B/R's 2015-16 College Basketball Awards
The 2015-16 college basketball season will be remembered as the year of the senior, and the old fellas are well-represented in the Bleacher Report postseason awards.
Four of the five first-team All-Americans are seniors, and the clear-cut two best players in college basketball this season are four-year guys.
In the one-and-done era, that has been a rarity. That makes this season old school in a way. Many of the players recognized in the following pages weren't 5-star recruits, but they put in the effort—Oklahoma's Buddy Hield, for instance, is known for an insane work ethic—and they developed.
Noticeably missing from our first team is LSU's Ben Simmons—and for good reason. Simmons' production earned him a second-team nod, but team success should matter—and he got knocked because the Tigers will likely miss the NCAA tournament.
Let's get to the picks.
First-Team All-American: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Denzel Valentine is the driving force behind the best offense in college basketball. Michigan State is the best three-point shooting team in the nation; Valentine shoots 45.4 percent himself, and his passing leads to a lot of Sparty's good looks. Michigan State also leads the nation in assist percentage; Valentine drops 7.5 dimes per game, and his unselfishness is contagious.
Buddy Hield is the best scorer in college basketball, but no one has a more complete game than Valentine. He can take over with his scoring (19.6 PPG) or his passing, and he's also the Spartans' second-leading rebounder with 7.4 per game. He's a triple-double threat every time out—he has two on the season—and he has such a high basketball IQ that no matter what you throw at him, he's going to figure it out.
First-Team All-American: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Eleven games with 30 or more points. The performance of the college basketball season: 46 points in double overtime at Allen Fieldhouse. More three-pointers (124) than anyone in the country. And the nation's second-leading scorer.
That's quite the resume.
Buddy Hield's senior season is not only the best this season has to offer, it's right up there with some of the best of this era. Oklahoma's Hield is such a good scorer that when an opposing coach would decide to face-guard him, as West Virginia's Bob Huggins did two weeks ago in Morgantown, Hield still got his buckets, scoring 29 points.
You can debate all day long who deserves to be a first-team All-American, but these first two spots were easy choices.
First-Team All-American: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Malcolm Brogdon has been the hottest player in college basketball over the last month. Since the beginning of February, he's averaged 21 points while shooting 53.8 percent from the field, 50 percent from beyond the arc and 94.7 percent at the free-throw line.
What makes Brogdon's scoring even more impressive is the fact he plays for the slowest-paced team in the nation, which means Virginia averages fewer possessions in a game than any team in the country. Brogdon's 18.4 points per game is the most a player has ever averaged on one of Tony Bennett's teams, and this seems like a good time to remind everyone that Bennett coached the Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson at Washington State.
On top of his scoring, Brogdon is also one of the best defenders in the country. He doesn't average a lot of steals (only 0.9 per game), but he's a terrific on-the-ball defender. Similar to a shutdown corner in football, it's smart to just avoid passing the ball to whomever Brogdon is guarding.
First-Team All-American: Brice Johnson, North Carolina
Brice Johnson is the most surprising player to appear on this team. Not because he isn't talented, but everyone expected the star in Chapel Hill this season to be Marcus Paige.
Though Paige struggled with his jumper, North Carolina was still able to have one of the best offenses in college basketball and win the ACC title outright thanks to the consistency of Johnson. The senior forward averages a double-double (16.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game), and he's brought the consistency he lacked for much of his career.
Johnson had the runner-up best performance of the season, posting 39 points and 23 rebounds in a win at Florida State. And he averaged 23.5 points and 20 rebounds in two games against Duke.
First-Team All-American: Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
This hasn't been a banner year for Kentucky relative to its usual success, but where would it be without sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis?
The UK offense lacks its customary low-post threat, and the talent is not what you'd expect of a John Calipari team, yet the 'Cats still rank seventh in adjusted offensive efficiency, and they're the third-most efficient team Calipari has had in Lexington.
