Sporting News' 2017-18 college basketball All-Americans
This is supposed to be a joyous moment.
For the young men honored by their inclusion in the Sporting News All-America team for 2017-18, it certainly is. SN’s team is among the ingredients for the official NCAA consensus squad, and we are proud to put forth this collection of 15 terrific players chosen by our panel of voters.
And still the composition of the team is another stark reminder of how this beloved sport continues to wrap itself in a wrestling match that is built mostly on disinformation, misinformation and lies.
Three of the five players chosen for the Sporting News first team are freshmen. Two arrived understanding they would play this season, and only this season, as collegians. Arizona coach Sean Miller told SN his freshman, Deandre Ayton, deserved to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski openly acknowledged his top freshman, Marvin Bagley, was on a path that would include being part of the NBA by this autumn.
So why is the commission empaneled by NCAA president Mark Emmert debating what the organization can or should do about the NBA's age-limit rule?
Here's what the commission’s members can do, and should: Stand up and applaud.
The three freshmen chosen for this year's Sporting News squad bring to 14 the total of freshmen to make the first team since the age limit was introduced, an average of more than one per year. Those who would say college basketball is diminished by their presence would have a lot of explaining to do about those numbers.
(All statistics through March 4.)
First team — Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova, Jr.
Key stats: 19.0 ppg, 4.8 apg, 52.8 pct FG, 40.5 pct 3-pt
Defining game: 31 points, 5 rebounds and 10-of-11 free throw shooting in an 85-82 victory at Marquette.
Overview: Jalen Brunson does not have extraordinary assist numbers because his teammates do an exceptional job passing most of the time. He does not have elite scoring numbers because he only pushes for points when the rest of his teammates are struggling. In short, he sees what his team needs in a given game and he delivers. It’s no accident he scored big against Marquette when the Wildcats were struggling, or that some of his biggest point totals were in losses to St. John’s and Butler. That’s the kind of command he has of his team – of the game.
First team — Deandre Ayton, PF, Arizona, Fr.
Key stats: 19.9 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 61.6 pct FG
Defining game: 29 points, 18 rebounds on 12-of-18 shooting in an 88-82 victory over Alabama.
Overview: Ayton admitted to SN that in high school he sometimes “took plays off” because he wasn’t regularly challenged by the competition. In some ways, there weren’t many challenges among the collegians he faced, either. Ayton was a dominant force from the start, posting double-doubles in his first five Division I games and even averaging 22 points in the team’s three losses at the Battle 4 Atlantis. He has played with particular intensity of late, including a 26-point, 20-rebound effort as the Wildcats clinched the undisputed Pac-12 title with a win over California.
First team — Marvin Bagley, PF, Duke, Fr.
Key stats: 20.7 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 60.4 pct FG
Defining game: 32 points, 21 rebounds on 13-of-17 shooting in a 100-93 victory over Florida State.
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Overview: Bagley is such an overpowering offensive force that he managed to stand out even in a lineup that might be the collectively best offensively in college basketball for the past decade. Duke’s five starters all average double figures, and the Blue Devils rank as the No. 2 most efficient offense even though they’ve not always been well connected. Bagley’s ease in scoring within 10 feet of the basket has caused plenty of scouts to struggle to find past players to use as a comparison. He is close to unique.
First team — Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma, Fr.
Key stats: 27.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 85.9 pct FT
Defining game: 39 points, 14 assists in a 90-89 victory over TCU.
Overview: Remember when Young was new and the world was falling in love with him? It was a simpler time, wasn’t it? That was before he took 39 shots in a loss at Oklahoma State and some analysts freaked that he would shoot so much. Whether it was the psychological (he seemed almost to apologize for that episode after shooting nine times in his next game) or the tactical (teams began playing no-help coverages against him that wore on his slight frame), he hasn’t been the same since. But he still has frequently been extraordinary, and he still leads Division I in scoring and assists. There’s no player more fun to watch. There hasn’t been one in years.
First team — Devonte' Graham, PG, Kansas, Sr.
Key stats: 17.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.0 rpg, 37.4 minutes per game
Defining game: 28 points, 6 assists in 88-84 victory over TCU
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Overview: Although Graham was an easy projection as an All-American before the season began, his stature began to waver when he scored just three points in a loss to Washington and struggled on defense in a subsequent loss to Arizona State. By the end of the year, though, he was leading KU to a 14th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship and coach Bill Self was so averse to considering what the Jayhawks would look like without him that Graham played the full 40 minutes in 10 consecutive games and 12 out of 13. He scored in double figures in all but one of those games.
Second team — Trevon Bluiett, SF, Xavier, Sr.
Key stats: 19.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 43.4 pct 3-pt
Defining game: 37 points, 7 rebounds, 8-of-11 3-point shooting in 102-90 victory over Seton Hall.
