Bleacher Report's 2017-18 College Basketball All-American Teams
Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III have been battling to become the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, but there's plenty of room for both freshman phenoms on Bleacher Report's men's college basketball All-American first team.
These teams were selected by C.J. Moore and myself. Each first-team vote was worth three points, each second-team vote was worth two and each third-team vote was worth one. But no math was necessary for determining the first team, as we were in 100 percent agreement on the top five guys.
Maybe one of the five will surprise you, and we'll leave you to uncover that later. The no-brainer first-team selections, though, are Ayton, Bagley, Jalen Brunson and Trae Young. Any sites that don't have that quartet on their first teams either overthought it or are just trolling for clicks, because those four players have been the clear top candidates for the Wooden Award for months.
Among the 15 players who earned first-team, second-team or third-team honors, there were four players from the Big 12, three each from the Big East and Big Ten, two from the ACC and one each from the Pac-12, West Coast Conference and...the Summit League.
Read on for the full list of this year's college basketball All-Americans.
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Everyone in this industry had Happ on one of their preseason All-American teams, but he was a forgotten star while Wisconsin sputtered to its worst season in two decades. The Badger had quite the year, though, becoming both a better scorer and a better passer. Assuming he returns for a senior year, he should be back atop those preseason player rankings.
Aaron Holiday, UCLA
Speaking of players on disappointing teams who will be preseason All-Americans if they stick around for one more year, how about the job Holiday did for a Bruins team that lost all four of its leading scorers from last season? The former sixth man scored in double figures in every game but one, leading UCLA in points, assists and steals. If the Bruins make the NCAA tournament, this is one guard who could take over a few games.
Marcus Foster, Creighton
It was quite the two-season redemption story for Foster following his sophomore slump and subsequent exit from Kansas State. He was good last year, but he was great as a senior, averaging 20 points per game while shooting 42.6 percent from three-point range. Creighton's season could have fallen apart when it lost Martin Krampelj to a knee injury, but Foster picked up the slack, averaging over 22 points after Krampelj went out.
Gary Clark, Cincinnati
Clark's entire career has flown below the national radar, but good luck finding someone who is more valuable on both ends of the floor. Per Sports Reference, Clark leads the nation in win shares per 40 minutes, and it's not close. He's also No. 2 in total box plus/minus. He's the main reason the Bearcats are likely going to get their best NCAA tournament seed since landing on the No. 1 line in 2002.
Nick King, Middle Tennessee
King's transformation from scarcely used player at Memphis and Alabama to unstoppable scoring machine at Middle Tennessee has been fun to watch. The Blue Raiders have consistently been a sexy sleeper over the past seven years, but they have never had a one-man wrecking crew like this.
Three Different Martins (Kelan, Caleb and Cody)
Kelan Martin saved Butler from what should have been a down year. The Bulldogs lost their head coach in June when Chris Holtmann took the Ohio State job, this after they already lost four seniors from last season's primary seven-man rotation. But Martin put the team on his back, averaging better than 21 points per game.
Meanwhile, twin brothers Caleb and Cody Martin helped Nevada complete its transformation into a transfer-laden, mid-major powerhouse. The former members of North Carolina State have a combined line of 33.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 2.9 steals and 2.0 blocks with the Wolf Pack.
Keenan Evans, Texas Tech
17.4 PPG, 3.1 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 31.5% 3PT
Oftentimes, we discover a player's true value when he either struggles or misses games. This year in college basketball, the foremost example of this is Keenan Evans.
Evans couldn't buy a bucket in mid-January against Texas and Iowa State, resulting in a pair of anemic offensive efforts in disappointing losses. And because of a toe injury suffered against Baylor on Feb. 17, he played sparingly and scored a grand total of 12 points during a four-game losing streak for the Red Raiders.
When he's healthy and playing well, though, Texas Tech is almost unbeatable. Prior to the four-game losing skid, TTU had a seven-game winning streak in which Evans averaged 24.6 points. There are a lot of "Kemba Walker candidates" heading into March, and he's near the top of the list.