The reason for that success is pretty simple: Ulis is a magician with the ball. He's scored when Kentucky needed him to score, and his ability to dribble circles around a defense and set up his teammates for easy shots is special. Ulis is averaging 16.6 points and 7.4 assists per game, then there's the stuff you can't quantify, such as his leadership qualities. It sounds incredibly cliche, but Ulis is a coach on the floor.
Selfishly, I hope his height (5'9") scares away the NBA for a couple of more years so he doesn't leave the college game just yet.
G Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: Ferrell helped turn one of the most disappointing teams in nonconference play into the Big Ten champion. Ferrell is averaging 17.1 points and 5.5 assists per game. He'll be remembered in Bloomington for a lethal pull-up jumper and being a Big Ten champ twice in his career.
G Grayson Allen, Duke: Allen's tripping episodes have put a damper on a great sophomore season. Maybe he's seen I Hate Christian Laettner a few too many times. Nonetheless, he is a unique talent who slashes with reckless abandon and then can finish with a feathery touch around the rim. He's also a knockdown three-point shooter, and that combination makes him really tough to guard and a consistent scorer (21.5 PPG).
F Perry Ellis, Kansas: KU's quiet assassin has always been a dangerous scorer, but he's taken it to another level this season, as his confidence has increased along with the range on his jumper. Ellis is one of the most efficient scorers in the country, averaging 16.5 points on 52.1 percent shooting from the field and 45.6 percent shooting from distance. He's one of the rare scorers who can get buckets from all three levels—in close, the mid-range and beyond the arc.
F Ben Simmons, LSU: The Tigers will likely miss the NCAA tournament, and that's why we don't have Simmons on the first team. But his talent and production (19.6 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 5.0 APG and 2.0 SPG) are just too good for him to not at least make the second team.
C Jakob Poeltl, Utah: The big fella from Austria made a good choice coming back to school. Poeltl has improved his back-to-the-basket game along with adding the ability to occasionally put the ball on the floor and slash to the basket. It's rare to find a 7-footer as quick as him. He averages close to a double-double (17.5 PPG and 9.1 RPG) and is one of the best defensive centers in the game. He'll likely hear his name called in the lottery in June.
G Kris Dunn, Providence: Dunn is one of the best two-way guards in America. He averages 16.3 points, 6.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. Team success and an occasionally shaky jumper made him a tough omission from the first two teams.
G Jamal Murray, Kentucky: John Calipari has had a lot of great freshmen in Lexington, but none of them have scored the ball like Murray. Unless he experiences a major slump, he'll average more points this season (currently 20 per game) than not just any UK freshman but any Wildcat under Calipari. One explanation is the talent on this year's team compared to past teams, but Murray should also get credit for being one heck of a microwave man.
F Josh Hart, Villanova: The Wildcats will probably get penalized when it comes to postseason awards because of their balance. (It was hard to determine which 'Nova guys to leave off the All-Big East teams.) But do not underestimate the value of Hart, who has been the team's best scorer (15.3 PPG) and one of the best slashers in the country.
F Georges Niang, Iowa State: Niang is finishing off a great career with his best season yet. The toughest matchup in college basketball is averaging 19.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He'll also go down as the winningest Cyclone of all time.
F Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa: The Hawkeyes have fallen off late in the year, but they were the hottest team in America for a few weeks in the middle of the season, and Uthoff was a big reason why. His move to the stretch 4 spot this season gave opposing power forwards headaches as they tried to chase him around. He's also a valuable asset on the defensive end, blocking 2.6 shots per game.
Honorable Mentions All-Americans
- Sheldon McClellan, Miami
- Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
- Dillon Brooks, Oregon
- Damion Lee, Louisville
- Kyle Collinsworth, Brigham Young
- Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
- Cat Barber, North Carolina State
- Kay Felder, Oakland
- DeAndre' Bembry, Saint Joseph's
- Nic Moore, Southern Methodist
Player of the Year: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
This was a two-man race between Buddy Hield and Michigan State's Denzel Valentine. In most other seasons, Valentine would be the winner.
But this was the year of Buddy Buckets.
Hield has become the face of college basketball this season. He's the college game's version of Stephen Curry, right down to the unbelievable range, ridiculous highlights and fun-loving personality.
