As we do every season, the CBS Sports college basketball season awards have been tallied and decided upon this week. With some influence from the NCAA Tournament -- but taking stock of a full season's worth of statistics and results -- our voting panel made picks for national awards for Player, Freshman and Coach of the Year, in addition to 10 honorees for two All-American teams.
It was another splendid season, this one obviously unlike any that came before it due in no small part to one obvious player who is set to sweep many an award this season.
But beyond the one-name sensation that overtook our imaginations, there were players who came from relative obscurity to have huge seasons and push their teams to the NCAA Tournament spotlight. Years from now, these are the players who we'll remember most, in addition to whatever potential dramatics and memories the 2019 Final Four provides.
CBS Sports All-America First Team
Ja Morant, Murray State
Morant made his impact on Murray State in a litany of ways. But his scoring and distributing ability stood head and shoulders above the field to earn him First Team honors. He became the first player since the NCAA recognized the assist as an official stat in 1983-1984 to average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game in a single season with his 24.5 points and 10.0 assists average.
Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Winston was the Big Ten's best player all season. And on a team that won the Big Ten regular season despite injuries to numerous key players, it did not go unnoticed that he was the most vital constant. Winston averaged 18.9 points and 7.6 assists on the season for the Spartans, and he's keying the team's run to the Final Four.
RJ Barrett, Duke
What Barrett accomplished alongside Zion Williamson was incredible. He thrived as a scorer and distributor in Duke's system. As a freshman, he averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, leading Duke to a No. 1 overall seed with his scoring and distributing abilities.
Grant Williams, Tennessee
Tennessee's best season in program history was in large part a tribute to Williams and his contributions. Williams, the two-time SEC Player of the Year, put up 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists for the Vols, leading them to within one game of winning the conference for the first time since 1979. Williams was a tremendous inside presence who expanded his game beyond the 3-point line this season to become one of the most unguardable players in college basketball.
Zion Williamson, Duke
Williamson was more than just a dunker. He was a tremendously efficient scorer, a great rim-protector, and rebounder. He finished the season No. 2 in college basketball in field goal percentage, No. 1 in PER and No. 1 in box plus/minus. The sport may never see a specimen like Williamson again.
CBS Sports All-America Second Team
Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech: Culver in his second season at Texas Tech made a gargantuan leap as a scorer, playmaker and defender. He's the spark plug behind the Red Raiders and their first-ever Final Four appearance.
Carsen Edwards, Purdue: What Edwards did in the regular season was spectacular. What he did in the postseason was breathtaking. Edwards scored 139 points in four NCAA Tournament games, breaking the record -- previously held by Stephen Curry -- of 128 for the most in a four-game span.
Markus Howard, Marquette: Howard was a tremendous scorer for Marquette who needed nothing more than a sliver of space to get off his smooth and super quick release jumper. In totality, Howard was one of the most entertaining guards to watch this season, and his scoring tenacity carried the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Tournament.
Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga: Clarke finished the season as one of the most efficient players at the Division I level. He led the sport in field goal percentage and finished with the third most blocks per game.
Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga: Hachimura developed into a force in his junior season at Gonzaga, averaging 19.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He was the go-to shotmaker for the 33-win Bulldogs.
CBS Sports Player of the Year
Had Zion Williamson not suffered a shoe explosion and grade 1 MCL tear against North Carolina, which caused him to miss six games, the National Player of the Year would have been wrapped up without debate by late January.
That's unheard of in college basketball.
And even in spite of him missing the final six games of ACC play -- which amounts to one-third of the league's season -- he still won ACC Freshman of the Year over his talented and statistically impressive teammate, RJ Barrett.
But there's no debate here. Even without a Final Four run, Williamson is the indisputable NPOY and FOY. College basketball's never seen a player like him and, because of the expected end of the NBA's age minimum rule in by 2022, it probably never will again.
In a season filled with, no exaggeration, maybe nearly 100 standout highlights, Williamson's block of De'Andre Hunter in Duke's road win at Virginia is probably the peak.
Williamson entered college basketball as a social media/YouTube dunking sensation. He had more than 1 million followers before ever donning a Duke uniform. But what he did to Duke, how he uplifted college basketball, was unprecedented for a freshman. Danny Manning, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Marvin Bagley III were never the sport-changing supernovas that Zion was.
CBS Sports Coach of the Year
There were strong candidates under consideration, such as Purdue's Matt Painter, Tennessee's Rick Barnes, Houston's Kelvin Sampson and Virginia's Tony Bennett. But Texas Tech coach Chris Beard wins out for us because he has:
- Guided Texas Tech to its first Final Four in school history
- Did so after losing six of his top seven scorers from a season ago
- Won the Big 12 regular season title for the first time in school history
- Won the Big 12 regular season title, helping snap Kansas' famed 14-year streak
- Won the Big 12 after being picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll
- Coached Jarrett Culver into an All-American and helped turn him into a probable top-10 NBA pick
- Set a school record for most wins in a season (30, and possibly counting)
Beard, 46, has done this in just his third season at Texas Tech and only his fourth season as a Division I head coach. And in the NCAA Tournament, TTU beat 30-win Michigan, 32-win Buffalo and 33-win Gonzaga by an average of 15 points.
Texas Tech has also had the No. 1-rated per-possession defense in college basketball this season. The Red Raiders are on pace to have the stingiest defense, according to KenPom's analytics, in at least 18 years in college hoops. Beard's swiftly climbed near the mountaintop of the sport's most respected X-and-O coaches. He's made Texas Tech not only nationally relevant, but a fun and feared team.
With a cast of transfers, foreign-born players, overlooked veterans and gritty, underrecruited kids, Beard's pulled off such an impressive season, TTU might never again be doubted as a team in preseason forecasts by the media because of how strong of a comeback season this was.
And as the Red Raiders get ready to play Michigan State on Saturday night in Minneapolis, Beard looks as loose as any coach you'll see in this environment.
CBS Sports Freshman of the Year
Zion Williamson, the CBS Sports Player of the Year, is also the Freshman of the Year.
Statistically, Williamson was a standout, and yet his numbers were short of expectation due to missing games because of the knee injury. Williamson finished his season averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks. His Player Efficiency Rating was an absurd 40.8, which is far and away the best in the history of Basketball Reference's database for a college player.
His effective field goal percentage was 70.8, second only to UCF's Tacko Fall -- who's 7-foot-6. In postseason play, Williamson averaged 26.4 points and 9.1 rebounds; his seven postseason games of 20 points or more in each is a Duke freshman record.
He and Barrett were the first teammates, as frosh, in D-I men's history to average 20-plus points. Williamson finished with 14 double-doubles. Williamson was the only player in the country to shoot at least 65 percent and average at least 20 points.
Williamson was the greatest combination of watchable, obviously dominant, endlessly fascinating and, most importantly, a singular talent at playing college basketball. The talking points on his NBA potential were unavoidable, but let it not be overlooked or quickly dismissed just how fantastic this man was at playing college hoops.