Jevon Carter, West Virginia
17.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 4.8 RPG, 2.9 SPG, 38.3% 3PT
Though he doesn't always light up the scoreboard, Jevon Carter sure has a knack for rising to the occasion. In the big wins over Virginia and Oklahoma early in the season, he averaged 20.0 points, 8.5 assists, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals. He had a combined 49 points, nine assists and six steals in two games against Texas Tech. And he went for 26 and seven against Kentucky in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
Most of the time, though, he was the ultimate nuisance for opposing guards. Carter finished the regular season with more steals (89) than turnovers committed (84), averaging nearly three steals per game and roughly 2.4 assists per turnover. And he was much more assertive on offense than in his previous three seasons, resulting in 17.0 points per game.
Carter embodied Press Virginia during his four years in Morgantown, becoming one of just nine players in the past 26 seasons to accumulate 1,500 points, 500 assists and 300 steals in a career.
Miles Bridges, Michigan State
16.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 36.9% 3PT
It wasn't quite the dominant campaign that was expected from the preseason national player of the year, but Miles Bridges was still the MVP of arguably the best team in the country.
Bridges battled an ankle injury early in the season, which is partially to blame for numbers that—aside from free-throw percentage and assist rate—were a little bit worse than last year. He also had to battle teammates for touches, as the addition of Jaren Jackson Jr. and the improvement of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford resulted in a lower usage rate for Bridges.
Yet there were plenty of games where it became clear that he's one of the best in the country. There was a stretch of eight games from January into February in which Bridges averaged 20.4 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 46.3 percent from three-point range. This three-week run was capped off by the game-winning three in the huge game against Purdue.
Carsen Edwards, Purdue
18.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 41.2% 3PT
For the longest time, trying to decide on Purdue's MVP was almost impossible. Dakota Mathias was the early favorite. Eventually it became Vincent Edwards. At various points along the way, Isaac Haas was the obvious choice.
But when Carsen Edwards dropped a 40 burger on Illinois less than two weeks ago, the argument was settled. The only non-senior in the starting lineup has to be the one representing the Boilermakers on lists like these.
Edwards already had at least 21 points in 10 games, so it's not like he came out of nowhere to claim that spot. He has been outstanding all season long, and it's primarily because of his freshman-to-sophomore improvement that Purdue has somehow gotten better in spite of losing a first-team All-American (Caleb Swanigan) from last year's team.
Mike Daum, South Dakota State
23.9 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 42.0% 3PT
Unless you count Saint Mary's (Jock Landale) as a minor-conference team, Mike Daum is the lone representative from the less publicized leagues on our All-American teams.
He's an obvious choice, though, right?
Daum enters the Summit League tournament averaging a double-double. He scored at least 30 points in 11 of 31 regular-season games, including key battles with Wichita State, Colorado and Buffalo. (Even Trae Young didn't reach 30 that many times.) Daum recorded a double-double in 12 of his final 14 games.
And here's the best fun fact about Daum: The 6'9", 245-pound forward made at least one three-pointer in every single game this season.
The level of competition in the Summit League is somewhat responsible for his outlandish numbers, but this guy has been crushing it for the past three seasons. He's already at 2,161 career points and should finish his career in the top 10 on the all-time scoring list if he comes back for one more healthy season.
Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
19.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.7 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 35.8% 3PT
In a season full of positive surprises, Keita Bates-Diop might have been the biggest one.
No one expected much from him or Ohio State this year. He missed all but nine games last year due to a stress fracture in his leg. Moreover, he only averaged 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in those nine games. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes fired head coach Thad Matta and lost three key players in Marc Loving, Trevor Thompson and JaQuan Lyle. A 20-loss campaign wouldn't have been shocking.
Instead, KBD came back much better than ever, carrying the team for most of the season. From Dec. 2 through Jan. 14, he was named the KenPom.com MVP of 11 consecutive games.
Devonte' Graham, Kansas
17.6 PPG, 7.2 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 42.3% 3PT
From both a talent and depth perspective, this has to be the worst roster Kansas has had during its 14-year Big 12 streak. But what a luxury it has been to have Devonte' Graham run the show for the full 40 minutes just about every night.
Graham has combined Frank Mason III's leadership at the point with Perry Ellis-like reliability. He has scored in double figures in 22 of his last 23 games and has recorded at least four assists in every game this season.
You'd think all those minutes would be taking a toll on him, but if anything, he has been saving his best for last. Graham went for 23 and 26 in recent wins over Oklahoma and Texas Tech, respectively, and he had 11 assists on Senior Night.
