March Madness 2014: The All-Tournament Team Through Elite 8
In what has been one of the most incredible NCAA tournaments in recent memory, let's use this brief hiatus between the Elite Eight and the Final Four to determine which players and coaches have done enough during March Madness to merit inclusion on the all-tournament teams.
Emphasis on the plural form of teams. This was originally supposed to be just five players and a coach, but I couldn't bring myself to snub more than a dozen other unbelievable performers.
Thus, we not only have a second team and a third team, but there's also a final "We Lost You Too Soon" team made up of memorable names from the first weekend of the tournament who didn't make it to the Sweet 16.
In determining which players belonged on which teams, we considered a conglomeration of traditional counting stats, importance to team, team success in the tournament and a vague recollection of which players created the most social media hysteria during the tournament.
In general, players from teams that advanced to the Final Four were held in higher regard than those on teams eliminated in the Elite Eight, and so on and so forth.
After all the trophies have been presented and the nets cut down on April 7 in Dallas, expect to see a ton of clips from these players during CBS' "One Shining Moment" montage of the tournament.
First-Team Guard: Shabazz Napier
Player: Shabazz Napier, Connecticut (No. 7 seed, East Region)
By the numbers: 23.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.5 APG, 2.0 SPG
Why we chose him
Short of seeing your favorite team win it all or seeing your least favorite team unceremoniously upset in the first game that it plays, the most refreshing part of the NCAA tournament is watching long-respected seniors carry their teams into the later rounds of their final dance.
Napier tasted a national championship as part of the 2010-11 team that won it all, but he was just a role-playing freshman—a lackey along for the ride as Kemba Walker propelled the Huskies to a title.
He was a much more prominent force in his sophomore season, but Jeremy Lamb was the team leader and Andre Drummond was a more compelling story and professional prospect.
When the time finally came for Napier to take the reins, Connecticut was ruled ineligible for the tournament because of the poor classroom performance of people who played from 2007 to 2011.
But he bided his time, essentially using two full seasons to prepare to lead this year's team to the Final Four.
Without question, Napier has been the most outstanding player to this point in the tournament. Other players have been great and valuable in their own right, but Napier has been legendary.
Playing through excruciating pain in the second half against Villanova, Napier made seven of his final eight field-goal attempts, including coming back off the bench just in time for a back-breaking layup with 2:17 remaining in the game.
First-Team Guard: Scottie Wilbekin
Player: Scottie Wilbekin, Florida (No. 1 seed, South Region)
By the numbers: 16.8 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG
Why we chose him
Just like Napier on the previous slide, Wilbekin is a senior guard who dealt with adversity and leads his team with poise and timely plays.
2014 marks Wilbekin's fourth consecutive trip to the Elite Eight. This year was different, though. Not only is Wilbekin the main man for the first time, but he finally got the Gators over the hump and into the Final Four.
In the pivotal Elite Eight game against Dayton, Wilbekin had 23 points, three assists and three steals with nary a personal foul or turnover.
It was business as usual for one of the most clutch players in the country.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Wilbekin is that he was able to win this team over in his senior year.
For a second straight season, he opened the year with a few game log entries of "did not play" due to undisclosed suspensions for violating team rules. For a little while over the summer, we didn't even know if Wilbekin would be welcomed back to the team this time.
But he served his five-game suspension and instantly became the leader for a team that was still struggling to figure itself out.
Kasey Hill has been a great backup point guard in his freshman year, but it's hard to imagine where this team would have been without Wilbekin.
UCLA had just scored back-to-back buckets to cut Florida's lead to five points with three minutes remaining. With the shot clock winding down and the Bruins perhaps one stop away from really making things interesting, Wilbekin calmly scooped in an acrobatic shot, extending the lead to seven points and effectively ending UCLA's tournament.
First-Team Forward: Julius Randle
Player: Julius Randle, Kentucky (No. 8 seed, Midwest Region)
By the numbers: 15.8 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 1.8 APG
Why we chose him
You never know what you're going to get out of players in their first trip to the NCAA tournament. Some can't seem to handle the glitz and the glamour, and others embrace it like a long-lost relative.
Each of the other four first-team players has been to the tournament at least two previous times, getting out whatever jitters there may have been.
As a freshman, though, this was Randle's first trip to the Big Dance.
He has looked right at home.
The big man has recorded four consecutive double-doubles. Dating back to Feb. 12, that's now 13 double-doubles in his last 15 games.
Between the fact that he completely spoiled us by recording a double-double in his first seven collegiate games and that Kentucky had a disappointing season in what was a disappointing conference before the tournament began, a lot of us kind of forgot how incredible Randle is.
Think back to the post play of Thomas Robinson during Kansas' run to the championship game in 2012. Remember how much we talked about him and how he ended up being the fifth overall draft pick in the NBA draft that June?
Now consider the fact that Robinson—then a junior with two previous tournament trips already under his belt—entered the 2012 Final Four with the exact same number of points and two more rebounds than Randle has entering this year's Final Four.
Is it possible to be a unanimous first-team all-tournament player and still be underrated?
Less than a minute into the second half against Wichita State, the Shockers had opened up a nine-point lead and James Young had just missed a jump shot. Over the course of the next 105 seconds, Randle recorded five points, four rebounds and one assist to pretty much single-handedly bring the Wildcats back to within a point.
First-Team Center: Frank Kaminsky
Player: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (No. 2 seed, West Region)
By the numbers: 18.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.5 APG
Why we chose him
Kaminsky was a bit of a no-show in Wisconsin's first game, tallying just eight points and four rebounds in 20 minutes with a lot of foul trouble.
However, his following three games were more than enough to make up for that opening dud.
Wisconsin trailed Oregon by 12 points at halftime, but Kaminsky scored 11 of his team-leading 19 points in the first seven minutes of the second half. The final bucket in that stretch completed the comeback and gave Wisconsin its first lead in nearly 20 minutes of game time.
In the following game against Baylor, Kaminsky had his second-best game of the season—it's hard to beat the 43-point game from mid-November. After hearing all week that Wisconsin's interior defense was a team weakness, Kaminsky came out and blocked six shots against the Bears while scoring 19 points on just 11 field-goal attempts.
Of course, that second-best game immediately became his third-best game after he blew up for 28 points and 11 rebounds against one of the best interior defenses in the country. In my book, it was the second-best game that any player had against Arizona this season, with the best one being UCLA's Kyle Anderson going off for 21 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.
Not only has Kaminsky been the leading scorer in each of Wisconsin's last three games, but his 66 points during that stretch are twice as many as the Badgers' next-highest scorer, Traevon Jackson.
Midway through the first half against Baylor, Kaminsky blocked three consecutive field-goal attempts by the Bears. For a stretch of three minutes and 24 seconds, Baylor didn't even have a shot hit the rim.
First-Team Center: Adreian Payne
Player: Adreian Payne, Michigan State (No. 4 seed, East Region)
By the numbers: 20.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.0 BPG
Why we chose him
There are a lot of lightning-rod players when it comes to college basketball. Players like Aaron Craft and Marshall Henderson this year, or J.J. Redick and Tyler Hansbrough of yesteryear. You either love them or you hate them.
As such, everyone outside the state of Delaware (sorry, Fightin' Blue Hens) was enthralled by Payne's 41-point effort in the second round. We were once again pleased and amazed in the Sweet 16 when he broke a 51-51 tie with less than two minutes remaining by draining a three-pointer and subsequently put the game on ice with a pair of made free throws.
In a perfect world, Michigan State and Creighton would have met in the national championship, and Payne and Doug McDermott would have each scored 50 points. Alas, Payne will have to settle for being the only first-team all-tournament player whose team didn't advance to the Final Four.
For a stretch of six minutes late in the first half against Delaware, Payne was the only Spartan to score a single point, scoring 17 in a row.
First-Team Coach: Kevin Ollie
Coach: Kevin Ollie, Connecticut
Why we chose him
There's no shortage of intriguing storylines among the four coaches who led teams to this year's Final Four, but Ollie takes the cake.
Ollie was thrust into a no-win situation last year, yet emerged a winner.
Jim Calhoun retired two months before the 2012-13 season began—and a little less than three months after the announcement that Connecticut would be banned from the 2013 NCAA tournament due to low Academic Progress Rate scores.
Twenty-nine months prior to Calhoun's retirement, Ollie was still playing in the NBA. He had two years of experience as an assistant coach under Calhoun but was brand new to this coaching game otherwise.
As if there wasn't enough internal unrest for Connecticut, the Huskies were externally affected a few months later when the great Big East schism occurred, leaving Connecticut ineligible for the tournament with a new coach and destined for a new conference.
Sometimes change is a good thing.
Not only has Ollie brought Connecticut to the Final Four in his first year as a head coach of a team that could go to the tournament, but he defeated Phil Martelli, Jay Wright, Fred Hoiberg and Tom Izzo to get there.
According to Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger, Calhoun said of Ollie after the game, "He’s like a son to me. He’s got character. He’s got a great knowledge of the game. He works exceptionally hard. And he relates exceptionally well with the kids."
G: Nick Johnson, Arizona
16.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.0 APG
Johnson couldn't find the bucket against San Diego State, failing to score a single point for the first 37 minutes of the Sweet 16 game. Once he made that first layup, though, it was game over. Johnson proceeded to drain a back-breaking three-pointer and shoot 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, scoring 15 of the team's final 16 points.
He was considerably more effective in Arizona's other three games, including the impressive 17 points, five rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals against Gonzaga.
G: Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
16.0 PPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.3 RPG
If Harrison isn't scoring, he isn't doing much else for Big Blue Nation. Through four tournament games, he has a grand total of five steals, five rebounds and two assists.
Fortunately for Kentucky, Harrison is 13-of-24 from three-point range and has evolved into Mr. Clutch for the Wildcats. In the wins over both Louisville and Michigan, it was Harrison's three-pointer in the final minute of the game that gave Kentucky the lead for good.
G: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
17.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, 1.3 RPG
Take away his 0-of-4 effort in the final 13 minutes against Kentucky and Stauskas had himself one fine tournament. On the biggest collegiate stage, he hit 12 of 30 three-point attempts and 18 of 21 free-throw attempts.
F: Branden Dawson, Michigan State
16.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 SPG
Dawson was a nonfactor in the Spartans' loss to Connecticut on Sunday, but he was a monster in the two games prior. He shot a combined 21-of-31 from the field in scoring 50 points against Harvard and Virginia.
As such, it's beyond puzzling that he only attempted three field goals against the Huskies. It's almost as if Tom Izzo didn't realize Michigan State entered that game with a 20-0 record when Dawson scored seven or more points.
F: Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
18.0 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG
It was tempting to put Stokes on the first team, but Tennessee made it only to the Sweet 16. Still, factoring in the first-round game against Iowa, Stokes gave the Volunteers one heck of a four-game run. His most jaw-dropping line was the 17 points, 18 rebounds and five assists against Mercer. The Bears had only 19 rebounds as an entire team.
Coach: Billy Donovan, Florida
Donovan has led Florida to the Elite Eight in six of the last nine NCAA tournaments. Izzo gets all of the credit for being a Sweet 16 machine, but Donovan has been pretty automatic in his own right.
If Florida can win two more games, it'll be Donovan's third national championship in less than a decade.
G: DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
18.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 7.0 APG
As he had all season, Kane did it all for the Cyclones. He may have gone a little heavy on the hero ball in light of Georges Niang's injury, but the entire team needed to step up its game in his absence.
In each of his final five collegiate games, Kane had at least 14 points, six rebounds and five assists. He was underrated all year long but should do just fine in the NBA.
Also, an honorable mention to Dustin Hogue of the Cyclones. I didn't want to put two players from the same Sweet 16 team on the list, but Hogue was out of control in averaging 21 points and six rebounds per game.
G: Xavier Thames, San Diego State
26.0 PPG, 3.7 APG
Try as he might, Thames couldn't single-handedly outscore every team the Aztecs faced. Thames averaged 19.3 field-goal attempts per tournament game but was extremely effective in vastly outperforming his already incredible season averages.
G: Jordan Adams, UCLA
19.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.7 SPG
Adams shot 56.4 percent from the field in UCLA's three tournament games and was an extremely consistent source of production for the Bruins.
F: Luke Hancock, Louisville
18.7 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.7 SPG, 2.3 RPG
It was more than a little disappointing that Louisville reached only the Sweet 16, but the Cardinals wouldn't have even gotten that far without Hancock. In the second-round win over Manhattan, Hancock broke a 60-60 tie in the final two minutes by scoring eight straight Louisville points. He finished the tournament shooting 9-of-22 from three-point range.
F: Jordan Morgan, Michigan
12.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 APG
Morgan did his best Mitch McGary impression by recording just one double-double all season before hitting the 10-point and 10-rebound marks in back-to-back games to open the tournament. Thanks to a lot of dunks, the senior forward shot 71.4 percent from the field, and he served as a pleasant surprise by scoring at least 10 points in all four games.
Coach: Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
The Badgers used to be the type of team that could win games only at their snail-like, low-scoring pace, but they have evolved this season to finally bring Ryan to the Final Four.
By Jan. 8, Wisconsin had won games by scoring in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and even threw in a 103-point game for good measure. Regardless of the pace, this is an efficient team that is built to win.
The 'We Lost You Too Soon' Team
G: Bryce Cotton, Providence
36.0 PPG, 8.0 APG, 5.0 RPG, 2.0 SPG (one game)
Cotton had one of the best individual performances of the entire tournament, dropping 36 points on North Carolina.
Unfortunately, for one of the only times all season, the Tar Heels hit some crucial free throws down the stretch and eked out a victory over Providence. Cotton finished the year averaging 39.9 minutes and 21.8 points per game for the Friars.
G: Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
24.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 3.0 SPG, 2.0 BPG (one game)
Payton was incredible all season, but few people heard of him while he was putting up huge numbers against Louisiana-Monroe, Western Kentucky and Texas-Arlington.
Playing his one tournament game against Creighton's "defense" didn't hurt his efforts to put his name out there. If he and Shawn Long come back for another season, watch out for the Ragin' Cajuns next year.
F: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
27.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG (two games)
Early scored 23 points in the opener against Cal Poly while playing only 19 minutes. He scored 31 against Kentucky—including 16 of the Shockers' final 22 points—but it wasn't quite enough to keep the perfect season alive.
F: Doug McDermott, Creighton
22.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.5 APG (two games)
McDermott's breath-taking college career ended with a whimper. He scored just 15 points and failed to make a single three-pointer in a 30-point loss to Baylor. It was one of those nights for the Bears where even some McBuckets magic wouldn't have changed the outcome, but it's a shame that his career had to end with such a beating.
F: Rob Loe, Saint Louis
16.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.0 APG (two games)
Loe was unbelievable in the Billikens' equally unfathomable come-from-behind victory over North Carolina State. As the Wolfpack missed free throw after free throw in the closing minutes of regulation, Loe kept adding to an eventual stat line of 22 points and 15 rebounds.
For someone like Julius Randle, that wouldn't be a particularly noteworthy game, but Loe set a career high in rebounds and came one point shy of matching a career high in points. This was a classic example of a senior finding an extra gear in what could have been his last collegiate game.
Coach: Saul Phillips, North Dakota State
Phillips receives the annual award for "most emotional postgame interview from the head coach of a sleeper team" after San Diego State eliminated the Bison.
North Dakota State was one of three No. 12 seeds to advance to the round of 32, and seeing Phillips throw up the Bison horns after the win over Oklahoma brought back memories of Hampton's Steve Merfeld getting swept off his feet after the 2001 victory over Iowa State.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.