College Basketball Awards: CBS Sports' 2017-18 All-America teams and Player, Coach and Freshman of the Year
Our All-America first team was unanimous, but our awards were a little more contentious
There's usually a debate when it comes to picking First Team All-Americans — normally about three or four guys who are no-brainers, then three or four more who could reasonably be placed in the final spots. But not this season. For whatever reason, this season, there seems to be five obvious players for the five top spots. And no more. Our voting reflected that. And so the five CBS Sports First Team All-Americans should come as no surprise.
But we did have more of a debate over the individual awards. Picking just one of those five players -- or one of those three freshmen -- proved difficult. As did naming a single coach who stood out in a crowded field of great ones. Yet we managed. Here are CBS Sports' 2017-18 college basketball awards.
Player of the Year: Jalen Brunson, Villanova
The unshakable Wildcats star is CBS Sports' National Player of the Year because of his consistency and his everlasting poise that brought Villanova to a second Final Four in three years. While Oklahoma freshman Trae Young had a historic season, leading the nation in points and assists, we must account for team success in these awards as well. Oklahoma sputtered in the second half of its season, while Villanova — with Brunson at the point — earned is third No. 1 seed in four years
On the doorstep of the national semifinals, it's clear that the junior from Lincolnshire, Ill., has been the best and most important player in college basketball in 2017-18. The All-America point guard averaged 19.2 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 31.8 minutes per 38 games. Brunson has been the leader of an offense that is scoring 122.6 points per 100 possessions, tops in the nation. Villanova's 127.3 offensive efficiency at KenPom.com is the second-highest mark in the past 16 seasons.
That almost certainly wouldn't be the case if someone other than Brunson was playing point guard. He's been extremely efficient, too, shooting 60.4 percent from 2-point range, 41.4 percent from 3. Brunson spectacular season brings proof that to be the best player in college basketball you don't need a game dominated by flash. You don't need to be an NBA lottery pick. You don't need to have the best physical attributes. You need to be a great college basketball player on your own accord.
Brunson is just that. -- Matt Norlander
Coach of the Year: John Beilein, Michigan
It's not that anyone thought John Beilein's Michigan team was bad. It's just that not many people outside the state thought of Michigan at all for most of the early season. We were all focused on Michigan's more hyped, more talented in-state rival, Michigan State. But the Wolverines broke into the AP Top 25 on Jan. 15, two days after beating Michigan State in East Lansing. They hung around the bottom of the top 25 for the next month, until suddenly they became the hottest team in the nation.
Michigan's last loss was Feb. 6, two days after the Super Bowl. The Wolverines have won 13 in a row, and Beilein is going to his first Final Four since his team lost to Louisville in the 2013 title game. And they're doing it on defense -- despite Beilein's longstanding reputation as an offensive guru, this team is building its reputation on one of the nation's best defenses. That's the reason why the 65-year-old Beilein, one of the most respected coaches in the game, is CBSSports.com's Coach of the Year.
There's one more thing that makes it special that Beilein is our national coach of the year. This season of college basketball has been shadowed by the FBI scandal that broke in September. Yet here is Beilein at the end of the season, still winning despite his reputation -- among peers -- as the cleanest high-major coach in the country. To be sure, Beilein won this award because his team vastly exceeded its expectations in making a Final Four run. But it's pretty sweet, during a dark college basketball season like this one, to be able to award a coach who is respected for things other than winning. -- Reid Forgrave
Freshman of the Year: Marvin Bagley III, Duke
Think of all of the incredible freshman that have come through Duke in recent years and left for the NBA after stellar college debuts, from Corey Maggette and Luol Deng to Kyrie Irving, Jahlil Okafor and Brandon Ingram. None of those players scored as many points, grabbed as many rebounds, recorded as many double-doubles or had as many dunks in a Blue Devils uniform as Bagley.
After reclassifying and skipping what could have been his freshman year, Bagley was one of just four players in the country to average 20 points (21.0) and 10 rebounds (11.1) this season, putting together a case not only as the freshman of the year but a legitimate contender for national player of the year. Watching Bagley play only enhances what the statistics show, and when you saw the 6-11, 230-pound freshman working around the rim with a relentless motor, a springy second jump and a magnetic draw to the basketball it became clear why the NBA Draft scouts are drooling at his potential.
