What do you look for when trying to put together a preseason All-American team? Is it just name recognition and the uniform they wear? Is it the players who will be the best pro prospects, or the players who will have the best college season?
I feel it is a combo of all those points, plus a look at their production from last season and changes to the team that will affect the roles these players assume and ultimately their productivity.
There are two or three players that are guaranteed first team All-Americans. After those players, it really is up to personal preference. Each player is talented, skilled, and is a winner—and each will have a large influence on the 2008-09 college basketball landscape.
All-American First Team
Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina: 6'9" Sr. Forward 22.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg
After UNC fell short of the National Championship, there was no doubt Hansbrough would come back for his senior season, because his trophy case is missing the most important one. His work ethic and team first mentality gives him a chance at being the first four-time first-team All-American.
Hansbrough could break J.J. Redick’s ACC scoring record this year—and the rebounding record as well. I have never seen a player with the ability like Hansbrough to make so many tough shots after contact.
Stephen Curry, Davidson: 6'2" Jr. Guard 25.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg
There is very little Stephen Curry has to do to make this list. After leading Davidson to an incredible run to the Sweet 16 last season, the expectations will be very high and teams will key on Curry.
He will be tested early as Davidson will face another tough non-conference schedule. Curry will also take over at point guard, and having the ball in his hands more this season could mean his scoring will take a slight dip.
Curry plays for a small school in North Carolina, but any big school in the state would gladly add him to their starting lineup.
Blake Griffin, Oklahoma: 6'10" So. Forward 14.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg
Unlike Hansbrough, many were surprised to see Blake Griffin announce he would come back to wear the Sooner jersey. Griffin would have been a top five pick in the last NBA draft, and minus a complete disaster, should be top two next June.
Last season Griffin showed what an elite athlete he is, and the Big 12 better watch out as his game continues to expand.
Darren Collison, UCLA: 6'1" Sr. Guard 14.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg
After missing the first six games of last season, Collison was able to pick right back up and provide steady play as the Bruins ran to the Final Four. With the departure of Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook to the NBA, Collison will have the opportunity to demonstrate the whole of his talent.
UCLA will rely on Collison even more this season if they hope to return to the Final Four as they have in his first three seasons.
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame: 6'8" Jr. Forward 20.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg
Imagine having a frontcourt with Luke Harangody and Hansbrough. No loose ball will go “unhustled” for. Like Hansbrough, Harangody is more skilled than people give him credit. As an athletic monster, you do not expect him to make the basketball plays he does. Opposing teams will plan to stop him, but that does not mean they will.
With Notre Dame needing more production then last season, he is guaranteed to better his numbers and repeat as the Big East Player of the Year.
Chase Budinger, Arizona: 6'7" Jr. Forward 17.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg
After a year of uncertainty, the Wildcats will finally be Chase Budinger’s team. With his shooting ability and insane vertical, the Wildcat offense will revolve around Budinger, and his numbers will go up—and he could come back next year.
James Harden, Arizona State: 6'4" So. Guard 17.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg
ASU has a lottery pick coming back for a second season. He slashes through defenses and has the complete offensive package. Harden is a hard worker and is extremely skilled. He will lead the highly ranked Sun Devils against a very top heavy Pac-10.
Patrick Patterson, Kentucky: 6'8" So. Forward 16.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg
Everything about Patrick Patterson's game is solid. After he fell to injury the last five games of the season, I would expect him to come out with drive to prove that he is worth the hype. There is no reason he should not average a double-double and lead the Wildcats into March Madness.
Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut: 7'3" Jr. 10.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 4.5 blk
UConn has not had a defensive anchor of this quality since Emeka Okafor in 2004. He is not the most athletic player you will see this season, but his defensive influence on each game just proves what a standout player he could be. Since he has only been playing basketball for a few years, he will only get better.
A.J. Abrams, Texas: 5'11" Sr. Guard 16.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg
Like Curry, A.J. Abrams lost a talented point guard and will have to take over the role until others prove worthy. But I would not expect him to be shy about taking his shots. The Longhorns are talented but inexperienced in the backcourt, so they will rely on Abrams to do what he does best: score.
Sam Young, Pittsburgh: 6'6" Sr. Forward 18.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg
Ty Lawson, North Carolina: 5'11" Jr. Guard 12.7 ppg, 5.2 apg
Tyler Smith, Tennessee: 6'7" Jr. Forward 13.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg
B.J. Mullens, Ohio State: 7'0" Fr. Center 27.4 ppg, 15.1 rpg (Senior Season in High School)
Robert Vaden, UAB: 6'5" Sr. Guard 21.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Here is the first installment of my ACC Preview: