As should be quite evident from watching March Madness games around the clock (maybe even NIT games for the really fanatical college basketball fans), there are some truly spectacular players in the country who never make it into the national spotlight unless their team makes it to the Dance. All the major sports networks have agreements to televise the five major conferences. Of course, that’s where the money is. Sponsors want to televise schools that have large enrollments and name recognition to reach the broadest market.
“Coach’s Corner,” however, wants to recognize some truly great D-I college basketball players who just happen to play for mid-major teams. They don’t get the exposure that the blue bloods get every week. The sportswriters and experts at all the networks who make up the voters for the All-American teams usually only get to see some of these exceptional players perform only if they are playing against a Power Five opponent. And when the voters don’t give these mid-major players due respect, the voters always rationalize that, “Well, they don’t play a tough schedule like the major conferences.”
In reality, when it comes to scheduling for the mid-major teams and the schools from the conferences like the Summit, Big South, Ohio Valley, etc., even if the teams are consistently pretty good, the big boys don’t want to play them. Today, more and more, the major conferences are limited by having to play so many conference regular-season games that they don’t have as many nonconference games as they did years ago. As an example, Big Ten teams play 20 conference games starting in January, plus one game with an ACC school in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. With only 10 games to schedule out of league, most Power Five schools schedule some smaller schools that they can beat up on and secure a couple of early-season wins.
There are some exceptions to this practice. The biggies like Kansas, Duke, UNC and Kentucky will schedule some nonconference games against other big-name opponents so they can get an early reading on what players need to work on against a quality foe. And, of course, there is a monetary benefit.
Now, the Old Coach doesn’t dispute that the players named to the All-American teams at the end of the season are deserving of accolades. Everyone who watched freshman Zion Williamson of Duke play knows that he’s the best player in the country. “Coach’s Corner” is just going to expand the pool of players who should have been considered for the honor of All-American. My selections will differ somewhat from the actual choices.
With that in mind, here is the Coach’s Corner 2018–19 All-American Team.
Player (position) School/Year PPG RPG APG FG%
Markus Howard (G) Marquette/Junior 25.0 4.0 3.9 42%
Howard was a Wikipedia Consensus All-American second-team honoree, as he was selected to each of the major sports outlets’ second teams. Marquette does play in the Big East, which in basketball would be considered a major conference. However, he was my top choice because he put up some amazing numbers against some perennially high-quality teams: Kansas State (45); Buffalo (45); Villanova (38); Creighton (53); Wisconsin (27). You score 53 points in a game against any decent team, much less a 20-game winner like Creighton, and you are a player, in my estimation.
Chris Clemens (G) Campbell U./Senior 30.1 5.1 2.8 44%
Clemens led all of Division I in points per game. The Fighting Camels play in the Big South, but they couldn’t quite get over the hump, losing in the conference semis to Gardner-Webb, who got the automatic bid to the Big Dance. Some of his best games came against several of the majors. He scored 45 against Georgetown and 21 against Miami. He had three 40-point games and two 39-point performances.
Justin Wright-Foreman (G) Hofstra/Senior 27.0 4.0 2.9 51.1%
Wright-Foreman also had three 40-plus point games. I was at Xfinity Center when he stunned the Maryland Terps with a 27-point performance in November. They couldn’t stop him. He dominated William and Mary by ringing up 48 and 37 in their Colonial League Conference regular-season matchups. Although just missing the NCAA playoffs, they did meet North Carolina State in the NIT and lost a six-point game. Wright-Foreman scored 29 points in the loss. In his postseason games, he averaged 25.5 points.
Mike Daum (F) South Dakota St./Senior 25.3 11.7 1.8 51.2%
The 6-foot-9 Daum helped his Jackrabbits to a 24–9 season and a bid to play in the NIT, where they lost in the first round to Texas 79-73. Daum, true to form, scored 25 points with 11 rebounds (he could really jump), had two assists and shot 53% from the field. He was three-time Summit League Player of the Year, four-time first-team All-Summit League and three-time league tournament MVP. He scored 28 against Tulane of the SEC and 18 against Memphis.
Zion Williamson (F) Duke/Freshman 22.6 8.9 2.1 68%
Zion’s numbers would likely have been better had he not been injured and missed several games. He also had to share the spotlight with teammate R.J. Barrett, also a consensus All-American. Many a basketball analyst has raved about his quick first step and his explosiveness off the floor. He still will have to stay healthy and prove himself at the next level, but he just might be the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James.
Antoine Davis (G-6th Man) Detroit Mercy/Freshman 26.1 3.1 3.6 40%
Davis was the No. 3 scorer in D-I. He was First Team Horizon League and Freshman of the Year and eclipsed Stephon Curry’s NCAA scoring record for freshmen. He averaged 4.4 3-pointers a game.
- Carson Edwards (G) Purdue/Junior; Kyle Guy (G) Virginia/Junior; Skyler Mays (G) LSU/Junior (bonus points because he is an Academic All-American with a 4.01 in pre-med); Dylan Winkler (G) Belmont/Senior; Bruno Fernando (C) Maryland/Sophomore (first-team All-Big Ten and bonus points because he’s a Terp).
You will notice that these teams seem to be guard-heavy. If you look at the NCAA scoring stats for the season, you will notice that 23 of the top 30 scorers were guards. The forwards these days are putting on a great show with spectacular slams, but clearly, today’s game is in the hands of the guards and their ability to score from long range. When the rules were changed to bring in the 3-point shot, the change made it possible for teams to mount amazing comebacks from 20 points or more in a half.
As for the Coach’s Corner 2019 All-American Team, the Old Coach could have selected another 100 players, including some great Division II and Division III athletes. Bottom line: They’re all fun to watch.