What makes Hield's journey such an awesome story is he entered college basketball as a non-shooter—he made just 19 threes as a freshman—and a legendary work ethic turned him into the most dangerous shooter in the country.
He became the POY leader with his 46 points at Allen Fieldhouse. He flirted with a 50-50-90 season, and even though he's fallen off, his efficiency numbers (49.5 percent from the field, 47.3 percent from three and 89.3 percent at the free-throw line) are historic for such a high-volume shooter. Valentine is more of a complete player, but the rate at which Hield got his buckets was too much to overcome for the great Sparty guard.
Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas
Using Ken Pomeroy's rating system, the Big 12 this season is the best league in college basketball since the ACC in 2004. And Kansas won the league by two games.
Yes, Bill Self owns the Big 12. His teams have now won 12 straight conference titles, one short of UCLA's record for consecutive conference championships. But do not underestimate the league based on KU's domination. This is the second straight year that every metric had the Big 12 as the best league in America.
At one point this season, the streak looked to be in jeopardy. The Jayhawks lost three out of five games in January and were 5-3 in the league. They couldn't guard anyone, and they looked like they'd forgotten how to run good offense.
Then, as he usually does, Self got his team to buy into doing things his way, and the Jayhawks have been the best team in America since, winning 11 straight games. This isn't Self's best team—it's a ways down the list in terms of talent—but he has a veteran group who understands how he likes to do things.
And Self's way, 12 straight Big 12 titles says, is the right way.
Freshman of the Year: Ben Simmons, LSU
As frustrating as the Tigers have been to watch at times, Ben Simmons has made them must-see TV.
Simmons is one of the rare one-and-done freshmen who actually lived up to the hype. He's left little doubt that he should be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, averaging 19.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game while making it look effortless in the process.
He also scores all those points while rarely ever venturing out to shoot a jump shot. And the best part of the Ben Simmons Experience is watching him grab a defensive rebound and start a fast break. The Tigers have their flaws and Simmons deserves some of the blame, but he is a special talent and it's a shame we'll likely miss out seeing him play on college basketball's biggest stage in March.
Transfer of the Year: Ryan Anderson, Arizona
Ryan Anderson transferred from Boston College and sat out a year, just to have the opportunity to play one season in Tucson. Looks like it was worth it.
Anderson has helped the Wildcats stay relevant after losing four of their starters off last year's team. He's averaged a double-double (15.8 PPG and 10.2 RPG) and been incredibly consistent, scoring in double figures in all but two games all season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Kris Dunn, Providence
You have to know where Kris Dunn is on the defensive end at all times, or he's going to burn you. Dunn has incredible defensive instincts along with the quickness and pick-your-pocket hands that help him average 2.7 steals per game. He's also a terrific on-the-ball defender, and his presence has elevated Providence's defense to borderline elite status.
In Ed Cooley's first three years at Providence, his teams had an average finish of 146th in adjusted defensive efficiency. With Dunn as the starting point guard, the Friars finished 48th last year and are currently 29th in adjusted defensive efficiency this season.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jaysean Paige, West Virginia
Bob Huggins plays so many guys that it doesn't really matter who starts and who comes off the bench. Jaysean Paige just so happens to be one of the guys who comes off the bench, but he's West Virginia's best player. The former junior college guard averages a team-best 14.3 points in only 22.2 minutes per game.
Paige is a bulldog with the ball who can get into the paint whenever he wants and really gets cooking when his jumper is on. He dropped 26 points in a win over Kansas this year and had a season-high 34 points in a win over Iowa State on Feb. 22. His willingness to do his damage off the bench speaks to the culture Huggins has built in Morgantown, where guys are up for playing fewer minutes so the Mountaineers can pressure like crazy.
Most Improved Player: Ben Bentil, Providence
No one, at least outside of Providence, saw the emergence of Ben Bentil coming. The storylines with the Friars before the season was that they'd lost three of their four leading scorers off last year's team and whether Kris Dunn would have enough help to get to the NCAA tournament.
