Bleacher Report's 2018-19 College Basketball All-American Teams
Duke's Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett have been battling each other to become the No. 1 pick in the 2019 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 David Kenyon 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.
Maybe one of the five first-team All-Americans will surprise you, and we'll leave you to uncover that later. The no-brainer first-team selections, though, are Barrett, Williamson, Ja Morant and Grant Williams.
Among the 15 players who earned first-team, second-team or third-team honors, there are three from the ACC and three from the Big Ten, two each from the Big 12, SEC and West Coast and one each from the Big East, Ohio Valley and Summit League.
Read on for the full list of this year's college basketball All-Americans, presented in alphabetical order within each team.
Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
18.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 33.9% 3PT
There's a common thread that ties all five of our third-team All-Americans together: At one point (or many points) during the season, we've been forced to wonder if their respective teams would be any good without them.
In Jarrett Culver's case, it wasn't until midway through the season that someone (Davide Moretti) finally started helping him shoulder the offensive load. Texas Tech's defense has been phenomenal all year long—Culver is a big part of that—but there was a time when it felt like the Red Raiders wouldn't be able to score 30 points in a game without the outstanding sophomore shooting guard.
Had he not lost his shooting touch during Big 12 play (24.7 percent from three-point range), Culver would have been a much stronger candidate for the first team. He has been indispensable for a squad we weren't expecting much from in the preseason but which may now be a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Mike Daum, South Dakota State
25.3 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 36.8% 3PT
Mike Daum—aka The Dauminator—got to 3,000 career points in late February, cementing his legacy as the greatest college basketball player most people have only gotten a chance to see a couple of times. A team might not draft this 6'9" forward in June, but he's going to have a long career of playing professional basketball somewhere.
Daum is a career 41 percent three-point shooter and 84.8 percent free-throw shooter who has averaged more than 12 rebounds per 40 minutes with the Jackrabbits. Level of competition in the Summit League be damned, those are "Kevin Durant's one year at Texas" numbers, and we're talking about four-year averages for Daum.
Carsen Edwards, Purdue
23.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 34.1% 3PT
Purdue lost four seniors from last year's starting lineup, leading to a preseason of the national media wondering what the Boilermakers would be bringing to the table aside from Carsen Edwards.
Lo and behold, Edwards became one of the most unstoppable scorers in the country and has carried Purdue to a share of first place in the most loaded conference since the 2010-11 Big East.
Edwards hit a wall in February, shooting 12-of-61 (19.7 percent) from three-point range. Similar to Culver, he would've had one heck of a case for first-team AA if he had made it through the whole season playing as well as he did in November and December. But we can't fault either one for running out of gas during their respective gauntlets of conference play.
Dedric Lawson, Kansas
19.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 36.0% 3PT
Dedric Lawson is just about the only Jayhawk who both lived up to the hype and didn't have an extended absence from the team due to injury or personal reasons. Quentin Grimes and Charlie Moore were nowhere close to what we were expecting, and Udoka Azubuike, Lagerald Vick and Marcus Garrett each missed at least six games.
But that one constant force of a stretch 5 was enough for Kansas to win 23 games and darn near extend The Streak to 15 years.
It was a down year for Kansas, but it could have been an unmitigated disaster if not for Lawson.
Cassius Winston, Michigan State
19.0 PPG, 7.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 41.3% 3PT
Similar to Lawson at Kansas, Cassius Winston seems to be the only thing holding together Michigan State at this point. The Spartans have lost Josh Langford, Nick Ward and Kyle Ahrens to injury, but this point guard extraordinaire is still out there dropping dimes to backups and running one of the most efficient offenses in the nation.
Without question, Winston's magnum opus was the 27-point, eight-assist performance in the road win over Michigan. He either scored or assisted on 15 field goals and made 13 free throws. There are entire teams who are lucky to amass those numbers against that Wolverines defense.
Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga
16.6 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.1 BPG, 1.7 APG, 1.2 SPG
Brandon Clarke is college basketball's most noteworthy transfer since...well, since Gonzaga added Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Mathews and Johnathan Williams two years ago. It's hard to believe this phenom was wasting his time at San Jose State for two seasons.
In terms of overall value added, Clarke might be the best player in the country not named Zion Williamson. At any rate, he entered the WCC tournament in second place behind Williamson in player efficiency rating, win shares per 40 minutes and box plus/minus, according to Sports Reference.
Clarke has scored in double figures in every game, has 11 double-doubles and has blocked at least four shots on 13 occasions. He doesn't even average 28 minutes per game, but he is everywhere. And he is efficient whenever he is on the court. If forced to choose between Gonzaga's two-headed frontcourt monster, Clarke would be our choice over Rui Hachimura.
Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
20.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 46.7% 3PT
Can one guy win Breakout Player of the Year in two consecutive seasons? Because Rui Hachimura is a great candidate for such an honor.
