I’ve written this many times before, but the message still works: Being a midseason All-American means the job is only half done.
It means we know who those players are. We’ve seen what they’re capable of achieving. And now the responsibility is there for them to continue doing it until they’ve achieved what is possible for their teams. Last year, 80 percent of our midseason first team achieved the same honor in the postseason. The year before, it was 60 percent.
In 2011-12, though, Kentucky center Anthony Davis was not on our midseason first team. We said, though, he probably would wind up not only making the first team, but also ending up as the player of the year. He had to prove it, though. And he did.
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Perhaps there again is someone capable of a second-half run like Davis. Or maybe we already have identified the best players in college hoops, and the fun of the second half will be sitting back and watching them show us why.
With that, Sporting News presents its 2019-20 midseason college basketball All-America team:
Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
Key stats: 19.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, .627 FG pct.
Defining game: 24 points, eight rebounds, 10-of-14 shooting in 89-62 victory over Virginia Tech at Maui Invitational
Someone out there tipped the folks at the Atlanta Tipoff Club — who present the annual Naismith Award — about Toppin. Yes, the Naismith people were tipped on Toppin. They had him on their 50-player preseason watch list, which is one of the few places where his potential was recognized before he walked into the Maui Invitational and started dazzling everyone in Lahaina, including NBA scouts. Toppin has scored in double figures in every game but one, a blowout of Grambling State in which it wasn’t necessary. He has made half of his shots or more (usually more) in all but one of Dayton’s games.
Markus Howard, PG, Marquette
Key stats: 26.8 ppg, 2.9 apg, .439 3-point pct.
Defining game: 51 points, 9-of-17 3-point shooting, 14-of-17 free throws in 101-79 victory over USC at Orlando Invitational
At his present rate, Howard will end his career at Marquette as the most prolific high-major scorer since J.J. Redick finished at Duke with 2,769 points. That would put Howard among college basketball’s top scorers, ever. He has produced six games this year of 30 or more points, and he has raised his average by nearly two points per game while taking only one more shot on average than his junior year. Marquette lost two starters to transfer from last year’s team, but the Golden Eagles have managed to remain competitive against a tough schedule.
Myles Powell, SG, Seton Hall
Key stats: 21.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.4 apg
Defining game: 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists, 10-of-21 shooting in 83-71 victory at Xavier
Powell’s senior season has been interrupted by a sprained ankle and a concussion, as if there is something working against him in addition to five opposing defenders. But somehow he continues to power through and excel. Powell is tough to cover, but more than that, he is tough. On a team with three regulars who stand 6-10 or taller, he is the No. 3 rebounder. Opponents often give him no-catch or no-help treatment on defense — as Xavier did in assigning star Naji Marshall to defend him — and he works until the opponent just can’t keep up or make a difference.
Payton Pritchard, PG, Oregon
Key stats: 19.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.9 apg
Defining game: 29 points, six assists, 6-of-9 3-point shooting in 78-69 victory against Arizona State
Only one of the top six scorers for the Oregon Ducks was in that position a year ago. So how have the Ducks changed so much so seamlessly? Coach Dana Altman helps a ton, but it might be even more important to have a veteran point — a terrific veteran point guard — in Pritchard. He has taken complete command of this team and has made amazing advances over his senior season. His scoring average is up nearly 50 percent over last year. And when Oregon needed to get consistent production down the stretch of an engaging 71-70 win at Michigan, he scored all nine of the Ducks’ points in the final 4:14 of regulation — and six of their eight in overtime.
Luka Garza, C, Iowa
Key stats: 22.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg, .556 field goal pct.
Defining game: 17 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks in 72-61 victory over Texas Tech in Las Vegas Invitational
It is a measure of his willingness to put everything he has into trying to win that Garza’s best games this season — 44 points against Michigan, 34 against Penn State, 18 rebounds against Nebraska — have come in defeat. When things aren’t going well for the Hawkeyes, he does not relent. And when things are going well, it’s usually because of him. He is one of college basketball’s most versatile bigs, able to step behind the 3-point line (35.6 percent accuracy) and finish with either hand in the post. He has posted 10 double-doubles and reached four personal fouls only three times.
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Vernon Carey, C, Duke
Key stats: 17.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.9 blocks
Defining game: 26 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks in 87-75 victory at Michigan State
If there was room enough for six players on the All-America first team, Carey would be the sixth. He is thisclose to making it, and a strong second half likely will put him onto the final team. Carey’s first night in college basketball was not memorable (although his Blue Devils defeated Kansas in the Champions Classic), but he has grown rapidly since. He has delivered seven games of 20 points or more and eight double-doubles. He would do well to improve his free throw shooting, given how regularly he is fouled.
Malachi Flynn, PG, San Diego State
Key stats: 16.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.8 apg, .452 field goal pct.
Defining game: 22 points, five rebounds, four assists, 10-of-10 free throws in 77-68 victory at Utah State
After spending his first two years at Washington State, Flynn transferred to play for the Aztecs and is flourishing after spending the (sorta) mandatory year in residence. He is in complete command of the last remaining undefeated team in Division I college basketball, helping the Aztecs to defeat such opponents as Utah, Iowa, Creighton and BYU. He rarely sits when SDSU plays major competition; when the team struggled in a road game against Fresno State, he went the full 40 and contributed 22 points and five rebounds.
Jordan Nwora, PF, Louisville
Key stats: 20.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .440 3-point pct.
Defining game: 23 points, 12 rebounds, 4-of-6 3-point shooting in 87-74 victory at Miami
Nwora is having almost a quietly spectacular year, consistently drilling big 3-pointers even in an offense whose other options have been sporadic at best and whose point guard play is a work in progress. In the Cardinals’ disappointing home loss to Florida State, Nwora fought almost alone and scored 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting. Nwora has made multiple 3-pointers in all but four games and hit four or more on five occasions. Despite so frequently playing away from the goal on offense, he has produced four double-figure rebound games.
Cassius Winston, PG, Michigan State
Key stats: 18.8 ppg, 6.2 apg, .366 3-point pct.
Defining game: 32 points, nine assists, 11-of-19 shooting in 87-69 victory over Michigan
It may seem out of place to mention the tragedy that affected Winston and his family, the loss of younger brother Zachary in early November, but it’s inextricably a part of his senior season. There is no question his play was affected by what occurred, but over the past several weeks he has returned to the dominance that was the norm in his junior season. And that, in turn, elevated the Spartans. His performance in the Michigan game was among the best of his career.
Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
Key stats: 18.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.1 apg
Defining game: 37 points, six rebounds, four steals in 93-85 loss to Michigan State at Maui Invitational
It isn’t common that a player’s most important game is in defeat, but Edwards showed what he is capable of accomplishing — and what Georgia is, when he performs at his best — when he scored 33 points in the second half against the Spartans, nearly pulling the near-lifeless Bulldogs to an upset victory after they’d trailed by 21 points at halftime. Edwards since has been more restrained, but UGA is starting to win the kinds of games that could put the team into the NCAA Tournament. No way that happens without the threat and production Edwards provides.
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— Devon Dotson, PG, Kansas
— Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
— Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota
— Kamar Baldwin, G, Butler
— Precious Achiuwa, C, Memphis