March Madness 2018: The All-Tournament Team Through Elite 8
Kansas guard Malik Newman had 28 points in the second round against Seton Hall and a career-high 32 in the Elite Eight win over Duke, making him the most obvious of the five choices for the current All-Tournament first team.
It has been a strange year for this list. Though overnight sensations like Stephen Curry and Kemba Walker only come around every once in a while, there are usually a bunch of outstanding candidates for the All-Tournament team by the time the Final Four is set. Aside from Newman, though, the most noteworthy individual from the first four rounds of play is Loyola-Chicago's team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, who isn't eligible for this exercise.
Rather, most of the guys who were putting up monster numbers bowed out in the Sweet 16, and we're only interested in players from teams who advanced at least to the Elite Eight.
Before we dive into the all-tourney teams, let's take a moment to remember the guys who basically carried their teams to the second weekend but no further.
Here are the honorable mentions:
Oshae Brissett, Syracuse: 16.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.3 BPG
Jevon Carter, West Virginia: 20.3 PPG, 7.0 APG, 5.0 SPG, 3.7 RPG
Tyler Davis, Texas A&M: 18.7 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.0 BPG
Gabe DeVoe, Clemson: 25.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.3 SPG
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky: 20.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 6.0 APG, 2.3 SPG
Cody Martin, Nevada: 18.7 PPG, 6.0 APG, 5.3 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.7 SPG
Barry Brown Jr., Kansas State
With Dean Wade only playing eight minutes due to injury, it was up to Brown to shoulder the load for the Wildcats. He rose to the challenge with 18 points in each of Kansas State's first two games. He ended up averaging 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals during the No. 9 seed's improbable run to the Elite Eight.
Ben Richardson, Loyola-Chicago
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Loyola-Chicago's run to the Final Four is that it has done this without anyone averaging more than 12.3 points per game. But Richardson did have the best individual performance of the bunch, draining 6-of-7 three-point attempts in a 23-point explosion against Kansas State. He didn't score much in the first three contests, but he has amassed 18 assists with just three turnovers committed.
Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech
For as much of a one-man show as Keenan Evans sometimes was for Texas Tech this season, Smith still managed to play one heck of a second fiddle as a freshman. He only averaged 12.0 points per game during the tournament, but he filled up the stat sheet with 7.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a combined 2.0 blocks and steals. It's not far off from what he did all season, and it's a nice glimpse into what lies ahead for this star.
Devonte' Graham, Kansas
Graham was outstanding in the opener against Penn—29 points, six assists, six rebounds, three steals—but hasn't quite been first-team material since. Over the last three games, he's averaging 11.7 points and fewer than two assists per turnover and shooting 29.4 percent from three-point range. He has been a stud all season, though, and he's still leading an offense that has been solid.
Mikal Bridges, Villanova
Similar to Graham, with the exception of one game, Bridges hasn't been quite as efficient or lethal as the All-American candidate who repeatedly wowed us during the regular season. But there's still (at least) one more game left for him to supplant someone currently on the first team. If he plays that game like he played against Alabama—23 points on 5-of-8 three-point shooting—it would even be enough to get into the conversation for Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
First Team: Marvin Bagley III, Duke
Tournament Average: 20.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.3 APG
By the Numbers: Marvin Bagley III scored 22 points in each of his first three tournament games, shooting 72.2 percent from the field in the process. Unfortunately for Duke, he was only able to put up 16 points in the Elite Eight loss to Kansas. Perhaps that's because he inexplicably only attempted one shot in the final 14 minutes of the game, despite playing 44 of 45 minutes and not committing a single foul.
Shining Moment: In the Sweet 16 win over Syracuse, Bagley helped Duke beat the 2-3 zone with not one, not two, but three alley-oop dunks. The most impressive of the trio was the second one, which he received from Grayson Allen. Bagley went over the top of both Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu, and even withstood a hip check from Chukwu to finish with an emphasis.
What's Next: Unless Bagley is about to make the most shocking decision ever to return for another season, next up for this potential No. 1 overall draft pick is hiring an agent and getting ready for the NBA.
