Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team (or college hoops as a whole):
Putting together an All-Big Ten Team won’t be the only end-of-the-season assignment on my docket. As an Associated Press Top 25 voter, I’ll be asked to pick an All-American Team, too. Since I dove into the Big Ten’s best players earlier this week, it got me thinking about which of the country’s best might wind up on my All-American ballot.
The only point All-American voters have to consider is that the players they choose at least be, in theory, able to play together as a coherent unit. Position-less basketball gives us some leeway. Here’s what my ballot would look like if I had to choose today:
Payton Pritchard, Sr., Oregon
Tyrese Haliburton, So., Iowa State
Jordan Nwora, Jr., Louisville
Obi Toppin, R-So., Dayton
Vernon Carey Jr., Fr., Duke
Haliburton has played his way into projected lottery pick status come June’s NBA draft. For a reason. The Cyclones’ scoring leader has optimal size as a point guard at 6-foot-5, and he’s averaging 16.7 points, 7.7 assists, six rebounds and 2.6 steals. Don’t forget his 52 percent shooting overall and 41 percent from three-point range.
Cassius Winston, Sr., Michigan State
Devon Dotson, So., Kansas
Paul Reed, Jr., DePaul
Luka Garza, Jr., Iowa
Daniel Oturu, So., Minnesota
Reed is a legitimate breakout star. The Blue Demons’ 6-9 forward is averaging career highs in points (16.1 ppg), rebounds (11.1 rpg), blocks (3.2 bpg), steals (1.9 spg) and assists (1.7 apg) and is a primary reason DePaul got off to its best start since 2011-12. Maintaining that edge in Big East play will be key.
Markus Howard, Sr., Marquette
Malachi Flynn, Jr., San Diego State
Mason Jones, Jr., Arkansas
Tres Tinkle, Sr., Oregon State
Onyeka Okongwu, Fr., USC
Tinkle’s return to Oregon State after testing the NBA draft waters last spring was rather important for the Beavers. They’re not 11-4 right now without him. The 6-8 stretch 4 (and coach’s son) is averaging 19.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists, while shooting 51 percent from the field overall and 47 percent from three-point range.