“Personally, I don’t like putting freshmen on [the preseason All-America] team before they put on the uniform,” Dick Vitale said in Jay Bilas’ latest column.
Many people, including myself, agree that Harrison Barnes does not deserve to be the first freshman ever to reach the preseason All-American. The preseason All-American team should be an honor based on one’s prior accomplishments at the collegiate level.
The Associated Press voters must have gotten caught up in the recent impacts of standout freshmen John Wall and Demarcus Cousins, who were voted to the first team and second team (in the postseason, notably) respectively last season. It is important to remember these two players are outliers. Many highly touted recruits fail to live up to expectation.
Rivals’ No. 1 recruit from the 2008 class was center B.J. Mullens who committed to Ohio State. After once scoring a total of 108 points in two consecutive games in high school, Mullens averaged only 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in his only year as a Buckeye.
Jrue Holiday, the No. 2-ranked recruit in 2008, averaged only 8.5 points per game in his only year playing for UCLA. Both of these two players have been selected as first round picks in the NBA draft following their freshmen season, but neither came close to warranting All-American consideration.
This is not a knock on Barnes, but a knock on the voters. How can voters justify listing Barnes as one of the top five players in the entire country before he steps on the court? In the ACC alone, there are better candidates for the All-American team than Barnes. Two of these candidates are entering their senior seasons and have excelled at the collegiate level already.
Blue Devil guard Nolan Smith played a crucial role in leading Duke to the national championship last season. Smith averaged 17.7 points per game in the NCAA Tournament including a key game-high 29 points in the Blue Devils’ win over Baylor to reach the Final Four. Coach K called Smith the team’s “unsung hero” for his performance down the stretch.
Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney joins Smith, a preseason first team All-ACC selection, on the list of players more deserving of being selected to be an All-American. Delaney, the reigning ACC scoring champion, averaged 20.2 points per game last season and 18.1 points per game during his sophomore campaign. Delaney is also the leading returning scorer from a power conference this season. Although Delaney does not have Smith’s postseason experience, he still has accomplished as much on an individual level as any player in the country. It is unfair to Delaney that he will graduate without the honor of being selected to a Preseason All-American team while Barnes received this honor before playing a single game as a Tar Heel.