We ought to call this team the Already-Americans.
To those who complain that college basketball is diminished by the absence of veteran players who can become familiar names to those who follow the sport, we give you The Sporting News preseason All-America team for 2022-23, which contains no fewer than four players who previously earned postseason honors with us, including Kentucky center Oscar Tshiebwe, our reigning national Player of the Year.
And beyond Tshiebwe, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Drew Timme and Hunter Dickinson, we have North Carolina center Armando Bacot and guard Caleb Love and Kansas forward Jalen Wilson, all of whom played in last year’s NCAA championship game, and UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez, who appeared in the 2021 Final Four.
These guys are as familiar as the cast of “The Office”.
Their experience and excellence should lend an extra sense of excitement to the impending college season, which will conclude with the third Final Four to be staged at Houston’s NRG Stadium. Don’t be surprised if more than a few players arrive whose names you’ve known for years.
First team Preseason All-America
Armando Bacot, C, North Carolina
Last year’s stats: 16.3 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg, .569 FG
Why he’s here: You want to hear some bad news for everybody else in college basketball? Bacot is returning to dominate backboards after he posted a 16.5 rebound average in the Tar Heels’ six games on the way to finishing as NCAA runner-up. Only one player since 1973 put up a better number than that: Providences’ Marvin Barnes in 1973. So Bacot did something Bill Walton, Tim Duncan, Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon could not. He is not promising to match that number for an entire season, but there is room for him to increase his production as a scorer and defender. If he makes that sort of progress, facing him will not be a pleasant experience.
Trayce Jackson-Davis, PF, Indiana
Last year’s stats: 18.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.3 bpg, .589 FG
Why he’s here: Jackson-Davis produced his most efficient season to date, his field-goal percentage ranking in the top 20 in Division I and No. 8 among high-major players. He has been one of the most difficult players to defend in the low post, but his return for a senior season at IU is about two things: becoming a more versatile offensive player and pursing greater team success. If the first gets in the way of the second, you can be sure IU’s pursuit of a sixth banner will take precedence.
Marcus Sasser, SG, Houston
Last year’s stats: 17.7 ppg, 2.6 apg, 2.2 spg, .437 3-PT
Why he’s here: It may be that he’s still here because last season, a dozen games in, it was announced Sasser was done for the year because of a toe injury. Had he been able to finish, Houston would have been even a greater Final Four threat and Sasser, perhaps, ready to enter the NBA Draft. Instead, what the Cougars were unable to finish last season – they fell in the Elite Eight to Villanova – appears doable with a terrific roster led by one of the most dynamic scoring guards in college basketball.
Drew Timme, C, Gonzaga
Last year’s stats: 18.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.8 apg, .586 FG
Why he’s here: Timme has some terrific teammates, but this time around he doesn’t have to share the stage with anybody’s one-and-done. No Suggs, no Holmgren. So this is his opportunity to be a dominant superstar, but it’s also nearly an obligation. With all the players who’ve stuck around or transferred in, the Zags can be very good merely by spreading around the ball and getting substantial contributions from the eight or more players qualified to deliver. Very good is not the standard at Gonzaga, though, and to be exceptional they need Timme to dominate with his vast arsenal of offensive maneuvers. If he’s great, they’ll be great.
Oscar Tshiebwe, C, Kentucky
Last year’s stats: 17.4 ppg, 15.2 rpg, 1.6 bpg, .606 FG
Why he’s here: It’s been 14 years since the consensus national player of the year returned to college. The season after he won all those awards, Tyler Hansbrough ceded the POY trophies to Blake Griffin but helped his Tar Heels teammates seize the 2009 NCAA championship. There’s no doubt Tshiebwe would make that trade, as well, but Carolina would not have gained the title that season had Hansbrough taken a major step back. Oscar still needs to be Oscar, even if the arrival of such gifted players as Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston, the return of Sahvir Wheeler and the development of Jacob Toppin and Daimion Collins means he won’t have to do so much on his own.
Second team Preseason All-America
Hunter Dickinson, C, Michigan
Last year’s stats: 18.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.5 bpg, .563 FG
Why he’s here: Dickinson easily could find himself on the first team at the end of the year. He’s that good. But getting there will require him to be outstanding from beginning to end, something he didn’t managed in two prior seasons. As a freshman, he was dominant in the season’s early months but faded in the end; as a sophomore, he recorded five games of 13 or fewer points in the first seven games, then only two in the next 25. His 27-point NCAA Tournament destruction of No. 3 seed Tennessee was one of the best March performances by any player.
Keyonte George, SG, Baylor
Last year’s stats: High school
Why he’s here: Baylor already has two fantastic guards in LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler, so there may not be an opportunity for a freshman to walk into the lineup and dominate. When the Bears represented the U.S. at the Global Jam tournament in Canada, though, with the two veteran guards absent because of injury, George led the event in scoring at 22.8 points per game and twice topped the 30-point mark. The two vets both have championship rings, and George has the scoring ability to maybe get them another.
Jaime Jaquez, SF, UCLA
Last year’s stats: 13.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, .472 FG
Why he’s here: There are so many in college basketball prepared for Jaquez to make a significant leap toward stardom. He’s had moments throughout his career when it seemed possible, like when he bullied USC for 27 points, or dominated Marquette on the road with 24 points and 12 rebounds. The transition to that level, though, demands that he return to shooting reliably from long range. He fell from 39.4 percent as a sophomore to 27.6 last season. Unless you’re in the 7-foot neighborhood, it is hard to 2-point one’s way to All-American.
Mike Miles, PG, TCU
Last year’s stats: 15.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.8 apg, .759 FT
Why he’s here: There obviously is plenty of room for growth in his game, as a passer, creator and shooter, but you won’t find many guards in college basketball who are physically or mentally tougher. He helped will the 2021 USA Basketball U-19 squad to a World Cup gold medal over the France and draft-bound sensation Victor Wenbanyama and then did the same for a bubble-bound group of Horned Frogs last season. He averaged 20.5 points in his two NCAA Tournament games, continuing to show the big moments rarely are too big for him.
Jalen Wilson, PF, Kansas
Last year’s stats: 11.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .461 FG
Why he’s here: There are several players on this list who have advanced to the Final Four, but only Wilson can say he knows what it’s like to win an NCAA Championship. The Jayhawks could not have taken out Carolina without Wilson’s 15 points, but he spent last year in support of such players as Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun and, occasionally, David McCormack and Remy Martin. Those guys are gone. Wilson will need to take charge, and he’s got the versatile offensive game to handle it.
Third team Preseason All-America
Kendric Davis, PG, Memphis
Last year’s stats: 19.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.4 apg, .372 3-PT
Dereck Lively II, PF, Duke
Last year’s stats: High school
Caleb Love, G, North Carolina
Last year’s stats: 15.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.6 apg, .863 FT
Drew Peterson, SF, USC
Last year’s stats: 12.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, .467 FG
Nick Smith, SG, Arkansas
Last year’s stats: High school