This was prompted by a thread I saw on a Duke message board. With the conference pre-season schedules winding down and conference play about to begin around the country, who are the all-Americans at this point in the season? Interesting question, perhaps particularly interesting to me because at least 3/5 of the first team has to come from either Duke or MSU. I'll pick a first and second team at this point in the season. I'm not going to divide them up too strictly by position, but I will generally try to have 3 wing players and two inside players on each team.
Point guard. This is a tough one. There aren't any transcendant point guards like we had last year with Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Ray Felton all playing. But I'm going with Randy Foye of Villanova here. I don't know that you'd call him a true point guard here, but he's close enough. He's averaging 22 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game for the Wildcats and shooting 43% from 3 point range. In a battle with a very good Oklahoma team, he went off for 32.
Shooting Guard: A no-brainer here, JJ Redick of Duke. You can't possibly leave him off the first team. He's having a monster season, averaging over 25 points a game and shooting 48% from 3 point range. And that's with every team he plays knowing that stopping him is their first priority. He's seeing box-and-one defenses, double and triple teams, and he's still destroying teams. Will likely finish his career as the #1 scorer in Duke and ACC history, and that's pretty incredible given the competition he has to leapfrog to get there. He's simply become unstoppable.
Small Forward: Another no-brainer in Adam Morrison of Gonzaga. He'll battle Redick for national player of the year honors and win his share. Morrison has been a monster all year, leading the nation in scoring at over 28 points a game. That includes 43 point nights against MSU and Washington. He can score in every conceivable way, which makes him virtually impossible to guard. The only knock on him is his lack of defensive ability and intensity, but he makes up for it on the other end.
Post Player: Paul Davis, MSU. Davis has finally become the player everyone thought he would be coming out of high school. He's putting up career numbers of 21 points and 10 boards a game. In the epic triple overtime battle with Gonzaga, he played 53 minutes and had 26 points, 13 boards, 3 steals and a block. He's only scored below 18 points once this season and that was the first game when he only played 20 minutes because of serious cramping in his legs.
Post Player: This is a tough call. I think it comes down to two players, Shelden Williams of Duke or Marco Killingsworth of Indiana. Williams was the preseason all-American and he's put up impressive totals of 19 points, 9 boards and 3.5 blocks per game. But Killingsworth is averaging a similar 20 points and 9 boards and outplayed Williams head to head earlier this season, lighting him up for 34 points and 10 boards. I think a case could be made for either player but I'm going to go with Shelden Williams for three reasons: he's a much better defensive player (3.5 blocks vs. 1.0); he's much better from the free throw line (73% vs. 55%), which is important for a big man who is going to go to the line a lot; and he's more consistent. Still, with the head to head matchup going for Killingsworth, a strong argument could be made the other way.
Point guard: Rajon Rondo of Kentucky. Merits strong consideration for first team and many would put him there. On a team that has virtually no inside presence, Rondo is still averaging 17 points, 5 assists and a whopping 9 rebounds a game. He's also Kentucky's best defensive player. When Randolph Morris is eligible next month, he'll be even better.
Shooting guard: Maurice Ager, MSU. Ager will battle Dee Brown and teammate Paul Davis for Big Ten player of the year. He's scoring over 21 points a game, including a monster performance against Gonzaga where he went for 36 points despite playing almost the entire second half and 3 overtimes with four fouls.
Small Forward: Another tough one. You could easily go with either Rudy Gay of UConn or Jared Dudley of Boston College. I'm gonna go with Dudley because he's more experienced.
Post Player: Killingsworth, see above.
Post Player: Tough call between Craig Smith of Boston College and Eric Williams of Wake Forest. Their numbers are virtually identical across the board, but I'm going with Smith for one reason - free throw shooting. Williams is shooting a woeful 39% from the line, while Smith shoots 67%. As often as a big man goes to the line, that's the difference between winning and losing games.
So there you have it, my all-american teams at this point in the season. Please send all of your hate mail to Dick Vitale c/o ESPN.
Hear, hear on Morrison. Now, if only he'd shave off that hideous 70s-era porn 'stache...
Jim Anderson wrote:
Hear, hear on Morrison. Now, if only he'd shave off that hideous 70s-era porn 'stache...
