NBCSPORTS.COM MIDSEASON AWARDS AND ALL-AMERICANS

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PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kris Dunn, Providence

Last night’s ugly performance aside, Dunn is the engine that makes Providence run. And while a seven turnover performance in a home loss to a mediocre Marquette team isn’t exactly the best way to reinforce the notion that you deserve this award over a dude that scored 46 points in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, we’re sticking to our guns here. We have a longer explanation about Dunn’s candidacy in our Player of the Year Power Rankings that were posted yesterday.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Lon Kruger, Oklahoma

This decision was actually much tougher than I expected it to be, as Providence head coach Ed Cooley and SMU’s duo of Larry Brown and Tim Jankovich earned some serious consideration. But we decided to go with Kruger because he’s actually got a team that looks like it might be able to dethrone Kansas for the Big 12 regular season crown. In no way am I actually going to make that prediction at this point, but the Sooners took Kansas to triple overtime in Phog Allen on Monday, a building that Bill Self has lost in nine times during his 12-plus seasons as the head coach of the Jayhawks. They are deservedly ranked No. 2 in the country and, honestly, they may actually be the nation’s best team. That’s enough to give Kruger our vote midway through the year.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Ben Simmons, LSU

Is there really any argument here? He’s the best player in college basketball and, if he can lead LSU to an SEC title — something that seems possible after they won at Vanderbilt and beat Kentucky at home by 18 points — he might just force us to name him the National Player of the Year as well.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Ben Bentil, Providence

While Dunn is the engine that makes Providence go, the reason the Friars are now a Big East contender and a team that is ranked in the top ten is because Dunn’s supporting cast is far better than anyone expected. We expected Bentil to have a good year. We did not expect him to be averaging 19.4 points and 7.9 boards. We did not expect him to be the best big man on the floor when he faced a Marquette team with two NBA players on their front line. We did not expect him to be a first-team all-Big East player with a legitimate argument for being considered for All-American honors.

NBCSPORTS.COM FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICANS

  • Kris Dunn, Providence: He’s the National Player of the Year. So yeah.
  • Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: If Dunn wasn’t the our Player of the Year right now, it would be Hield. He’s averaging 26.3 points and shooting 50 percent from three while attempting 7.2 threes per game on a team that came one missed Khadeem Lattin free throw away from beating Kansas in Lawrence. If you feel the need to argue this, throw your cell phone into a garbage disposal and flip the light switch.
  • Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: Valentine’s injury happened to coincide with Dunn and Hield putting together statement performances in nationally televised games. But if you really wanted to understand just how valuable and talented Valentine is, just look at how Michigan State has played since he went out. They are no where near the same team.
  • Ben Simmons, LSU: As we wrote earlier, the only reason Simmons isn’t truly being considered a favorite to be named Player of the Year right now is because his team hasn’t had the success needed to make that a realistic possibility. That looks like it’s going to change in the near future.
  • Georges Niang, Iowa State: The Cyclones are currently winning games right now because they are borderline unguardable on the offensive end of the floor, and Niang is the key to that attack. One thing to remember here: Iowa State lost by four at Oklahoma, but Niang actually outplayed Hield in that game.

NBCSPORTS.COM SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICANS

Melo Trimble, Maryland
Grayson Allen, Duke
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Jakob Poeltl, Utah

NBCSPORTS.COM THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICANS

Nic Moore, SMU
Cat Barber, N.C. State
Kay Felder, Oakland
Perry Ellis, Kansas
Brice Johnson, North Carolina