Michigan State’s Bridges tops AP preseason All-America team
By AARON BEARD
AP Basketball Writer
Michigan State’s Miles Bridges has everyone’s attention.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore headlines The Associated Press preseason All-America team as the leading vote-getter by a wide margin for the five-player squad. Bridges received 61 votes from the 65-member national media panel that selects the weekly AP Top 25 poll, 14 more than Notre Dame senior forward Bonzie Colson — the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year and the No. 2 vote-getter.
Arizona junior Allonzo Trier, Villanova junior Jalen Brunson and Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. rounded out the rest of the five-man team released Monday.
Bridges was forced to play inside last season for the undersized Spartans, but averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks. Second-ranked Michigan State has more size and depth this season, so Bridges will likely see more time at small forward on the perimeter.
“He’s got some things he’s got to get better at,” coach Tom Izzo said. “He’s going to be moving around different positions. Got to get better with the ball, better guarding. There are going to be some things that are more difficult for him. I can’t think of a guy that’s worked harder all summer to make sure he’s ready. I think he’ll be more than ready for an incredible season.”
The 14-vote gap between Bridges and Colson marked only the third time there was a double-digit difference between the top two vote-getters since the AP preseason All-America team launched for the 1995-96 season. The last time was in 2003-04.
The 6-6 Colson averaged 17.8 points and an ACC-best 10.1 rebounds to go with a league-best 19 double-doubles. He knows that he’ll wear a target this season; assistant coach Ryan Humphrey recently gave him a poster featuring Colson sporting a photoshopped bullseye on his chest and the message of “Every game.”
“I’m always going to be humble and hungry,” Colson said. “That’s just who I am, that’s just how my parents raised me. Just going out there every day and playing loose.”
The 6-5 Trier was third with 39 votes. He opted to return to the third-ranked Wildcats instead of entering the NBA draft after averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 rebounds last year despite missing the first 19 games due to a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
“Allonzo has a special place in my heart because I don’t know if I’ve been around a player that has overcome so much adversity and at the same time continued to be an outstanding player,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said, adding: “He’s had a terrific offseason, and I think all of us are hoping that he can do it from start to finish, from the first game to the end.”
The 6-3 Brunson, who earned 33 votes, averaged 14.7 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 54 percent last year for the Wildcats.
“Last year he stepped up a little bit more,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “But this year, he’s stepped up to become the player and leader that he is. He’s just a natural born leader.”
The 6-10 Porter earned 30 votes for the final spot, making him the fifth freshman to make the preseason AP All-America team — joining North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and LSU’s Ben Simmons.
“I feel there’s a lot of people that would like to be in my situation,” Porter said. “But I try to stay grounded, stay humble and realize I’m nowhere near where I want to get to, so I just have to take all the attention with a grain of salt and just keep getting better and better.”
North Carolina senior Joel Berry II, last year’s Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four for the reigning national champions, was the top vote-getter who missed the squad. Berry, who had 25 votes, is recovering from a broken bone in his hand that could sideline him for the start of the season.
Duke senior Grayson Allen, a preseason AP All-American last season, had 20 votes.
The Associated Press’ 2017-18 preseason All-America team, with school, height, year and votes from a 65-member national media panel (key 2016-17 statistics in parentheses):
Miles Bridges, Michigan State, 6-7, 225, sophomore, 61 votes (16.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.5 blocks)
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame, 6-6, 224, senior, 47 (17.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 52.6 fg pct, 1.4 blocks)
Allonzo Trier, Arizona, 6-5, 205, junior, 39 (18 games, 17.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, 81.0 ft pct)
Jalen Brunson, Villanova, 6-3, 190, junior, 33 (14.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 4.1 apg, 54.1 fg pct, 87.6 ft pct)
Michael Porter Jr., Missouri, 6-10, 215, freshman, 30 (HS: 36.2 ppg, 13.6 rpg)
Others receiving votes: Joel Berry II, North Carolina, 25; Grayson Allen, Duke, 20; Devonte’ Graham, Kansas, 19; Ethan Happ, Wisconsin, 17; Angel Delgado, Seton Hall, 15; Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s, 6; Trevon Bluiett, Xavier, 5; Marvin Bagley III, Duke, 3; Deandre Ayton, Arizona, 3; Yante Maten, Georgia, 1; Landry Shamet, Wichita State, 1.