All-American teams are one of those holdover traditions from the good ol’ days of college sports, and while they’re not perfect identifiers of talent, there’s a strong correlation between getting named to the All-American team and getting paid in the draft. In 2016 the average draft position for a first-team All-American (19) was not far from a lottery pick, and Ben Simmons went #1 overall. Besides, it’s a lot of fun imagining Lonzo Ball and Justin Jackson playing together. Players and fans alike enjoy the whole All-American thing, and we are so deep in the offseason that we are watching children spell on ESPN, so let’s give some too-early odds.
Predicting subjective awards given by sportswriters to amateur athletes is not the safest money in the world, but helpfully there’s some tendencies/bias that the selectors have shown in the past. It really helps, for example, to play for a team that’s seeded well for the NCAA tournament: none of the 2017 All-Americans played for teams that were outside the top four in their region. For all of Markelle Fultz’s many talents and draft potential, he didn’t receive a spot higher than the third team from any of the four outlets.
Quick note: by All-American we mean consensus All-American.
All-American Prospects by Conference
Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky: (10/1)
Diallo very nearly went to the draft this year but elected to stay at Kentucky and play a year of basketball. He’s got great length and is maybe the best athlete in this year’s group, plus he spent the last few months practising against Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and some of the best players in college basketball. He’s going to be an important force on a team that is going to be a contender; if he can stand out at his position he’ll be a favorite for the All-American team.
Collin Sexton, Alabama: (16/1)
There’s a lot to like about Collin Sexton: he’s a dynamic, aggressive point guard putting on a fun show. Remind you of anyone? Like I said before, Alabama will have to improve quite a bit to make the tournament and put Sexton in a position to be an All-American, but fortunately they’ve just signed one of the best recruiting classes in the country and are ranked in the most preseason top 25s.
Grayson Allen, Duke: (9/1)
Duke guard and heir to Christian Laettner’s most-hated throne, Grayson Allen is returning to college ball to improve on his somewhat disappointing 2016-17 campaign. If Duke features him heavily in the offense and Trevon Duval is the real deal at point guard, there’s no reason Grayson Allen can’t become the 15th consensus All-American in the Krzyzewski era. After all, if Laettner could be the most publicly hated man in basketball and also an All-American, why can’t Grayson?
Joel Berry, North Carolina: (12/1)
Usually, when draft-ready players return to campus, it’s because they have “unfinished business” and want one more chance at a national championship. That’s not the case for Berry, who averaged 14.7 points on his way to a national title in 2017. His decision has more to do with this draft class, which is insanely deep with point guards, and an opportunity to improve his stock a little. Berry’s a great defender, a growing leader, and filling a bigger and bigger role in UNC’s offence every year, so continued growth and success should give him an opportunity to be an All-American and a repeat champion.
Mohamed Bamba, Texas: (10/1)
Mohamed Bamba is going to have the longest wingspan in NBA history when he’s drafted with a lottery pick in 2018. He’s part of Texas’s top-five recruiting class and looks set to bring the program to national prominence. He’s got surprising bounce and agility for his size, a decent jump shot, and near-limitless potential. If he’s the reason Texas is able to make a serious run at it this year, look for him to be in the All-American conversation.
Allonzo Trier, Arizona: (12/1)
Allonzo Trier is coming back to Arizona after missing the first 19 games of last season with a PED suspension that confused everybody. He led the Wildcats to a dominant performance in the PAC-12 tournament and a heartbreaking loss to Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen. He’s also got some serious help on the way: 7-foot, 5-star freshman De’Andre Ayton is bringing his bizarre athleticism to Tucson and is probably another name to watch in the All-American conversation.
Miles Bridges, Michigan State: (5/1)
Miles Bridges coming back to East Lansing might prove to be the most important decision of the offseason. Bridges averaged 16.9 points a game, was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and only lost to no. 2-overall seed Kansas in the Elite 8. With his return, Michigan State is being listed by some sportsbooks as the favorite to win the tournament in 2018, so it only makes sense to have him as the favorite here.
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: (10/1)
The Big Ten Cindarella story is getting a little tired out as the conference continues to send lots of very good teams to the tournament, but for some reason, Wisconsin’s runs always feel special. Ethan Happ returning for his junior year would be hugely exciting if not for the departure of four key seniors and a recruiting class that adds only one four-star. If it weren’t for his team’s need to rebuild, the centre might be the favorite for All-American status.
Mikal Bridges, Villanova: (15/1)
The team that reached the highest highs in 2016 (and the lowest lows in 2017) is bringing some of its old magic to the 2017-18 season. Forward Mikal Bridges’ is back to showcase his elite defensive talents, and try to return to his old, high-scoring, three-point-shooting ways in a bid to show NBA scouts that he’s capable at both ends of the floor. Dominant two-way players for national powers have been smiled upon by the All-American voters before.
Jalen Brunson, Villanova: (8/1)
Two Villanova guys, I know. There’s a reason for that, though: Josh Hart was a consensus All-American leading this team last year and now Jalen Brunson is poised to step into those shoes. A good scoring point guard on a dominant team is a great bet for All-American honours, and if Brunson can live up to his promise, he’ll be a great contender.