March Madness 2017: The All-Tournament Team After the National Championship
Before we can put a bow on North Carolina's 2017 national championship and start looking ahead to who the top teams will be in 2018, we need to take a moment to remember all the players who had a great run through the past three weeks by naming our first and second teams of the NCAA tournament.
Some players were great for two or three games—shout out to Caleb Swanigan, Johnathan Motley, Nigel Hayes and Derrick Walton Jr.—but only players from teams that reached the Elite Eight were eligible for consideration. Moreover, only players from schools that reached the Final Four were welcome on our first team, since they both played and won more games than the others.
Even with those guidelines, it was tough to decide who belonged.
Heck, Joel Berry II was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament for his 22 points in the national championship game, but he didn't make the cut for either team after playing poorly (albeit, due to an ankle injury) in four of his first five games. And choosing just one of Oregon's two studs for the first team was one of the most gut-wrenching decisions of this entire process.
Here are the 10 players we'll remember the most when looking back on the 2017 NCAA tournament.
Frank Mason III, Kansas
Tournament Stats: 22.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 4.5 RPG, 37.5% 3PT
No one else showed up for the Elite Eight game against Oregon, but even in earlier-than-anticipated defeat, Frank Mason III remained a shining star. The leader of the Jayhawks scored at least 20 points in each tournament game and had a 4.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. Next year won't be the same without the presumed Wooden Award winner.
De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Tournament Stats: 21.3 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.8 SPG
Truth be told, De'Aaron Fox didn't play that well for most of the tournament. Excluding the game against UCLA, he shot 42.9 percent from the field and had more turnovers (nine) than assists (seven). But those duds have already been forgotten behind the memory of his dropping 39 points on Lonzo Ball and the Bruins. In a draft class loaded with quality point guards, that one performance may have bumped him to the top of everyone's wish list.
Jordan Bell, Oregon
Tournament Stats: 12.6 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 3.0 BPG
It was a tough call between Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey for the last spot on the first team, but we opted for the guy who shot better than 60 percent from three-point range over the one who blocked what felt like 60 shots between the Elite Eight and Final Four. Bell has been a stud for the past three seasons, but he shined brightest once Chris Boucher went down for the count.
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
Tournament Stats: 21.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 41.4% 3PT
Similar to Bell's experience at Oregon, Trevon Bluiett found another gear after Edmond Sumner's injury left him as the undisputed leader of the Musketeers. Bluiett couldn't buy a bucket in the Elite Eight against Gonzaga, but it was because he averaged 25 points in the first three contests that Xavier was able to pull off the trifecta of upsets to get to that stage.
Zach Collins, Gonzaga
Tournament Stats: 9.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.0 BPG
As it had been all season, foul trouble was a major problem for Zach Collins in the NCAA tournament. But when he was able to play, he was almost unstoppable. The big man had his first career double-double in the Final Four against South Carolina, including a career-high six blocks. Now we wait to see whether he goes to the NBA or comes back for another year to make Gonzaga one of the favorites to reach the 2018 title game.
First Team: Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga
Tournament Stats: 16.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 4.3 APG
By the Numbers: It took a little while for Nigel Williams-Goss to hit his stride, but he was sensational in the Elite Eight and Final Four, scoring 23 points in each. He averaged more than 37 minutes per game, despite rolling his surgically repaired ankle twice in the final weekend.
Shining Moment: Barely five minutes after the first rolled ankle in the Final Four that would have sidelined most of us for a few weeks—NWG didn't even come out of the game—he drove the lane and finished through contact from both Maik Kotsar and Justin McKie. After the bucket that put Gonzaga up by 13, Williams-Goss turned to the stands and busted out one of the best flexes since John Wall's days at Kentucky.
What's Next: Williams-Goss turns 23 in September, which puts him in a situation almost identical to what Clemson's Jaron Blossomgame faced last season. Even if he comes back and has another great year, age is likely going to keep him from becoming a first-round pick in 2018. Our guess is that he does return, but he's going to be one of the guys who waits until the last possible hour before withdrawing from the draft pool.
