The biggest man on The Associated Press’ preseason All-America team got the most votes.
Seven-foot sophomore center Cody Zeller, the main reason Indiana is the preseason No. 1 for the first time in 33 years, was one vote shy of being a unanimous selection for the preseason All-America team.
Zeller, who averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 62.3 percent from the field, received 64 votes from the national media panel which selects the weekly Top 25.
Also on the team announced Monday were junior forwards Doug McDermott of Creighton and Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State and three guards — seniors Isaiah Canaan of Murray State and C.J. McCollum of Lehigh and sophomore Trey Burke of Michigan.
McDermott was named on 62 ballots, while Canaan was on 43 and Thomas 26. McCollum and Burke tied for the fifth spot with 16 votes each.
Zeller is one of five starters back for the Hoosiers and when a top-flight recruiting class is added in there are a lot expectations for the No. 1 team.
“I don’t know that we’ve really set any goals as a team, but obviously, we want to win a national championship,” Zeller said. “We’re not going to guarantee anything. We’re just going to play and see where it takes us.”
McDermott, who averaged 22.9 points (third in the nation) and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 60.1 percent from the field and 48.6 percent on 3s for the Bluejays last season in earning first-team All-America honors, has the added pressure of playing for his father, Greg. The relationship is the key to Creighton trying to become the latest mid-major to possibly go deep in the NCAA tournament.
“We have a lot of expectations on ourselves,” Doug McDermott said. “We know we can go far. You see Butler, VCU, teams like that that make it to the Final Four and even the national championship game. We’re not thinking that far ahead, but we know we’re capable of doing what those teams have done in the past.”
Canaan earned second-team All-America honors last season when he led Murray State to a 23-game winning streak to start the season, top 10 ranking, the third round of the NCAA tournament and a 31-2 record. A lot of Racers fans waited breathlessly for Canaan to announce he would skip the NBA draft and return for his senior season
Canaan averaged 19.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game while shooting 45.6 percent from 3-point range.
“Having him back is great, and he’s a tremendous kid,” Murray State coach Steve Prohm said. “He will go down as if not the best player, one of the best players, ever to play at Murray State. Anytime you have an elite guard as a coach that makes you feel really good.”
Thomas averaged 16 points and 5.5 rebounds a game last season playing in the same frontcourt with first-team All-America Jared Sullinger. While Sullinger left for the NBA, Thomas decided to come back and join two other returning starters in trying to get the Buckeyes past the national semifinals where they lost to Kansas.
“I knew one more year would be good for me,” the 6-7 Thomas said. “I came back just for one reason — to also go to the national championship and to win the Big Ten.”
McCollum grabbed headlines last season in earning Patriot League Player of the Year honors and plenty of attention from NBA scouts. The 6-3 McCollum averaged 21.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season, leading the Mountain Hawks in all three categories. He really opened eyes when he scored 30 points in Lehigh’s NCAA tournament upset of Duke.
“C.J. has been a very reliable performer on the floor and has grown as a leader over the course of his career,” Lehigh coach Brett Reed said. “Our team has a great deal of confidence because C.J. exudes confidence in his performance and that ultimately transfers to his teammates. They feel more confident in their ability because he handles pressure situations and adversity very well.”
The 6-foot Burke averaged 14.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists in a freshman season that saw the Wolverines crack the top 10 and share the Big Ten title.
“I’m pumped,” Burke said of the upcoming season. “I’m really excited. The level of talent we have, I’m excited to see how far we can go.”
Zeller, McCollum and Burke all were honorable mention selections last season.