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
19.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 43.4% 3PT
Speaking of guys who produce at a high level night in and night out, Trevon Bluiett has Xavier in position for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. This after he carried the Musketeers to the Elite Eight last year and helped guide them to a No. 2 seed the year before that.
If this man's career had been played in a Kansas or Kentucky jersey, we might be arguing about whether he's one of the five best college basketball players of the past quarter-century. Instead, Bluiett has been criminally under-appreciated for the past four years.
The biggest hurdle has been a lack of huge performances. Until the beginning of last month, he had only reached 30 points in a game once in his career. But Bluiett scored 23 points in five of seven games in February, including 31- and 37-point performances. Maybe after another deep tournament run, more people will finally realize how great he has been.
Mikal Bridges, Villanova
17.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 42.0% 3PT
Who would have guessed before the season that Mikal Bridges would clearly be the better of college basketball's two Mi. Bridges?
This Bridges was highly efficient in his first two seasons, but he was a tertiary player whose primary job was to play defense and take advantage when the defense forgot about him. We knew to expect a sharp uptick in volume with Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins out of the picture, but no one knew how it would impact his efficiency.
As it turns out, he's just as impressive when he's a focal point of the offense. His two-point percentage dipped considerably, but he's still making nearly 60 percent of those shots, as well as a lot of threes and free throws (84.5 percent). Bridges is still defending at an elite level, has improved slightly as a rebounder and has somehow drastically improved his turnover rate (15.1 last year; 9.6 this year) in spite of a significant increase in usage rate (15.3 last year; 23.2 this year).
Jalen Brunson gets most of the credit for Villanova's success, but the Wildcats would be lost without Bridges.
Luke Maye, North Carolina
17.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG. 2.4 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 46.3% 3PT
Luke Maye was woefully underrated before the season began, got a little overrated after an incredible first 10 games and has come full circle back to underrated, even as a second-team All-American.
Here's the full list of major-conference players in the past 25 years who have averaged at least 17 and 10 while making 40 three-pointers: Kevin Durant, Glenn Robinson, Quentin Richardson, Eddie Griffin, Jamine Peterson and Maye. That's darn fine company for a guy who started one game in the previous two seasons.
And keep in mind, Maye is basically the only big man the Tar Heels have. Freshmen Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks and Brandon Huffman have combined for just 11.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game this season, and they combined to play 11 minutes in a recent game against Miami. It's Maye or bust for North Carolina, but that approach has resulted in 22 wins and a likely No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
First-Team All-American: Deandre Ayton, Arizona
2017-18 Stats: 19.9 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 APG
Whether or not Deandre Ayton got paid any money to go to Arizona, he has been arguably the most dominant force in college basketball.
Ayton has 21 double-doubles this season, which ranks in the top five in the nation. And we're not talking about games where a guy barely reached those thresholds. Ayton put up at least 16 points and 12 rebounds 13 times, and he had five games with at least 23 points and 16 rebounds. Just for good measure, seven of those double-doubles came with at least three blocked shots.
Perhaps even more impressive than the numbers is the fact that he has been the one rock for this Arizona team.
Rawle Alkins missed 12 games due to injuries. Allonzo Trier was ineligible for two games. Even head coach Sean Miller was absent for one game. Dusan Ristic and Parker Jackson-Cartwright both went through cold spells. And with a bench that has been downright disappointing all season long, playing at anything less than 100 percent meant more of the burden fell on Ayton's shoulders.
Yet the Wildcats went 24-7, won an outright Pac-12 title and should be headed for no worse than a No. 4 seed on Selection Sunday. Not too shabby for a freshman who led a team through a season loaded with off-court distractions.
First-Team All-American: Marvin Bagley III, Duke
2017-18 Stats: 20.7 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.0 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 36.0% 3PT
Marvin Bagley III missed four games last month with a knee sprain. As luck would have it, this was the exact catalyst Duke needed for figuring things out on defense, switching to the zone on a full-time basis. The Blue Devils went 4-0 in those games, allowing 58.5 points per game and 88.3 points per 100 possessions. Because they looked so good without him, Bagley's case for national player of the year lost some of its legitimacy, fair or not.
But make no mistake about it: This guy is incredible.
