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Preseason All-Junior team highlighted by a solid group of frontcourt players

Sophomores who have a good season, then stay in school for their junior seasons are like gold for college coaches.

It’s becoming increasingly rare for players to stick around after good sophomore seasons, but those who do generally are motivated to have even bigger junior seasons in an attempt to impress NBA scouts. That motivation is a good thing for a college coach.

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Gorgui Dieng could turn into the nation's top defender as a junior. (US Presswire)

Today, we unveil our All-Junior preseason team for 2012-13. This isn’t necessarily the 12 best juniors; instead, we look for a nice mix of frontcourt and backcourt players and pick a starting five that actually could be on the floor together.

There was a really good crop of forwards to choose from, with some big names left off. The backcourt was a bit easier to pick, but there were some good players who didn’t make our cut. Two of the frontcourt players, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas, will go into next season as among the top 10 or so favorites for player of the year.

We released our All-Senior team on Tuesday. Still to come will be our All-Sophomore and All-Freshman teams.

The starters

C Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Key 2011-12 stats: 32.8 mpg, 9.1 ppg, 52.5 FG%, 9.1 rpg, 3.2 bpg, 1.2 spg
Buzz: He has a chance to be the biggest defensive difference-maker in the nation next season. Dieng never is going to be a smooth offensive player and his offensive ceiling is limited, but he more than makes up for it on the boards and on defense. He is athletic and runs the floor well, too.

F Doug McDermott, Creighton
Key 2011-12 stats: 31.9 mpg, 22.9 mpg, 60.1 FG%, 48.6 3-pt FG%, 8.2 rpg
Buzz: He was the “other” guy on the Ames (Iowa) High team led by Harrison Barnes, but McDermott has been a difference-maker since he stepped on campus in Omaha. He simply is a gifted offensive player. He can drain it from long range, nail the mid-range jumper and put it on the floor and get to the rim. McDermott also is a good rebounder who isn’t afraid to mix it up in the paint. His decision to stay in school and bypass the NBA draft makes Creighton a good pick to be the mid-major that makes the most noise in the 2013 NCAA tourney.

F DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State
Key 2011-12 stats: 31.4 mpg, 15.9 ppg, 52.1 FG%, 5.4 rpg
Buzz: Thomas is a former five-star recruit who looked nothing like a five-star guy as a freshman. Well, he became an important part of the Buckeyes’ offense this past season and will be their main man next season. He has 3-point range and you can expect him to shoot better than 34.5 percent from beyond the arc next season. He also has a nice arsenal of moves from about 15 feet in. Thomas is athletic enough to be an effective defender, but needs more intensity on that end of the court.

G Aaron Craft, Ohio State
Key 2011-12 stats: 32.2 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 50.0 FG%, 4.6 apg, 3.2 rpg, 4.6 spg
Buzz: Craft is the quintessential pass-first point man. He does a nice job getting the ball to more talented teammates, but he can score when he has to. He also is a tremendously pesky defender. There has been some grumbling about Craft getting to much attention for his defense, but when you average 4.6 steals per game in the Big Ten, you’re a pesky defender. While he might look like a choir boy, Craft is not averse to playing aggressive, physical defense.

G Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
Key 2011-12 stats: 30.0 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg
Buzz: Franklin made huge strides as a sophomore, increasing his scoring average by almost 15 points per game. The Aztecs went from a frontcourt-oriented team to a squad led by its backcourt, and Franklin’s stellar play was a big reason. He’s a little bit too in love with his outside shot; he should take advantage of his size (6-5/195) and take more opposing guards into the lane. He also needs to cut down on his turnovers and increase his assists. But he has the talent to do just that.

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The bench

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C.J. Leslie could continue to develop into a star. (US Presswire)

F C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State
Key 2011-12 stats: 29.0 mpg, 14.7 ppg, 52.5 FG%, 7.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 1.1 spg
Buzz: Leslie is a former five-star recruit who was mildly disappointing as a freshman but started to live up to the hype as a sophomore. He is an effective scorer from about 12 feet in and increased his defensive intensity this past season. Leslie is athletic and a good rebounder and shot-blocker. He could increase his average by about two points per game simply by improving his 59.6 free throw percentage.

F Mike Moser, UNLV
Key 2011-12 stats: 31.4 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.9 spg, 1.0 bpg
Buzz: Moser made a big impact in his first season with the Runnin’ Rebels after transferring from UCLA. He was better than expected on the boards and also flashed a solid offensive game. Moser gets off his feet quickly and puts that trait to god use on defense and as a rebounder. He should become an even more important part of the offense next season.

F Andre Roberson, Colorado
Key 2011-12 stats: 30.2 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 51.4 FG%, 11.1 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 1.3 spg
Buzz: Roberson is an athletic guy who can jump out of the gym. He’s not overly big (6-7/210), but he is a great rebounder who seems to have a sixth sense as to where the ball is going to end up. While he also is a good defender, his offense still has a ways to go. Roberson plays within himself on that end of the court and doesn’t force shots; still, there is room for improvement in that facet of his game.

G Keith Appling, Michigan State
Key 2011-12 stats: 30.8 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.9 rpg., 1.2 spg
Buzz: Appling is another former five-star signee, and he still is looking for a breakout season. That’s not to say he hasn’t been an effective player: He led the Spartans in assists and was their second-leading scorer this past season. With Draymond Green gone, Appling becomes even more important for Michigan State. His 3-point shooting has been a big disappointment, and that likely will be the focal point of his offseason workouts. He’s an effective defender.

G Allen Crabbe, California
Key 2011-12 stats: 34.1 mpg, 15.2 ppg, 40.1 3-pt FG%, 84.3 FT%, 5.7 rpg
Buzz: Crabbe arrived in Berkeley with the reputation as a good shooter, and he has lived up to the hype, hitting 145 3-pointers in his first two seasons. He has good size (6-6/205) and simply shoots over a lot of undersized opponents on the perimeter. But he could do a better of using his size and getting looks from about 15 feet; he also needs to do a better job of getting to the line. His rebounding is a big positive, too.

G Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
Key 2011-12 stats: 34.2 mpg, 14.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Buzz: He and sophomore Trey Burke should be one of the nation’s most productive backcourts next season. Hardaway is a good fit for John Beilein’s offense, though his 3-point shooting was poor this past season (28.3 percent after hitting 36.7 percent as a freshman). As talented as he is, Hardaway (6-5/185) should be a more effective passer and could become a better slasher.

G Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Key 2011-12 stats: 34.5 mpg, 14.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.3 spg
Buzz: Kilpatrick is a tough kid who led the Bearcats in scoring and was third in rebounding. He has good range but at times seemed too enamored with his outside shot; he took 58 more 3-pointers than 2-pointers last season, and with his size (6-4/215), he should be able to get into the lane more than he does. He’s a good defender who isn’t afraid to get physical.

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