Overview: When’s the last time we saw a shooter like Bluiett in college basketball? He has astonishing range and an absurdly quick release. There’ve been seven games in which he has made at least five 3-pointers. He doesn’t have the greatest long-range stats. There are 24 Division I players who make more threes per game, and 26 who convert at a better percentage. Ask a college coach which shooter he’d least like to guard. And lest you believe he is just a shooter, this is his fourth consecutive season with at least 100 free throw attempts. Last season he drove XU to the Elite Eight, even after the Musketeers had lost their starting point guard. This year he was the primary force behind the program’s first Big East regular season title.
Second team — Keita Bates-Diop, PF, Ohio State, Sr.
Key stats: 19.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 48.4 pct FG
Defining game: 32 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals in 80-64 victory over Michigan State.
Overview: Bates-Diop’s ascent from absence to omnipresence has been an essential ingredient to OSU’s resurrection. The Buckeyes will make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015, and Bates-Diop delivered as the team’s primary offensive option inside and outside, as well as one of the Buckeyes’ best defenders. His ability to surprise opponents with his length makes him a play-breaking defender, and the high release on his shot makes him difficult to defend. Players with his lean frame aren’t normally the sort to record a dozen double-doubles in a season.
Second team — Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State, So.
Key stats: 16.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 46.3 pct FG.
Defining game: 20 points, 9-of-14 shooting and winning 3-pointer in 68-65 victory over Purdue.
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Overview: Bridges came back to college when many expected him to become a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, and he made good use of that time by leading the Spartans to a Big Ten regular season championship and 29 victories. Stationed at small forward in a two-big lineup, he showed off his perimeter shooting with 65 made 3-pointers, but he also was a consistent rebounder despite being stationed away from the basket so often on offense.
Second team — Jock Landale, C, St. Mary's, Sr.
Key stats: 21.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.1 apg, 63.9 pct FG
Defining game: 26 points, 12 rebounds in 74-71 victory at Gonzaga.
Overview: If you suspect Landale merely racks up big numbers against some of the weaklings in the West Coast Conference, well – he does feast on them pretty regularly. But he does so much more. Against Georgia’s Yante Maten, he went for 33 points and 12 rebounds. Against New Mexico State, he was good for 20 and 10. Against a 23-win BYU team, he delivered 32 and 14. When his team struggled for motivation in a quarterfinal WCC game against Pepperdine, he managed 19 rebounds. Landale will finish this season with a fourth consecutive season of shooting better than 60 percent from the field.
Second team — Jevon Carter, PG, West Virginia, Sr.
Key stats: 17.0 ppg, 6.5 apg, 2.9 spg, 38.3 pct 3-pt
Defining game: 23 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists in 68-61 victory over Virginia
Overview: Carter is the country’s most rugged defensive guard, a reputation he carried into this season. But he morphed into an elite offensive player as well, increasing his scoring average by 3.5 points per game and his assists by 2.8 per game. Because of his defensive excellence, his improvement won’t get as much notice as others who made jumps by going from reserves to regulars. But there may not be a more improved star in the college game.
Third team— Keenan Evans, SG, Texas Tech, Sr.
Key stats: 17.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, 47.4 pct FG
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Overview: Evans rolled through December until mid-February as one of the hottest guards in college hoops, producing six games of 26 or more points, including 31 against South Carolina and 38 against Big 12 rival Texas. He is not an elite deep shooter, but defenses can’t help but to foul him. He gets to the line more than six times per game and hits 84 percent of his free throws.
Third team — Luke Maye, PF, North Carolina, Jr.
Key stats: 17.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 46.3 pct 3-pt
Overview: After making his name as the surprise hero of North Carolina’s run to the 2017 Final Four, Maye became a genuinely great player for the Tar Heels with games of 28 points against Arkansas, 32 against Boston College and 33 points and 17 rebounds against rival N.C. State. Maye also is an unexpectedly productive passer, with 10 games of four or more assists.
Third team — Carsen Edwards, SG, Purdue, So.
Key stats: 18.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.0 apg, 41.6 pct 3-pt
Overview: Edwards surged down the stretch as one of the most explosive scoring guards, averaging 25 points in a six-game stretch that ended with a tough afternoon in the Big Ten Tournament title game. He is a powerful athlete who finishes in traffic around the rim – often with an explosive lefthanded dunk – and an elite shooter who is especially adept at bouncing the ball off a screen and into open space and firing. He is developing a knack, as well, for sharing the ball with open teammates. He improved his assist average by 1.2 per game from his freshman season.
Third team — Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova, Jr.
Key stats: 17.6 ppg, , 5.5 rpg, 51.1 pct FG, 42 pct FG
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Overview: At least in part because Bridges plays with this season's dominant college player, his growth into the most dynamic two-way wing in the nation has been slightly less appreciated. But there's no player at his position who is more complete. He defends, attacks off the bounce, makes deep shots — and wins.
Third team — Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA, Jr.
Key stats: 20.1 ppg, 5.8 apg, 47.2 pct FG, 43.9 pct 3-pt
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Overview: He is not the most gifted Holiday brother. That's obviously Jrue. He's not the most physical Holiday brother. That's Justin. Aaron is the most necessary, though. On a team that lost three players from its original roster before playing a game, Aaron has been everything to the Bruins, who needed anything he could give them.