Blake Griffin is the CBSSports.com National Player of the Year.
That's the easiest decision I've made all week.
Honestly, I have a harder time deciding where to park at the airport -- whether to go straight to the back and park immediately or cruise the front and risk wasting minutes looking for a spot that doesn't exist. It's a dilemma every trip, I swear to you. But choosing the National Player of the Year offers no such internal debate, at least not this year, because if you read Monday's column on the conference awards you learned that I value, A) Winners, B) Program changers, and C) Impressive statistics, and there's nobody who comes close to matching Griffin on those three fronts.
|Bill Self's work with a brand new starting five earns him accolades. (US Presswire)|
A program changer? OU finished 16-15 the season before he enrolled.
Impressive statistics? He's averaging 22.1 points and 14.2 rebounds per game with 25 double-doubles.
So yeah, Blake Griffin is the National Player of the Year. Deciding that is easier than parking.
National Player of the Year
Winner: Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)
Reason: Griffin is a winner and program changer with impressive statistics. We've been over this, already.
National Coach of the Year
Winner: Bill Self (Kansas)
Reason: This was the hardest of the awards to pick because there were multiple worthy candidates -- from Tom Izzo (Michigan State) to Brad Stevens (Butler), from John Calipari (Memphis) to Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh). But I decided to go with Self, and the reason revolves around Florida's Billy Donovan, who won the NCAA tournament in 2006 and 2007, then lost all five starters and went to the NIT.
In fact, Donovan is still trying to recover from that exodus, because it's not easy to do. But don't tell that to Self, who lost all five starters and still led Kansas to an outright Big 12 title despite eight of his top 10 players being freshmen or sophomores.
National Freshman of the Year
Winner: Tyreke Evans (Memphis)
Reason: Evans enrolled at Memphis with the reputation of a ballhog plus the unenviable task of following one-and-done star Derrick Rose, and early on things didn't look promising. The McDonald's All-American was shooting a lot, throwing the ball all over the court, and the Tigers were 6-3 and unranked following a home loss to Syracuse. Yuck. But then John Calipari moved Evans to point guard, determined to put the ball in his best player's hands even more while trusting that Evans would do the right thing with it, eventually.
Since that day the Tigers have won 22 consecutive games, and suddenly a fourth-consecutive Elite Eight doesn't only look possible, it seems probable. As for Evans, he's shed his ballhog label, developed into an elite playmaker and posted averages of 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He's the only freshman in America leading a Top 10 team, which is why he's the only freshman with a legitimate claim on this award.
All-America and Freshman All-America teams
Now, to the All-America teams.
But before I get started you need to know -- or be reminded -- that I do not simply select the best five players and make them first-teamers while the next five players become second-teamers with no regard to the positions those players play. Rather, I try to make the teams in the traditional sense, meaning every team assembled must have at least one point guard, one wing and one big. The other two spots can be filled by whatever combination I like -- with a second point guard and big, a second wing and big, whatever. It doesn't really matter.
But what I can't do is have three bigs. Or four point guards. Or five wings.
That makes no sense to me because that's a flawed team.
So if you're going to complain that Tyler Hansbrough belongs on the first team, by all means, complain away. You might make good points. All I ask is that you do not suggest Hansbrough belongs on the first team instead of James Harden, because Hansbrough is a big and Harden is a wing, and that trade won't work for my purposes.
To get Hansbrough on the first team you have to demote Blake Griffin or DeJuan Blair, which is something I wasn't willing to do. And that's why Hansbrough is on the second team, because I don't think his regular season -- and please, don't confuse his career with this regular season -- was better than the regular seasons Griffin and Blair had in this particular season, and that's pretty much how I reached my conclusion.
Got that? Good.
Here are the CBSSports.com All-America and Freshman All-America teams.
|CBSSports.com First Team All-Americans|
|Second Team||Third Team|
|Guard: Sherron Collins, Kansas||Guard: Toney Douglas, Florida State|
|Guard: Jerel McNeal, Marquette||Guard: Tyreke Evans, Memphis|
|Forward: Gerald Henderson, Duke||Forward: Terrence Williams, Louisville|
|Forward: Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina||Forward: Sam Young, Pittsburgh|
|Center: Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut||Forward: Jordan Hill, Arizona|
|CBSSports.com First Team Freshman All-Americans|
|Second Team||Third Team|
|Guard: Terrico White, Mississippi||Guard: Kemba Walker, Connecticut|
|Guard: Sylven Landesberg, Virginia||Guard: Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas|
|Forward: Gordon Hayward, Butler||Guard: Klay Thompson, Washington State|
|Forward: Luke Babbitt, Nevada||Forward: Devin Ebanks, West Virginia|
|Center: Samardo Samuels, Louisville||Forward: Yancy Gates, Cincinnati|