Skim through the six names on the newly announced AP Preseason All-American team, and the first thing that stands out is the schools represented.
Sure, there's Cody Zeller of Indiana, Trey Burke of Michigan and DeShaun Thomas of Ohio State, a blue blood and two powerhouse programs from a major conference. But there's also forward Doug McDermott from Creighton and guards Isaiah Canaan from Murray State and C.J. McCollum from Lehigh, three mid-majors who have never before produced a preseason All-American.
Since the turn of the century, only five players from non-power six conferences have been named AP Preseason All-Americans: BYU's Jimmer Fredette in 2010, Davidson's Stephen Curry in 2008, Gonzaga's Adam Morrison in 2005, Saint Joseph's Jameer Nelson in 2003 and Xavier's David West in 2002.
It doesn't appear as though three non-power conference players have ever made the AP Preseason All-American team in the same year. The last time even two made was 1998 when TCU forward Lee Nailon and Utah guard Andre Miller both were on the team.
What does it mean that players from the Missouri Valley Conference, Patriot League and Ohio Valley Conference are among the headliners entering the new season? To me, it's a harbinger of a big season ahead for teams outside the power conferences.
The two premier non-BCS leagues, the Mountain West and Atlantic 10, both are as loaded as they've ever been with UNLV, San Diego State and Saint Louis in the preseason top 25 and a handful of others on the cusp. And in addition to the three preseason all-Americans, a number of stars from smaller leagues are back for another season, from North Texas forward Tony Mitchell to Saint Mary's guard Matthew Dellavedova to Detroit guard Ray McCallum.
With so many power conference programs rebuilding after losses to the NBA or relying heavily on freshmen, there doesn't appear to be a dominant team the way Kentucky was last season or North Carolina was in 2009. As a result, expect a wide-open season and a couple of deep NCAA tournament runs from the little guys who give March Madness its moniker.
AP Preseason All-Americans since 2000:
2011-12: Jordan Taylor, G, Wisconsin; Jeremy Lamb, G/F, Connecticut; Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State; Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky; Harrison Barnes, F, North Carolina
2010-11: Kyle Singler, F, Duke; Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State; Jimmer Fredette, G, BYU; JaJuan Johnson, F, Purdue; Harrison Barnes, F, North Carolina
2009-10: Luke Harangody, F, Notre Dame; Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas; Sherron Collins, G, Kansas; Patrick Patterson, F, Kentucky; Kyle Singler, F, Duke
2008-09: Tyler Hansbrough, F, North Carolina; Stephen Curry, G, Davidson; Luke Harangody, F, Notre Dame; Darren Collison, G, UCLA; Blake Griffin, F, Oklahoma
2007-08: Tyler Hansbrough, F, North Carolina; Roy Hibbert, C, Georgetown; Chris Lofton, G, Tennessee; Drew Neitzel, G, Michigan State; Darren Collison, G, UCLA
2006-07: Tyler Hansbrough, F, North Carolina; Joakim Noah, F, Florida; Ronald Steele, G, Alabama; Glen Davis, F, LSU; Brandon Rush, F, Kansas
2005-06: J.J. Redick, G, Duke; Shelden Williams, F, Duke; Dee Brown, G, Illinois; Adam Morrison, F, Gonzaga; Craig Smith, F, Boston College
2004-05: Chris Paul, G, Wake Forest; Lawrence Roberts, F, Mississippi State; Wayne Simien, F, Kansas; Julius Hodge, G, NC State Hakim Warrick, F, Syracuse
2003-04: Emeka Okafor, C, Connecticut; Jameer Nelson, G, Saint Joseph's; Rickey Paulding, F, Missouri; Ike Diogu, F, Arizona State; Raymond Felton, G, North Carolina
2002-03: David West, F, Xavier; Luke Walton, F, Arizona; Jason Gardner, G, Arizona; Kirk Hinrich, G, Kansas; Erwin Dudley, F, Alabama
2001-02: Jason Williams, G, Duke; Kareem Rush, G, Missouri; Tayshaun Prince, F, Kentucky; Casey Jacobsen, G, Stanford; Frank Williams G, Illinois
2000-01: Shane Battier, F, Duke; Troy Murphy, F, Notre Dame; Loren Woods, C, Arizona; Joseph Forte, G, North Carolina; Jamaal Tinsley, G, Iowa State
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