Actually, the Sports Guy addressed this in a column a couple days ago. In a manner that only he would do, he debunked the notion that Morrison has a porn 'stache and explains the difference:
(Note on the cheesy mustache: it's not a porn mustache. Please stop calling it that. Jake Plummer had a porn mustache. Wade Boggs had a porn mustache. Morrison has one of those late-'70s ABC Afterschool Special mustaches -- the guys with those 'staches always took Charlene Tilton or Valerie Bertinelli into their brown van, tried to make out with them, gave them some shrooms and panicked when they started OD'ing, ultimately driving them down to an abandoned parking lot and dumping their convulsing bodies behind a picnic bench. That's the Adam Morrison mustache.)
Seriously, though, the game against MSU turned me into a believer on Morrison. I didn't see him play at all last year and really figured he was gonna be an overrated player from a mid major. Bzzzt. Thank you for playing. This guy is the real deal and he lit up MSU for 43, as he's lit up almost every other team he's faced. In fact, the same is true of the whole Gonzaga team. This is not a typical Gonzaga team. I know they've gotten a lot of attention over the last few years but had they made the final four in any of them, I still would have been shocked. If this year's team makes the final four, I won't be the least bit shocked. This team is talented and deep at every position. Raivio, Pargo and Knight are great on the perimeter, J.P. Baptista is a beast on the inside (I could easily have put him on my second team, and he's no lower than third team all american), and Morrison is an all-world kind of talent. This is a serious national title contender.
And Morrison is exactly the kind of player that can lead a team on a roll through the NCAA tournament - too quick for a big man to guard, too big for a smaller man to guard, can take you inside or outside, score with either hand...just a matchup nightmare. If Gonzaga played Duke, for example, they would have a player who at least matched up with JJ Redick in Errol Knight (assuming he's healthy). He's got the size and athleticism to bother Redick on the outside. But guarding Morrison? Duke has no one. All of their guards are at least 3 inches shorter than him and would be overpowered and the big men couldn't keep up with him. Lee Melchionni has reasonably similar size, but is hardly the best defender on the team and lacks quickness. The best matchup physically would be Jamal Boykin, but he's a freshman who hasn't played a lot. He'd bring a ton of energy (I love this kid and think he's gonna be great for Duke in a couple years), but right now he'd be eaten for lunch by Morrison. Just like no one had a player who could match up with and slow down Carmelo Anthony two years ago, no one has a player who can match up with Morrison this year. A 6'4 guard, no matter how talented, has guys who are at least a decent physical matchup with them on every team's roster. A 6'8 multi-dimensional scorer is a defender's worst nightmare. This kid is for real.
But this needs to be said too - the Larry Bird comparisons have to stop. Offensively there may be some comparisons, but Bird was a great rebounder, a far better defender than his limited quickness should have allowed him to be, and one of the game's all time great passers. Morrison at this point is a great scorer and none of those other things.
When I read the Sports Guy's column I totally agreed with his assessment of Morrison's 'stache. You see, to grow a porn-stache you need to be capable of growing facial hair at such a pace that you can accumulate a full beard in under one week. Morrison cannot do this. At all. He's got one of those crustaches that you see on the first kid in school who could grow facial hair, but because he was kinda ahead of the curve (so to speak) his dad hadn't taught him how to shave yet.
Also, if you need to compare him to someone, Keith Van Horn would seem appropriate. Awesome shooter from a non-major conference with limited defensive skills. Oh, and they're both white dudes.
I gotta throw my hat into the ring on Bill Simmons. He is undoubtedly the best sports columnist in the country right now. Forty or fifty years from now, when he's finally decided he's had enough, he will have gone down in history as the most popular sports columnist ever, and arguably the best. He's right up there with Bob Ryan and Jerry Izenberg and anyone else you'd care to name. There's also no doubt that he's inspiring other little Sports Guys around the country who will grow up to be the next generation of sportswriters.
The Sports Guy generation. I bet Bill never dreamed he'd be so important.
Having watched Ager and Redick play this year, it would be almost a shame to not have the two of them share the first nod. Yes Redick can score at will, but in two games i watched he just wasn't the one making the tough plays when it was close; that nod and wink go to Ager who has clearly demonstrated the "give me the ball, i will make it" attitude.
And since you can only find Morrison out here in the Western half of the US, thanks, in that i am now a "local" for GU and have watched him beginning in his senior year of high school. As for his "intensity" i would suggest that in the last three games (last night, game on the line when it shouldn't have been, he took over w/ 1:28 to go and dominated at both ends of the floor) he has stepped that up, albeit motivated with some few but inspiring minutes from Knight. Also, about the 'stache: it seems that there are inside 'campus-team' rumblings that it is on for a "bet" and that other former ugly fashion GU players maybe involved.
I would suggest that there are some soon to be star NBA players out here, especially in the middle, that need some East Coast love and attention.