said head coach Josh Pastner. “He has set a tremendous example, making the Dean’s List this past semester, and deserves a lot of credit for making himself a much better player over the course of his two years here. We will miss him in our program in many respects, from his performance on the court to the energy he plays with and brought to our team. We fully support his decision to take this next step, and wish him all the best.”

Testing The Waters: Donte DiVincenzo, Kevin Huerter star at NBA Draft Combine

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The fact of the matter is that for all the pomp and circumstance, the NBA Combine is, essentially, about getting face-to-face interviews with these prospects while also landing definitive results for height, length, athletic testing and medicals.

Those results, when they pop, can help — or hurt — a player’s standing.

That said, there is still plenty that can be taken away from the 5-on-5 games that are played.

For players from smaller schools, it’s a chance to prove themselves against a higher level of competition. Think Larry Nance Jr., who wound up as a first round pick out of Wyoming.

For players that are stuck in a rigid system in college, the combine is a chance to show what they can do when they are no longer reined in. Kyle Kuzma is the perfect example of this.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the players that are still testing the waters and how they performed in Chicago this week.

WINNERS

DONTE DIVINCENZO, So., Villanova: The star of the national title game did not disappoint at the combine, in either the 5-on-5 play or in the athletic testing. Let’s start with the latter, where DiVincenzo registered a 42″ max vertical — tops at this year’s combine — and a 34.5″ standstill vertical to go along with a top five time in the lane agility drill. His size and length (6-foot-4.5 with a 6-foot-6 wingspan) is a bit of a concern, but DiVincenzo’s effort stood out during the games. The competitiveness and toughness is there, as is the shot-making ability. Already trending towards being a late first round pick, DiVincenzo probably solidified his standing at the combine. At this point I would be very surprised if he opted to return to school for his junior year.

KEVIN HUERTER, So., Maryland: We’ve been talking about Huerter as an under-the-radar prospect this spring, and he showcased why at the combine. Posting solid athletic testing numbers (he was top ten is all of the sprint drills and measured out at a 38″ max vert), Huerter proved himself to be a 6-foot-7 shot-making wing with an impressive feel; the 3.4 assists his averaged this season wasn’t a fluke. There’s a real chance that Huerter would be a late-first round pick should be stay in the draft, but there is a growing sentiment in NBA circles that he may want to return to school to try and play his way into the lottery of the weaker 2019 draft. If he adds strengths and proves himself to be an above-average Big Ten defender, that’s not an impossibility.

JOSH OKOGIE, So., Georgia Tech: We didn’t even mention Okogie when discussing which players had the most on the line heading into the combine, and that was clearly a mistake. Okogie may have proven himself worthy of an early-second round pick, if not late-first. The 6-foot-4.5 wing measured out at a 7-foot wingspan and finished with the fastest sprint time and the second-fastest shuttle run. A member of John Calipari’s Team USA U-19 team last summer, Okogie showcased his impressive defensive versatility during the combine games which, when combined with the 38 percent shooting from deep (173 attempts) in his two seasons in Atlanta, makes him an intriguing 3-and-D prospect in a league where defensively versatile wings that can space the floor are in high demand.

It’s probably worth noting here that Huerter won’t turn 20 until August 27th and Okogie won’t turn 20 until September 1st. DiVincenzo is 19 months older than him. Hell, both of them are younger than Mo Bamba, Deandre Ayton and Michael Porter Jr. That’s a massive amount of time on the development curve.

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

LOSERS

CODY and CALEB MARTIN, Nevada: For both Martin twins, the combine made it looks like their incredible season with the Wolf Pack had more to do with the Mountain West than their future as NBA players. Caleb — the scorer — could not find a rhythm on that end while Cody — the jack-of-all-trades — didn’t exactly appear to be great at anything. The twins turn 23 in September, just received their degrees and Nevada would have 15 scholarship players if they return. They seem to be out the door, although that does not mean they’re headed for the NBA.

TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse: Physically, Battle tested out well, measuring nearly 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan and solid athletic testing numbers. But that was never the worry with Battle. His issue is that he was an inefficient, high-volume scorer that played predominantly with the ball in his hands at Syracuse. He needed to prove that he could a) play off the ball and b) shoot better than what his numbers were with the Orange. He did neither, and while I’m not sure he necessarily hurt himself, he did not play his way into the first round. If he remains in the draft, he’ll likely end up a second round pick.

BRIAN BOWEN, South Carolina: Bowen did not appear to be a draftable player during the games at the combine, which is more or less what we thought of him prior to sitting out the 2017-18 season after he was caught up in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. This is a nightmare scenario for him. He has until May 30th to decide if he should just get started on a pro career, whatever level that ends up being at, or returning to school and hoping the NCAA will clear him.

JARRED VANDERBILT, Kentucky: Vanderbilt pulled out of the combine prior to the start, which might have more to do with his health and controlling the flow of information over his medical testing than anything else. For a player that has had a myriad of lower left leg injuries over the years — he missed the first 17 games and the final six games of his freshman season, as well as much of the summer prior to his senior season in high school — he’s going to have a difficult decision to make in regards to turning pro. He’s not a first rounder, but just how long is his athletic career going to be given these health issues?

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

THEY ARE WHAT WE THOUGHT THEY WERE

CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue: Edwards was a late addition to the combine as other players dropped out. He’s more of a scorer than he is a point guard at this stage, and some of his struggles offensively at the combine showed that. He could use another year where he’ll be asked to do it all for Purdue offensively.

OMARI SPELLMAN, Villanova: We know what Spellman is. He’s a 6-foot-9 center with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a lethal three-point shooting stroke. We also know that he’s lost nearly 50 pounds since he was in high school. At the combine, Spellman checked in at 253 pounds with 13.75 percent body fat, still managing to post a 35.5″ max vertical at that weight. Put another way, there is still improvement that can be made on his body and, in theory, his athleticism. That keeps teams interested, but he certainly didn’t play his way into being a first rounder.

BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland: Fernando proved himself a very large human (6-foot-9.75, 7-foot-4.25) but beyond that, his instincts as a basketball players were not quite there. In an NBA era where paint-locked big men are becoming useless, Fernando seems to fall into that category. If anything, what may keep him in the draft is his guardian’s connection to Kansas big Silvio De Sousa and the FBI investigation into college basketball.

UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas: His 7-foot-7 wingspan is enough to make NBA GMs salivate, but that may be the only NBA-ready skill that the big fella has. He’s a non-shooter — career 40.6 percent from the free throw line — and his inability to defend on the perimeter was exposed by Villanova in the Final Four. He’s a late-second round pick at best.

SAGABA KONATE, West Virginia: The passion and the energy that Konate played with all season long was on full display at the combine as well. He’s a big, burly 6-foot-7.25 shot-blocker with a 7-foot wingspan and a better-than-you-think shooting stroke, but he didn’t do much to prove himself as more than a second round pick.

P.J. WASHINGTON, Kentucky: Physically, Washington doesn’t profile all that different that Spellman, who is slightly taller with a slightly longer wingspan and 30 extra pounds of weight he can stand to lose. The difference? Spellman is a very good shooter. The was time we saw Washington, who shot 5-for-21 from three as a freshman, he was missing 12 of his 20 free throws in a 61-58 loss to Kansas State in the Sweet 16. He’s already said he wants a first round guarantee to remain in the draft, and if teams didn’t rate him as a first rounder prior to the combine, I’m not sure anything happened that would change their minds.

JAYLEN HANDS and KRIS WILKES, UCLA: The most notable thing that happed with these two at the combine was that Hands, ironically enough, finished with the smallest hands at the event. He did, however, show some point guard instinct and fight defensively. There’s no guarantee he gets drafted, and the same can be same for Wilkes, who at least fits the profile of a versatile wing. Their decision essentially comes down to whether or not they think playing another year for Steve Alford will actually help their chances of getting into the first round in 2019.