That was a valid concern, considering the struggles the Friars have had of late. And they likely wouldn't have been in position to get a tourney bid if Bentil had not turned into a scoring machine.
The sophomore big man went from averaging 6.4 points in 2014-15 to 21.2 points this season. There's probably a lesson to be learned if Bentil returns next season and folks start questioning whether he'll have enough help: Don't underestimate the player development of Ed Cooley and his staff.
Most Underrated Player: Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall
The Pirates have quietly emerged as one of the best teams in the Big East with a talented roster that most teams will want to avoid in the NCAA tournament. But for all that skill, there's just not a lot of buzz. And it's surprising, considering the season Isaiah Whitehead is having.
Whitehead is averaging 17.9 points and 4.9 assists, and he's the centerpiece of a turnaround that has finally come in Kevin Willard's sixth season at Seton Hall, likely saving his job. This is the first year the Pirates have finished with a winning record in conference play under Willard. That's probably why no one seemed to be paying attention until lately, but Whitehead and the Pirates have the ability to get everyone's attention here in a few weeks.
All-American Athletic Conference
- G Nic Moore, SMU
- G Quenton DeCosey, Temple
- G Shaquille Harrison, Tulsa
- G Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
- F Dedric Lawson, Memphis
- G James Woodard, Tulsa
- G Rob Gray Jr., Houston
- F Daniel Hamilton, Connecticut
- F Shonn Miller, Connecticut
- F Jordan Tolbert, SMU
Player of the Year: Nic Moore, SMU
Coach of the Year: Larry Brown, SMU
Freshman of the Year: Dedric Lawson, Memphis
Transfer of the Year: Jordan Tolbert, SMU
Most Improved Player: Ben Moore, SMU
Most Underrated Player: Gary Clark, Cincinnati
- G Cat Barber, N.C. State
- G Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
- G Damion Lee, Louisville
- G Grayson Allen, Duke
- F Brice Johnson, North Carolina
- G Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame
- G Sheldon McClellan, Miami
- G Brandon Ingram, Duke
- F Anthony Gill, Virginia
- F Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
Player of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Coach of the Year: Jim Larranaga, Miami
Freshman of the Year: Brandon Ingram, Duke
Transfer of the Year: Damion Lee, Louisville
Most Improved Player: Michael Gbinije, Syracuse
Most Underrated Player: Devin Thomas, Wake Forest
- G Kris Dunn, Providence
- G Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall
- G Josh Hart, Villanova
- F Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
- F Ben Bentil, Providence
- G Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton
- G Edmond Sumner, Xavier
- F Kelan Martin, Butler
- F Henry Ellenson, Marquette
- F Daniel Ochefu, Villanova
Player of the Year: Josh Hart, Villanova
Coach of the Year: Chris Mack, Xavier
Freshman of the Year: Henry Ellenson, Marquette
Transfer of the Year: Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton
Most Improved Player: Ben Bentil, Providence
Most Underrated Player: Kelan Martin, Butler
- G Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
- G Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
- F Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
- F Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
- C A.J. Hammons, Purdue
- G Melo Trimble, Maryland
- G Bryn Forbes, Michigan State
- G Peter Jok, Iowa
- F Troy Williams, Indiana
- C Diamond Stone, Maryland
Player of the Year: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Coach of the Year: Greg Gard, Wisconsin
Freshman of the Year: Diamond Stone, Maryland
Transfer of the Year: Andrew White III, Nebraska
Most Improved Player: Peter Jok, Iowa
Most Underrated Player: Malcolm Hill, Illinois
- G Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
- G Jaysean Paige, West Virginia
- G Frank Mason III, Kansas
- F Perry Ellis, Kansas
- F Georges Niang, Iowa State
- G Isaiah Taylor, Texas
- G Monte Morris, Iowa State
- G Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma
- F Taurean Prince, Baylor
- F Devin Williams, West Virginia
Player of the Year: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas
Freshman of the Year: Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
Transfer of the Year: Deonte Burton, Iowa State
Most Improved Player: Prince Ibeh, Texas
Most Underrated Player: Toddrick Gotcher, Texas Tech
- G Gary Payton II, Oregon State
- F Dillon Brooks, Oregon
- F Jaylen Brown, California
- F Ryan Anderson, Arizona
- F Jakob Poeltl, Utah
- G Tyrone Wallace, California
- G Andrew Andrews, Washington
- F Josh Scott, Colorado
- F Chris Boucher, Oregon
- F Ivan Rabb, California
Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl, Utah
Coach of the Year: Dana Altman, Oregon
Freshman of the Year: Jaylen Brown, California
Transfer of the Year: Ryan Anderson, Arizona
Most Improved Player: Rosco Allen, Stanford
Most Underrated Player: Gabe York, Arizona
- G Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
- G Jamal Murray, Kentucky
- G Jalen Jones, Texas A&M
- F Ben Simmons, LSU
- C Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
- G Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt
- G Stefan Moody, Ole Miss
- G Danuel House, Texas A&M
- G Kevin Punter, Tennessee
- F Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
Player of the Year: Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Coach of the Year: Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M
Freshman of the Year: Ben Simmons, LSU
Transfer of the Year: Kareem Canty, Auburn
Most Improved Player (tie): Retin Obasohan, Alabama; Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
Most Underrated Player: Michael Carrera, South Carolina
- G Jack Gibbs, Davidson
- G Charles Cooke, Dayton
- G Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure
- G Melvin Johnson, Virginia Commonwealth
- F DeAndre' Bembry, Saint Joseph's
- F Dyshawn Pierre, Dayton
- F Hassan Martin, Rhode Island
- F Isaiah Miles, Saint Joseph's
- F Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington
- F Terry Allen, Richmond
Player of the Year: DeAndre' Bembry, Saint Joseph's
Coach of the Year: Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph's
Freshman of the Year: Joseph Chartouny, Fordham
Transfer of the Year: Charles Cooke, Dayton
Most Improved Player: Jack Gibbs, Davidson
Most Underrated Player: Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure
- G Josh Adams, Wyoming
- G Elijah Brown, New Mexico
- G Marvelle Harris, Fresno State
- F Winston Shepard, San Diego State
- F James Webb III, Boise State
- G Marqueze Coleman, Nevada
- G Patrick McCaw, UNLV
- G Jeremy Hemsley, San Diego State
- G Antwan Scott, Colorado State
- F Tim Williams, New Mexico
Player of the Year: Josh Adams, Wyoming
Coach of the Year: Eric Musselman, Nevada
Freshman of the Year: Jeremy Hemsley, San Diego State
Transfer of the Year: Elijah Brown, New Mexico
Most Improved Player: Antwan Scott, Colorado State
Most Underrated Player: Skylar Spencer, San Diego State
All-West Coast Conference
- G Kyle Collinsworth, BYU
- G Emmett Naar, St. Mary's
- G Jared Brownridge, Santa Clara
- F Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
- F Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
- G Devin Watson, San Francisco
- G Chase Fischer, BYU
- G Joe Rahon, St. Mary's
- F Stacy Davis, Pepperdine
- F Dane Pineau, St. Mary's
Player of the Year: Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
Coach of the Year: Randy Bennett, St. Mary's
Freshman of the Year: Nick Emery, BYU
Transfer of the Year: Joe Rahon, Saint Mary's
Most Improved Player: Calvin Hermanson, Saint Mary's
Most Underrated Player: Chase Fischer, BYU
- G Kay Felder, Oakland
- G Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
- G Justin Robinson, Monmouth
- F Jameel Warney, Stony Brook
- C Joel Bolomboy, Weber State
- G Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin
- G A.J. English, Iona
- G Ron Baker, Wichita State
- F Alec Peters, Valparaiso
- F Pascal Siakam, New Mexico State
Player of the Year: Kay Felder, Oakland
Coach of the Year: King Rice, Monmouth
Freshman of the Year: Mike Daum, South Dakota State
Transfer of the Year: Nick Faust, Long Beach State
Most Improved Player: Henry Caruso, Princeton
Most Underrated Player: Dallas Moore, North Florida
Advanced statistics courtesy of KenPom.com.
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