Bagley averaged 27.3 points and 15.0 rebounds in the PK80 back in November, quickly cementing himself as a legitimate Wooden Award candidate. A month later, he went for 32 and 21 in a come-from-behind win over Florida State. He has scored at least 30 in six games this season, including 30 points and 14 rebounds against Virginia.
Per Sports Reference, he became one of just six players in the past eight seasons to score 30 in a game against Virginia, and he's the only one during that same time period to score at least 25 points in a double-double against the Cavaliers.
Bagley has 19 double-doubles in 27 games, and the only time he failed to score in double figures was the Champions Classic game against Michigan State in which he played just 10 minutes due to an eye injury. Barring another inadvertent eye-poking, he should be the most unstoppable player in the NCAA tournament.
First-Team All-American: Jalen Brunson, Villanova
2017-18 Stats: 19.0 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.0 RPG, 40.5% 3PT
There is no more beautiful sight in college basketball this season than a Jalen Brunson post move.
Last week, Villanova was having a whale of a time trying to put points on the board against Seton Hall. With four minutes remaining in regulation, neither team had even reached 45 points—largely because Brunson couldn't get anything going. He was 1-of-9 from the field with two points, no rebounds and no assists. Through those first 36 minutes, it was looking like the worst game of his career.
That's when he decided to take over with his old-man game.
Including overtime, he made five buckets in the paint in the final nine minutes. Even when he was heavily guarded, Brunson was able to find or create open space with a spin move, drop step, pivot foot and fadeaway arsenal that is so lethal it should be illegal for a 6'2" guard.
While he didn't get credited with any assists in this game, his penetration led to a lot of open looks for teammates. The problem is they either missed those shots or dished it elsewhere for an even better look while the defense was scrambling. If "hockey assists" were a category, Brunson would probably lead the nation in it, as he gets things rolling for an offense with impeccable ball movement.
Brunson has scored in double figures in every contest this season, and he has only committed more than three turnovers in a game once. Even his off nights are almost always productive, which is the sign of a strong candidate for national player of the year.
First-Team All-American: Jock Landale, Saint Mary's
2017-18 Stats: 21.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 BPG
For the second straight season, a player from the West Coast Conference is a first-team All-American.
Last year, it was Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss. This year, it's Jock Landale from Saint Mary's.
Landale was last year's breakout sensation. Just like current second-team All-American Luke Maye, Landale only started one game in his first two collegiate seasons prior to morphing into a double-double machine. He averaged 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game as a junior, more than doubling his marks from the previous year in both categories.
Not only was he a breakout star, but he was one of the most valuable players in the nation, finishing at No. 2 in the KenPom.com Player of the Year standings.
Somehow, he has gotten even better, and by a considerable amount. His scoring has increased by nearly five points per game, as he has scored more than 30 on seven occasions—something he only did once in his first three seasons. And he has been great against the Gaels' toughest competition, averaging 23.9 points and 11.3 rebounds in seven games against Tier A or Tier B opponents.
Whether he's at No. 1 or No. 2 in this year's KenPom POY standings depends on when you look, but he and Trae Young have been in a two-horse race atop that list for a while now.
First-Team All-American: Trae Young, Oklahoma
2017-18 Stats: 27.5 PPG, 8.9 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 36.1% 3PT
The final six weeks of the season didn't go anywhere near as well as the first two months, which has likely knocked Trae Young out of first place in the race for the Wooden Award. But there's no question he did enough in those first 16 games—and has still been good enough since then—to be a unanimous first-team All-American.
If you're wondering which of Young's games were the most impressive, we ranked his 10 best performances of the season. A word of advice to TCU fans: Don't click on that link. He crushed the Horned Frogs twice.
Because of all those ridiculous single-game outputs, Young's full-season numbers are unlike anything we've ever seen. No player in at least 25 years has averaged 25 points and 7.5 assists per game, let alone 27.5 and 8.9. Even if we reduce his averages by about 20 percent to 22.4 points and 7.2 assists, the only other player in the past 20 years to hit both of those marks in the same season was Oakland's Kay Felder two years ago.
But you should know all this. You've been beaten over the head with factoids about Young's unprecedented season for the past several months. You either love him or hate him because of it.
Either way, you'll never forget him.
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.