Of the 15 players named last week to the 2018 Sporting News All-America team, all but one will appear in the NCAA Tournament. (And that guy, Jock Landale of Saint Mary’s, should be there as well. But that’s a discussion for another day).
Great players make great teams. Every coach will tell you the first ingredient of a successful team is talent. But who are the best players on the best teams? We decided to rank the top 68 players in the 68-team NCAA Tournament field for you. The number of terrific players we had to exclude should tell you that even if analysts are correct when they say this season has “no great teams,” that statement does not extend to the players who will participate.
MARCH MADNESS LIVE: Scores, updates from Thursday's NCAA Tournament games
Ranking the 68 best players in the NCAA Tournament
1. Jalen Brunson, Villanova, junior, point guard
Sporting News' Player of the Year is in command of nearly every game he enters, capable of delivering a 30-point performance if required or simply standing in the background and directing his superb teammates to another successful effort. Oh, and he’s snapped out of that brief 3-point slump, making 10 of 21 during an overpowering performance at the Big East Tournament.
2. Deandre Ayton, Arizona, freshman, power forward
There is no one in college basketball as dominant, and no one who looks more like the No. 1 overall pick the next time the NBA conducts a player draft. He is as complete a package of basketball skill as we’ve seen at his size: 7-0, 260. Ayton seems to be playing even more ferociously of late, with four games of more than 25 points in his past six.
3. Marvin Bagley, Duke, freshman, power forward
Bagley can be a scoring machine when he’s given access to the ball in dangerous positions. He is best when operating around the lane, not too far from the goal, but he does have the skill to take defenders way out and fire 3-pointers. He showed in the team’s early February win over North Carolina there is an extra gear to his play — might it emerge in the NCAAs?
4. Devonte’ Graham, Kansas, senior, point guard.
Having earned the Big 12 Player of the Year award and been named first-team All-America by SN, as well as becoming MVP at the Big 12 Tournament, and being on a team ranked No. 1 a year ago, about the only thing left for Graham to accomplish is to get all the way to the Final Four.
5. Trae Young, Oklahoma, freshman, point guard
What had been a dream season at one point has been transformed into a twisted, tortured nightmare, with the Sooners entirely fractured and losing eight of their final 10 games. Some of the issues were Young’s; he lost the rhythm of when to try heat-check type shots and began regularly missing. Young has made 25 percent of his 3-pointers since Feb. 1. But he’s also made extraordinary passes and still has the capacity to carry the Sooners a long way.
6. Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State, junior, forward
Does not have the dynamic first step that many of the best wings do, but his length causes problems for every opponent and his skill level — the variety of shots he takes and makes comfortably — is ridiculous. Bates-Diop needs very little room to get off his shot because his launch point might literally be higher than any player his size.
7. Miles Bridges, Michigan State, sophomore, forward
Bridges has so many ways to score that even his coaches sometimes fail to take them all into account. That sometimes leaves him overly reliant on his excellent jump shot, but MSU is an improved team when he attacks frequently from the wing. When other elements of the team's offense failed during the Big Ten Tournament, he also showed off a promising low-post game.
8. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier, senior, wing
Bluiett’s range, accuracy and confidence make him college basketball’s best shooter in 2017-18, and one of the best the game has seen this decade. When he gets hot, he is a threat to challenge the 40-point mark, and his ability to drive the ball short distances and draw fouls is underrated. He attempted 180 free throws this season and converted 86 percent from the line.
9. Mikal Bridges, Villanova, junior, wing
Bridges is so gifted there are some who joke that Brunson is the best player in the nation but Bridges is the best on Villanova’s team. He is across-the-board accurate as a shooter and doubled his output from 3-point range this season, from 44 makes as a sophomore to 88 this year. With the Wildcats losing All-American Josh Hart after last season, Bridges embraced all the responsibility left behind.
10. Jevon Carter, West Virginia, senior, point guard
The Mountaineers rely on Carter to do so much — press, run the offense, make shots, defend in the halfcourt — it sometimes seems as though he runs out of energy to finish the job. But he is the best on-ball defender in Division I: an oppressive, disruptive force. He made himself into an elite playmaker; it’s not often a guy playing regular minutes his entire career goes from 3.7 to 6.6 assists per game in a single season.
11. Carsen Edwards, Purdue
The guard averaged 18.5 points, 3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game this season.
12. Kyle Guy, Virginia
The guard averaged 14.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists this season.