First Team: Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Tournament Stats: 19.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.5 SPG
By the Numbers: The long ball failed Justin Jackson in the national championship game, as he missed all nine of his three-point attempts against Gonzaga. But he still managed to reach his quota, scoring between 15 and 24 points in each of the six tournament games. Some nights required more shots than others, but his consistent production was a foundation upon which the Tar Heels were able to build a championship.
Shining Moment: Late in the first half of the Final Four win over Oregon, Jackson drove to the baseline with the shot clock winding down. With no time to make a pass or even square his feet for a jumper, he tossed up what equated to a 17-foot layup/floater while falling out of bounds. It hit nothing but net. He had spent the entire season perfecting his floater in the lane, but this was the shot that confirmed Jackson cannot be stopped when he's feeling it.
What's Next: Jackson might wait a day or two to officially declare, but we all know where this is headed. After opening his career with two consecutive seasons of subpar three-point shooting, the junior wing-forward made more than 100 triples in the process of becoming a likely lottery pick in June. Assuming he does leave, Jackson will be a tough piece for the Tar Heels to replace.
First Team: Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
Tournament Stats: 23.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 40.6% 3PT
By the Numbers: There wasn't anything quite as wild as his 44 points and 21 rebounds in the four-overtime game back in early February vs. Alabama, but Thornwell filled up the box score every night. Even while suffering from the flu in the Final Four against Gonzaga, he managed to rack up 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.
Shining Moment: For Thornwell, it wasn't so much a shining moment as it was a prolonged exposure to the national spotlight. He has always been a great defender, but he became arguably the best in the nation this season while also blossoming into an efficient scorer and rebounder. He scored at least 24 points in each of South Carolina's first four tourney games and became the easiest player to root for in March.
What's Next: Most of the stars of the tournament have a decision to make about the NBA draft, but this senior is automatically in the pool and has likely already started preparing for the various workouts he'll have over the next two months. Prior to the tournament, Thornwell wasn't a guy on many radars, but his performance these past few weeks has shown his potential as an immediate-impact 3-and-D guy who could be worth a late first-round pick.
First Team: Tyler Dorsey, Oregon
Tournament Stats: 23.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 60.6% 3PT
By the Numbers: Tyler Dorsey was hotter than the sun. In the second-round win over Rhode Island, he scored 27 points on just 10 field-goal attempts. Two games later against Kansas, he had another 27 points on a still-ridiculous 13 shots. Dorsey had been a good shooter throughout his first two seasons at Oregon, but he channeled some combination of Steph Curry and Kris Jenkins for this run to the Final Four.
Shining Moment: The iconic moment of Kemba Walker's run in 2011 was his step-back game-winner against Pittsburgh's Gary McGhee in the Big East tournament. Though Dorsey's man didn't go tumbling to the floor, he had a pull-up winner of his own over Rhode Island's Kuran Iverson in the second round. Only six points were scored in the final two minutes of that game: Dorsey's game-tying and game-winning triples.
What's Next: If the rankings at DraftExpress are a legitimate indication of where NBA teams are leaning, Dorsey should have an easy decision to return to school. He is rated as the 51st-best sophomore and doesn't appear in the overall top 100. But if tournament success has as much bearing on draft stock as we want to believe, few did more to improve their standing than Mr. March. Whether Dorsey stays or goes will likely be influenced by the decisions of teammates Jordan Bell and Dillon Brooks.
First Team: Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina
Tournament Stats: 12.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 1.5 SPG
By the Numbers: Offensive rebounding was the calling card of Kennedy Meeks' four years at North Carolina. It remained his biggest strength in the NCAA tournament, as he averaged 4.5 offensive rebounds per game. But how about the defense this big man played? Meeks recorded at least one block and at least one steal in each of UNC's six contests.
Shining Moment: Meeks had a pair of game-winning moments in the two most important games of his career. In the Final Four win over Oregon, it was his offensive rebound of a Joel Berry II missed free throw that sealed the deal. And in the championship game against Gonzaga, Meeks rejected a Nigel Williams-Goss shot with 17 seconds remaining and stole a Przemek Karnowski pass with nine seconds to go.
What's Next: The senior probably won't hear his name called at the NBA draft in June, but he profiles as the type of guy who could impress in summer league and play his way into a contract. Minor injuries somewhat derailed what could have been a great college career, but his work ethic on the glass and on defense should get him a shot somewhere.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.