First Team: Jalen Brunson, Villanova
Tournament Average: 17.5 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 42.1% 3PT
By the Numbers: Jalen Brunson had a tough shooting day in the Elite Eight, but up until that point, his otherworldly efficiency was on full display. In the first three games, he scored 55 points on just 31 field-goal attempts, shooting 53.3 percent from three and 62.5 percent inside the arc. And he handled Press Virginia beautifully, scoring a game-high 27 points with just three turnovers.
Shining Moment: After trailing by double digits for most of the game, Texas Tech was back to within six with two minutes to go. One more defensive stop and things would have gotten very interesting. Villanova called a timeout and drew up an isolation play for Brunson, who backed his way into the post against Keenan Evans before hitting a layup with two seconds left on the shot clock. It was a demoralizing dagger for the Red Raiders but business as usual for this elite point guard.
What's Next: It's time for a point guard battle that we have been dying to see between Brunson (No. 3) and Devonte' Graham (No. 8), the only lead guards in the top 10 of our preseason player rankings. It's just too bad we can't wait until after the Final Four to cast ballots for National Player of the Year. This head-to-head battle with KU's leader would be a deciding factor for many voters.
First Team: Keenan Evans, Texas Tech
Tournament Average: 18.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.5 RPG
By the Numbers: All season, Keenan Evans was a relentless driver. Either he got to the rim or got to the free-throw line just about whenever he wanted. Despite battling a toe injury, that didn't change in the tournament. He averaged 8.3 two-point attempts and 8.0 free-throw attempts per game. Better yet, he made 87.5 percent of those free-throw attempts, including a perfect 10-of-10 in the comeback win in the first round.
Shining Moment: After a slow start in the first half against Stephen F. Austin, Evans took over late. Texas Tech's star had eight points in the final five minutes, two of which stood out in a big way. Up by four with the shot clock winding down, Evans split two defenders on the perimeter and acrobatically finished at the rim in between two others. The Lumberjacks did not score again after that deflating possession.
What's Next: The senior will be hoping to hear his name called at the NBA draft in a few months, but not before undergoing surgery to repair a broken toe. He originally suffered the injury in a mid-February game against Baylor, which makes his numbers in March only that much more impressive. In particular, it's ridiculous that he continued to seek out enough contact to average 9.1 free-throw attempts in his final seven games.
First Team: Charles Matthews, Michigan
Tournament Average: 16.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.3 APG
By the Numbers: Charles Matthews has resurfaced as an interior scoring weapon. He shot just 7-of-17 (41.2 percent) from inside the arc in Michigan's four Big Ten tournament games, but he is 23-of-35 (65.7 percent) through four NCAA tournament games. Both in the first round against Montana (20 points) and the Elite Eight against Florida State (17 points), Matthews was just about the only Wolverine to show up on offense.
Shining Moment: Early in the second half against Houston, Matthews made the defense look silly. He drove from one elbow to the opposite low block and stopped on a dime while two defenders attempted to block what they assumed would be a layup attempt. Instead, he coolly spun and drained a fadeaway jumper.
What's Next: Matthews and Michigan have to contend with Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four. In this battle between slow-paced, defensive-minded teams, Matthews could be more important than ever. His ability to both rebound and score in the paint as a 6'6" guard should pay dividends against a relatively small Ramblers bunch.
First Team: Malik Newman, Kansas
Tournament Average: 21.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 44.8% 3PT
By the Numbers: Out of seemingly nowhere, Malik Newman has become both an ice-veined three-point shooter and a driver who loves to seek out contact. Before the second-round game against Seton Hall, Newman was a career 39.2 percent shooter from the perimeter who had never attempted more than seven free throws in a single game. He took and made eight freebies against the Pirates and was 11-of-12 from the stripe against Duke, all while shooting 13-of-27 (48.1 percent) from three-point range in his last three games.
Shining Moment: A moment can last five minutes, right? If so, there's no question Newman's big moment was the overtime period against Duke in the Elite Eight. Jayhawks not named Newman were held scoreless for those five minutes, so it's a good thing he scored 13 of his career-high 32 points during that time to carry the team into the Final Four. Newman was already a virtual lock for a spot on our first team before that OT, but that cemented him as the unofficial most outstanding player thus far.
What's Next: Newman will lead Kansas into a battle of No. 1 seeds against Villanova. It should be an entertaining head-to-head showdown between Newman and Mikal Bridges. Winner gets the 2017-18 title of best player whose first name is a jumble of "a milk."
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.