Competition for this award was tough, but Bagley edged out Oklahoma star Young largely because of the difference in play during the conference season. Young's early season performance was brilliant, but he, unlike Bagley, did not even end up winning player of the year in his conference. -- Chip Patterson
ALL-AMERICA FIRST TEAM
Jalen Brunson, Villanova
The junior point guard, who also is CBS Sports' Player of the Year (above), is largely responsible for guiding Villanova to 101 wins (and counting) and two Final Fours over the past three seasons. Simply put, the 6-foot-3 junior is the best run-your-team point guard in college basketball, someone who makes up for a lack of athleticism by using a high basketball IQ that allows him to create angles and opportunities. If Villanova wins another national title, odds are Brunson will be the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. He's been steady and terrific all season.
Trae Young, Oklahoma
There was a time when Young seemed something close to a lock to sweep all player of the year awards. But the freshman point guard was less sensational in January, February and March than he was in November and December, and his team limped into the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated in the Round of 64 and finishing 18-14 overall, 8-10 in the Big 12. That said, Young's one and only season of college basketball was still historic. He averaged 27.4 points and 8.7 assists while becoming the first Division I player in history to lead the nation in both of those categories. For that reason, combined with the fact that he did it at the high-major level, First Team All-America honors are deserved.
Graham had no issues adjusting from sidekick to star this season. The junior point guard is averaging a career-high 17.2 points, a career-high 7.3 assists and a career-high 4.1 rebounds in 37.8 minutes per game. He led the Jayhawks to a 14th straight Big 12 regular-season title — plus the Big 12 Tournament title and the Final Four, where KU will play Villanova on Saturday. Graham is shooting 40.3 percent from the 3-point line and 83.0 percent from the free throw line. He's gone from a borderline top-100 recruit to a legitimate college star in a four-year span. Quite a career.
Marvin Bagley III, Duke
Long considered the best prospect in his class, Bagley reclassified late in the summer, enrolled at Duke, got cleared and dominated opponents from the jump. Also CBS Sports Freshman of the Year (above), the 6-11 forward had two 30-point/15-rebound games in November, another in December and finished the season averaging 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds in 33.9 minutes per game while leading Duke to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Bagley will, like most other elite freshmen, only spend one year playing college basketball. But he was the best player on a top-10 team in that one season — plus the ACC Player of the Year.
Ayton's season ended in a weird way -- via a blowout loss to Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament. But the 7-1 forward still averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in 33.5 minutes per game while leading Arizona to the Pac-12 regular-season title and the Pac-12 Tournament title. He was just a physical specimen unlike anybody else in college basketball. Bigger. Broader. Ayton just looked … different. And it's among the reasons why he's the leading candidate, at this moment, to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
-- Gary Parrish
ALL-AMERICA SECOND TEAM
Xavier earned its first No. 1 seed in school history thanks in good portion to the clutch play and natural scoring ability of Bluiett. The Indianapolis native is considered one of the three or four greatest players in program history, having finished second all time on the school's scoring list (2,261). Bluiett averaged 19.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assist for the Muskies. Xavier went 29-6 and won its first Big East regular season title, ending Villanova's four-year run atop the league.
Mikal Bridges, Villanova
The Villanova junior boasts a 17.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists average as his team prepares for its national semifinal vs. Kansas on Saturday. Bridges has gone from likely first round NBA pick to near-automatic lottery selection this season. One big reason: His upgraded 3-point shot. Bridges was a 29.9 percent 3-point shooter as a freshman. This season, on 227 attempts, he's made 43.6 percent. The agile and long redshirt junior is also a great switching defender who brings the most two-way versatility of any player on Villanova's roster.
Texas Tech made history this season, reaching the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. And to think: What if Evans' toe wasn't broken? The Red Raiders senior played through pain in the final month of the season but still was good enough to get TTU to a 3 seed and the East Regional final. Evans, who was also named a Second Team by the United States Basketball Writers Association, averaged 17.6 points, 3.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals.
Miles Bridges, Michigan State
The preseason National Player of the Year honoree wound up starring on a Michigan State team that went 30-5 and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Bridges, who has declared for the NBA, put up 17.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 52.7 percent from 2-point range. He was the best sophomore in college basketball in 2017-18, the only second-year player that finished in the top-10 voting at CBS Sports for All-America consideration.
Ohio State, which went 25-9 and earned a No. 5 seed, was one of the most surprising stories in college basketball. Bates-Diop, who was long recognized for his untapped talent, found his sweet spot this season under first-year Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann. Bates-Diop was the Big Ten Player of the Year thanks to a healthy season without any injury setbacks. He averaged 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.6 blocks for the Buckeyes. The 6-7 combo forward shot 35.9 percent from 3 and 54.7 from 2-point range.
-- Matt Norlander
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