He barely spoke English or got on the floor as a freshman in 2016-17, but he became an indispensable sixth man as a sophomore before blossoming into a National Player of the Year candidate as a junior. His athleticism was always self-evident, and Hachimura's ability to harness it has been a sight to behold.
Like Clarke, he has scored in double figures in every game. He has improved drastically as a passer, and his mid-range game might be the best in the nation. And while he doesn't shoot threes often (one attempt per game), he makes nearly half of them.
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
17.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.1 SPG
Not since Shaquille O'Neal has a player this good been this bad at free throws. (By no means am I saying Ethan Happ is as good as O'Neal, so put your pitchforks away.)
Happ dominates in a lot of ways, averaging a double-double while racking up an impeccable amount of assists for a center. If he maintains his current numbers through the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, he'll join Ben Simmons as the only players since 1992 to average 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists per game for a season.
Happ is also a huge asset on defense. Heck, his defense might be more valuable than his offense.
But when there are so many quality candidates, it's hard to name someone a first-team All-American with an Achilles' heel this blatant. Even after making 13 of 20 free throws in his first two games in March, Happ is still under 47 percent for the season.
Markus Howard, Marquette
25.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 41.6% 3PT
Similar to Carsen Edwards at Purdue, Markus Howard is often a one-man show for Marquette. He does get a fair amount of help from Sam and Joey Hauser, but he scores slightly more than those brothers combined.
But Howard is one All-American team better than Edwards because he scores much more efficiently, shooting nearly 42 percent from distance and better than 90 percent from the free-throw line.
In fact, Howard is just the third player in the past 27 seasons to shoot at least 40 and 90 percent, respectively, while averaging at least six attempts of each per game. The others were JJ Redick and Jodie Meeks, so that's impressive company.
Howard has scored at least 30 points nine times this season, including one 53-point performance and two other 45s.
De'Andre Hunter, Virginia
15.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 47.3% 3PT
Per usual, Virginia's style of play undersells how valuable its star players are. Not only does the pace of play minimize the per-game and per-40 statistics, but the way the Cavaliers defend—forcing tough shots, contesting without fouling and boxing out for rebounds rather than racking up steals and blocks—also keeps guys off the various national leaderboards.
But there's no question that De'Andre Hunter's impact on both ends of the floor is among the best in the nation. He's an efficient shooter who rarely commits turnovers and who passes quite well for a 6'7" wing-forward. And on defense, he can match up with (and shut down) just about any guard or forward you throw at him.
1st-Team All-American: RJ Barrett, Duke
2018-19 Stats: 23.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 4.2 APG
Zion Williamson has so broken our perception of what is normal that RJ Barrett has felt overrated at times.
In terms of efficiency, the two Blue Devils have been on different planets. Barrett's three-point (31.5 percent) and free-throw stroke (66.0 percent) leave something to be desired, and he occasionally has severe issues with turnovers.
But Barrett is a scorer, not a shooter. With ball-dominant guys who get double-teamed any time they set foot inside the three-point arc, you learn to live with a couple of turnovers and the occasional off-balance, barely-grazes-the-rim wild shot. And that's because you know they can take over a game at a moment's notice.
Barrett's biggest problem at Duke is one that has never been an issue for this program in the past: poor teamwide three-point shooting. Alex O'Connell has come on strong in recent weeks and might be the X-factor that saves the Blue Devils' season. But at 38.4 percent, he is the only regular shooting 34 percent or better.
In most years, Duke's offense spreads out defenses. When the Blue Devils have four shooters on the floor, drivers can get to the rim whenever they darn well please. But with no great shooters, lanes are clogged, and Barrett is constantly fighting traffic to get where he wants—especially with Williamson out. He might be sitting at 28 points and six assists per game right now if opposing defenses were forced to respect the drive-and-dish option.
In spite of that unexpected added degree of difficulty, he's going to be the first major-conference player to average at least 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game in at least 27 years and one of the only players from any league to pull it off since Penny Hardaway (22.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 6.4 APG) in 1992-93.
1st-Team All-American: Ja Morant, Murray State
2018-19 Stats: 24.6 PPG, 10.0 APG, 5.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 33.6% 3PT
When minor-conference studs are consistently putting up huge numbers, the instinctive response from most people is to question the level of competition. The line goes something like, 'Sure, he can do it against the Ohio Valley Conference, but how would he hold up in a real league?'
But Ja Morant dropped 38 points—plus nine rebounds and five assists—on Alabama in November and followed that up with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists at Auburn less than a month later. He put the country on notice early and has continued to dominate.
Morant has 19 double-doubles this season, two of which were also triple-doubles. In his top scoring performance of the year (40 points at SIU-Edwardsville), he shot 21-of-21 from the free-throw line and still finished that game with 11 assists and five steals.