13. Collin Sexton, Alabama
The guard averaged 19 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists this season.
14. Aaron Holiday, UCLA
The guard averaged 20.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists this season.
15. Luke Maye, North Carolina
The forward averaged 17.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists this season.
16. Keenan Evans, Texas Tech
The guard averaged 17.5 points, 3 rebounds and 3.1 assists this season.
17. Joel Berry II, North Carolina
The guard averaged 17.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists this season.
18. Gary Clark, Cincinnati
The forward averaged 13.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists this season.
19. Mike Daum, South Dakota State
The forward averaged 23.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists this season.
20. Moe Wagner, Michigan
The forward averaged 14.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 0.8 assists this season.
21. Marcus Foster, Creighton
The guard averaged 20.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists this season.
22. Grant Williams, Tennessee
The forward averaged 15.3 points, 6 rebounds and 1.9 assists this season.
23. Kevin Knox, Kentucky
The forward averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists this season.
24. Jared Terrell, Rhode Island
The guard averaged 17.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists this season.
25. Mohamed Bamba, Texas
The forward averaged 12.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 0.5 assists this season.
26. Devon Hall, Virginia
The guard averaged 12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists this season.
27. Rob Gray, Houston
The guard averaged 18.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists this season.
28. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky
The guard averaged 13.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5 assists this season.
29. Caleb Martin, Nevada
The forward averaged 19.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists this season.
30. Grayson Allen, Duke
The guard averaged 15.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists this season.
31. Dean Wade, Kansas State
The forward averaged 16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season.
32. Lonnie Walker, Miami
The guard averaged 11.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2 assists this season.
33. Landry Shamet, Wichita State
The guard averaged 15 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists this season.
34. Allonzo Trier, Arizona
The guard averaged 18.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists this season.
35. Peyton Aldridge, Davidson
The forward averaged 21.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists this season.
36. Kelan Martin, Butler
The forward averaged 20.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists this season.
37. Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure
The guard averaged 19.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists this season.
38. Chris Chiozza, Florida
The guard averaged 11.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 6.1 assists this season.
39. Jaren Jackson, Michigan State
The forward averaged 11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists this season.
40. Jaylen Barford, Arkansas
The guard averaged 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists this season.
41. Tra Holder, Arizona State
The guard averaged 18.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists this season.
42. Johnathan Williams, Gonzaga
The guard averaged 9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists this season.
43. Killian Tille, Gonzaga
The forward averaged 13.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists this season.
44. Tyus Battle, Syracuse
The guard averaged 19.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists this season.
45. Marcquise Reed, Clemson
The guard averaged 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists this season.
46. Vladimir Brodziansky, TCU
The forward averaged 15.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists this season.
47. Angel Delgado, Seton Hall
The center averaged 13.3 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists this season.
48. CJ Massinburg, Buffalo
The guard averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists this season.
49. Cassius Winston, Michigan State
The guard averaged 12.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists this season.
50. Kassius Robertson, Missouri
The guard averaged 16.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists this season.
51. Bryce Brown, Auburn
The guard averaged 16.2 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists this season.
52. Mustapha Heron, Auburn
The guard averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists this season.
53. Zach Lofton, New Mexico State
The guard averaged 19.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists this season.
54. Wendell Carter, Duke
The forward averaged 13.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists this season.
55. Omer Yurtseven, N.C. State
The center averaged 13.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 0.5 assists this season.
56. Vince Edwards, Purdue
The forward averaged 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists this season.
57. Trey Kell, San Diego State
The guard averaged 10.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season.
58. Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas
The guard averaged 15.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists this season.
59. Jon Elmore, Marshall
The guard averaged 22.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.9 assists this season.
60. Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech
The guard averaged 13.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists this season.
61. Zach Thomas, Bucknell
The forward averaged 20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists this season.
62. Jonathan Stark, Murray State
The guard averaged 21.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists this season.
63. Jacob Evans, Cincinnati
The guard averaged 12.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists this season.
64. Isaac Haas, Purdue
The center averaged 14.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 0.8 assists this season.
65. Thomas Welsh, UCLA
The center averaged 13.0 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists this season.
66. Rodney Bullock, Providence
The forward averaged 14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists this season.
67. Tyler Davis, Texas A&M
The center averaged 14.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists this season.
68. Shaquille Morris, Wichita State
The center averaged 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists this season.