Sporting News’ 2021-22 college basketball midseason All-America team

One of the wonderful aspects of NCAA basketball is the ability to generate stars in many different ways.

Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Auburn’s Jabari Smith were basketball’s elite talents as high schoolers in 2020-21, but those who watched the first two months of current college basketball got a chance to see on a big stage just how talented each is. one of them. – and how much each promises for the future of the game.

Purdue’s Jaden Ivey wasn’t a nationally known recruit when he finished high school in 2020, his biggest claim to fame being that his mother was a former WNBA player who had just been named to succeed Hall of Famer. Fame Muffet McGraw as the head coach of Notre Dame’s women’s team. He made a name for himself with an impressive freshman season that peaked near the end, but now he’s proving to be one of the most talented athletes in all of basketball.

Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis and Iowa’s Keegan Murray played small roles as freshmen, playing regularly but only occasionally feeling the freedom to shoot the basketball. They are now among the leading scorers in college basketball.

As a result of these and other developments, college basketball is having an impressive year in the area of ​​individual performance. Which made it a challenge to narrow down the correct 15 players for the Sporting News midseason All-America team and put them in the correct order.

You may disagree with our conclusions. Which is fine, because the players involved – and you, of course – have two months to change their minds before SN comes up with the team that counts.

First team

James Akinjo, Baylor

6-1, 190, Mr., G

13.9 ppg, 5.7 apg, 2.1 spg, 0.434 FG

20 points, 8 assists, 9 of 15 shots in the 76-64 win at TCU

Akinjo barely held on to this distinction after a difficult week on the eve of the selections. He scored a combined 20 points and shot 6-for-22 in back-to-back Big 12 home losses, one of them to unranked Oklahoma State. But he has been the most dangerous point guard in college hoops for much of this season and was a big part of the reason Baylor opened the season with a 15-game winning streak, beating Michigan State, Villanova, Oregon and Iowa State and moving up. to the No. 1 AP Poll Ranking. Excels at finishing units. If Baylor returns to another Final Four, his decision to leave Arizona and play for Scott Drew is probably the biggest reason.

Paolo Banchero, Duke

6-10, 250, Fr, F

17.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.1 spg, .505 FG

21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 of 8 3-PT in 84-81 win over Gonzaga

Though he’s not rated the No. 1 player in the 2021 draft class and isn’t the name at the top of many mock drafts, Banchero has been the most impactful freshman in college hoops. He announced what was to come with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the Classic of Champions win over Kentucky and has yet to endure a single-figure scoring game as a collegiate. He plays with the grace of a wing and the muscle of a big man. It’s not just a rare talent; he plays with the drive, authority and confidence that has been elusive among many of the top young big men entering Division I.

Kofi Cockburn, Illinois

7-0, 285, Jr., C

21.1 points per game, 11.8 rpg, .589 FG

17 points, 18 rebounds in 87-83 win at Iowa

Cockburn is physically overwhelming for most college kids. In the decade or two before Steph Curry’s revolution, there’s no way Cockburn would have returned to Illinois for his junior year. His power would have been too coveted by the NBA. But now it’s a different game at that level, and a low-post center who thrives on physicality is less appealing to scouts. However, it still works in Division I. Cockburn has produced four games of 25 or more points, three with at least 15 rebounds, and 11 double-doubles in 14 games.

Johnny DavisWisconsin

6-5, 194, So., G.

21.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.0 spg, .435 FG

37 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists in a 74-69 win at Purdue

It’s hard to remember a player who made a more dramatic jump in production from one year to the next. Davis joined a veteran team last season and averaged just 24 minutes on six shots per game. As a sophomore, he has increased his scoring average by nearly 216 percent. He was ranked the 164th player in the 2020 recruiting class and is now a top five player in college basketball and a potential NBA Draft lottery pick. His game against Purdue and their dynamic sophomore wing Jaden Ivey might have been the best individual performance by any college player in the 2021-22 season. Geez, what happened to the other 163 guys?

Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

6-9, 255, Jr., C

16.1 points per game, 14.8 rpg, 0.616 free throws

16 points, 12 rebounds in a 98-69 win over North Carolina

: Tshiebwe has played 18 games in his first season with the Wildcats after transferring from West Virginia; he failed to record double-digit rebounds in just two of them. He has grabbed at least 15 rebounds in eight games and had four games with at least 20. Tshiebwe is one of those rare players, like Dennis Rodman or Paul Silas or Wes Unseld, who understands how and when to read a ball in flight. take advantage of a position under the goal where the ball is likely to land, as well as overwhelming power to ensure that spot will belong to you. He has also improved his jump shots to become more versatile on offense, periodically opening up the interior for dynamic teammates Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington to attack the rim.

second team

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Ochai Agbaji, Kansas

6-5, 215, Mr., G

19.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.1 spg, .521 FG, .473 3-PT

29 points on 9-for-17 shooting in 87-74 win over Michigan State

MSU’s game was in the opening night Champions Classic, and it set the tone for what Agbaji’s final season as a collegiate would look like. It wasn’t just that he hit a personal record that night. He more than obviously embraced the need to play as KU’s first choice, to operate as a player who could take responsibility for challenging opposing defenses to stop him and thus facilitate the operation of his teammates. Agbaji has produced 10 double-figure scoring games in 17 starts and is making nearly half of six-plus 3-point attempts per game.

Benedict Mathurin, Arizona

6-6, 210, So., G

18.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.2 apg, .500 FG, .363 3-PT

30 points, 7 rebounds, 10 of 17 shots in an 83-79 win at Illinois

Mathurin’s season started slowly, his shooting 2-for-13 in a comfortable win over Northern Arizona suggested his first season under manager Tommy Lloyd might take a while to get going. However, in 10 days, he had scored 25 points at Wichita State and made it clear that his sophomore slump would be brief. His 3-point accuracy has decreased as his attempts have become more frequent, but nearly every major stat category has seen a substantial increase. He excels at using his size against smaller defenders, shooting 62.8 percent of his 2-point attempts.

Keegan Murray, Iowa

6-8, 225, Mr., F

23.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, .584 FG, .360 3-PT

25 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals in an 81-71 win at Minnesota

Like Davis, whom he dueled in a conference game in January, Murray has made extraordinary gains from his freshman production, in part because each worked diligently to improve and, more so, because he was ready when he arrived. your moment. Murray scored more than 20 points in his first six games and reached 35 against Utah State and Maryland. Murray uses his extraordinary size and length to impact games as a rebounder and rim protector. He’s averaging more blocks per game than Purdue’s 7-4 Zach Edey, albeit by 11 more minutes per game. Murray is converting 2-point attempts at a rate of 68.7 percent.

Jabari Smith, Auburn

6-10, 220, Mr., F

15.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, .457 FG, .430 3-PT

25 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 of 6 triples in the 81-77 win at Alabama

As much as we wrote about Anthony Davis nearly a decade ago, whether Smith ends up in this same position at the end of the year, or on our first team he likely belongs on, could very much depend on him. He is the most talented player in college basketball or a very close second; how one compares it to Banchero might just be a matter of personal taste. But Smith takes only a dozen shots a game, slightly fewer than Banchero. But because Smith plays more on the perimeter, he gets fewer offensive rebounds and is fouled much less frequently. He has to get into another gear, and it’s really just a matter of trying to impact every game the way he did with the Tigers’ impressive road win at Alabama.

Drew Timme, Gonzaga

6-10, 220, Mr., F

18.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, .655 FG

Recorded 30 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks, 13-for-14 FG shooting in 110-84 win over BYU

: Although Timme’s season-high points is 37 in a previous win over Texas, Timme’s game against BYU reset who he’s supposed to be as a player after a rather uninspiring stretch that began with a 7-game points in a Zags victory over Texas. tech Timme was widely expected to be the dominant college player this season, and there have been several occasions when he has justified that belief. Lately, we seem to be heading more in that direction.

third team

, top guard, Oral Roberts

, senior guard, Villanova

, sophomore guard, Purdue

, junior forward, Indiana

, junior forward, Ohio State