It's incredible how much he is able to do, given the relative lack of talent around him. (All due respect to the other Racers, but we're talking about a program that has only had two players drafted in the past two decades.)
The one question that draft scouts had early in the season about this explosive 6'3" lead guard was his three-point stroke. Morant shot 30.7 percent from distance last year and was even worse with a mark of 28.6 percent during nonconference play in 2018-19. But he became a more consistent and more frequent shooter in league play, making 37.0 percent of his 92 attempts (5.1 per game) in 18 OVC contests.
He doesn't need to become Stephen Curry, but as long as he can continue forcing defenses to respect his perimeter, he'll remain almost unguardable.
1st-Team All-American: PJ Washington, Kentucky
2018-19 Stats: 14.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 BPG, 42.3% 3PT
Take it to the bank that PJ Washington will be the most argued against inclusion on our first team. He is deserving of this status, but when people start yelling about a guy getting overlooked, they're going to say whoever that is should be here instead of Washington.
However, Kentucky wouldn't have emerged as a serious threat to win the national championship if Washington hadn't broken out in a big way in the second half of the season.
As is often the case in Lexington, there were some hiccups early on as the Wildcats figured out their frontcourt rotation and who their best players were. Washington was a starter from day one, but he had to share both playing time and touches with Reid Travis, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards. Through 17 games, he was averaging just 11.8 points and 8.1 field-goal attempts per contest.
In mid-January, though, it became clear that Washington was the guy who could put this team on his back. He was named the KenPom.com game MVP in eight out of 10 games, averaging 21.0 points on 14.0 shots and 7.9 rebounds. He also made 52.8 percent of his three-point attempts.
And that wasn't just some meaningless stretch of games. That was when Kentucky was busy taking care of Tennessee, Kansas, Auburn and Florida, twice beating Mississippi State twice and losing just once against LSU in a game that ended on a controversial no-call. (Washington was the game MVP that day, even in defeat.)
In the span of that month, Washington took a borderline No. 4 seed and turned it into one of the top candidates for a No. 1 seed. His year-to-date numbers aren't as impressive as the other first-team guys, but his play against the toughest portion of Kentucky's schedule was arguably the most impressive thing about this season.
1st-Team All-American: Grant Williams, Tennessee
2018-19 Stats: 19.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 33.3% 3PT
It's kind of ridiculous that Grant Williams is the reigning SEC Player of the Year, yet the current version of Williams is undeniably better than last season's.
That isn't to say he wasn't good last year. He has just been that great this year.
In points, rebounds, assists and steals per game, he is at least 25 percent better. His field-goal percentage has also increased drastically from 47.3 to 56.9, and he is a much better three-point and free-throw shooter.
Second only to Zavier Simpson's running hook shot, Grant Williams' spin move is the most unstoppable play in the country.
When he gets the ball within 10 feet of the hoop, it's game-over. If you try to defend him with just one man, he's going to do his tornado thing and spin right past you to the bucket. If you foul him, he's going to make 83.3 percent of the ensuing free throws. And if you bring the double-team at him, somebody is going to be wide-open for one of the best out-of-the-post passers in the game today.
(Reminder: The foul portion of that equation is why we couldn't quite put Ethan Happ on our first team. He's a great passer with excellent post moves, but you can just foul him all day and probably win the game.)
And while this is apropos of nothing, Williams seems to be having more fun than anyone. Some great players make you question if they like their teammates or if they even like playing basketball, but Williams and Tennessee are cut from the same cloth as Frank Kaminsky and that Wisconsin Badgers team from a few years ago.
Should the Vols reach the Final Four, it's hard to imagine the magnitude of the moment becoming an issue.
1st-Team All-American: Zion Williamson, Duke
2018-19 Stats: 21.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, 1.8 BPG
If you want to argue that Zion Williamson shouldn't be the National Player of the Year because he missed a couple of weeks because of a knee injury, that's fine. You'd be wrong, but there are much worse takes to be had.
But if you want to argue that the injury should keep Williamson from being a first-team All-American, you're out of your mind.
On top of putting up outstanding numbers with astounding efficiency, Williamson did the impossible by getting casual sports fans to care about college basketball before March. Trae Young was able to get basketball fans interested in his portion of the regular season last year, but even people who would self-identify as primarily football or baseball fans were checking in for the occasional Duke game this year.
And up until the shoe exploded, they were not disappointed.
Thanks to a keen eye and an instinct for jumping passing lanes, Williamson seemed to have at least one breakaway dunk in every game. He's also generally good for a jaw-dropping block or two and a handful of nimble post moves that one wouldn't think possible for a man of his stature (6'7", 285 lbs).
If Williamson is healthy for the NCAA tournament, Duke is the favorite to win it all. If he doesn't play or is clearly hindered by the knee, Duke would be lucky to make it past the Sweet 16. That's how good and important he has been, and that's why NBA teams have been tanking in hopes of winning his services through the lottery.
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.