(AP Photo/Al Goldis)

NBCSports.com Postseason Awards: Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and All-Americans


PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

Hield was in the lead as the favorite for National Player of the Year from the moment he went for 46 points in that triple-overtime thriller against Kansas. Throw in Valentine’s injury issues in the middle of the season, and it’s understandable that folks considered Hield a lock for all 37 (roughly) National Player of the Years Awards that are given out every March.

And Hield never really slowed down. He had a brief, four or five game blip where he wasn’t shooting astronomical percentages, but he still finished the season averaging 25.1 points with shooting splits of 49.5/47.3/89.3. But Valentine threw this Michigan State team on his back, becoming the first player since assists became an official stat to average 19 points, seven boards and seven assists, and he’s doing it for a team that is arguably playing the best basketball of anyone in the country. It became too much to ignore.

So while Hield didn’t do anything that would have lost him the award, for us, the decision came down to this: If we were starting a college basketball team, who would we pick first, Denzel or Buddy? And the answer is Denzel, because he makes everyone on the floor with him better.

Kansas head coach Bill Self (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Kansas head coach Bill Self (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

COACH OF THE YEAR: Bill Self, Kansas

The bottom line is this: Bill Self, coaching a team that doesn’t have a projected first round pick in his starting lineup, won what KenPom rates as the best conference in the last 14 seasons by a full two games while putting together a profile that is strong enough to earn the Jayhawks the No. 1 overall seed even if they lose in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament by 50.

Dana Altman, Chris Mack, Tony Bennett, Greg Gard, Tom Crean, Bob Huggins, Tubby Smith, Buzz Williams, even Coach K and John Calipari belong in the conversation. Every one of those dudes has a really strong case for Coach of the Year. They’ve all done a fabulous job with their teams this season. But what Self has been able to accomplish with this roster is not something that can be overlooked.


  • Denzel Valentine, Michigan State (Player of the Year)
  • Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: There shouldn’t need to be much explanation here. Hield was the best player in the country for much of the season.
  • Tyler Ulis, Kentucky: Ulis emerged as the best point guard in college basketball by the end of the season as he recovered from an elbow injury and Kentucky made the change to play a lineup that would better space the floor. The diminutive floor general is the guy that controls that team, and the reason they now look like a national title contender.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia: Brogdon is one of the best defenders in the ACC and a guy that averaged 18.4 points while playing on the slowest team in the sport. He’s got the ability to go into star mode and take a game over at the same time as he is shutting down an opponent’s best player. How many guys in the country can do that?
  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah: The best big man in college basketball. Poeltl is a shot-blocking presence at the rim that has developed the ability to have offense run through him. There’s also an argument to make that he is the most improved player in college basketball.


  • Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: Ferrell put Indiana on his back this season, running as the engine of an offense that carried the Hoosiers to the outright Big Ten title by two full games. He was unbelievable.
  • Grayson Allen, Duke: Duke has struggled with injuries, a lack of depth and a lack of a point guard, but Allen’s ability to beat defenders one-on-one has been the biggest reason the Blue Devils are still relevant.
  • Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa: The Hawkeyes struggled down the stretch, but the reason they were a top ten team for much of the Big Ten season was due to the play of Uthoff, who is one of the most unique talents in the country.
  • Georges Niang, Iowa State: Niang is one of those players whose been so consistently great for so long that his talent is probably under-appreciated. He eas a first-team all-american on two of our ballots.
  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina: Johnson burst onto the scene in December when Kennedy Meeks went out with a knee issue and hasn’t slowed down since.


  • Kay Felder, Oakland: We’re going with Felder over Kris Dunn because Felder (24.3 points, 9.3 assists) had an unbelievable year while Dunn and the Friars totally faded down the stretch. And this is coming from Dunn’s biggest fan.
  • Jamal Murray, Kentucky: Murray went from being a questionable decision-maker that was inconsistent and out of position to arguably the most dangerous shooter in the country.
  • Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart is such a key piece for Villanova. It’s not just what he can do offensively, his versatility on the defensive end allows them to hide Kris Jenkins and his rebounding plays a major role in Villanova’s ability to go small.
  • Perry Ellis, Kansas: Has there ever been a more under-appreciated great player than Perry Ellis?
  • Ben Simmons, LSU: Simmons’ numbers were out of this world. He team’s performance wasn’t, and it still felt underwhelming.

Four-star 2019 forward flips commitment from Big Ten to SEC program

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Four-star 2019 forward Tray Jackson flipped his verbal commitment from Minnesota to Missouri on Friday night.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decommitment from the Golden Gophers on Twitter and then announced a commitment to Missouri a little more than two hours later. Regarded as the No. 96 overall prospect in the Class of 2019, Jackson reclassified from the Class of 2018 and saw his recruitment blossom in the summer.

While decommitting happens in basketball recruiting semi-frequently, flipping a commitment to a new school within a matter of hours is a very uncommon practice. Typically associated with football recruiting, Jackson’s switch is a big deal for Missouri.

His pledge gives head coach Cuonzo Martin an athletic and versatile frontcourt player with upside as Jackson could play multiple positions. The Tigers missed on E.J. Liddell, but Jackson is a nice prize to land instead. Missouri now has two four-star prospects in the Class of 2019 as Jackson joins four-star guard Mario McKinney.

Minnesota needs to replenish its recruiting efforts as they are now without a commitment in the Class of 2019. With head coach Richard Pitino facing pressure to win this season, this isn’t good for the future of Golden Gopher basketball either.

West Virginia lands five-star 2019 center Oscar Tshiebwe

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West Virginia pulled in a major commitment on Saturday as five-star 2019 center Oscar Tshiebwe pledged to the Mountaineers.

A late-developing, high-motor big man who ascended into a national recruit this summer, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Tshiebwe represents an important grab for West Virginia. Tshiebwe represents a potential replacement for Sagaba Konate in the middle as the Mountaineers beat some pretty impressive programs to land him. That includes Baylor and Kentucky.

Tshiebwe is quick off the floor and a good athlete, as he could be a very dangerous player in Bob Huggins’ system because of his brand of basketball. Regarded as the No. 21 overall prospect in the Rivals Class of 2019 national rankings, Tshiebwe also took official visits to Baylor, Illinois and Kentucky during the recruiting process.

Tshiebwe joins three-star guard Miles McBride in West Virginia’s 2019 recruiting haul.

VIDEO: Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey easily clears three teammates on ridiculous dunk

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Marshall freshman Taevion Kinsey put down one of the preseason’s best dunks on Friday night. With the Thundering Herd hosting Herd Madness, the 6-foot-5 Kinsey put down a ridiculous dunk that easily cleared three teammates.

Most dunkers use an arm on the shoulder during the dunk. Kinsey didn’t need any sort of help as he glided over his teammates.

Kinsey is going to be a dunker to keep an eye on in the future. His teammates certainly think highly of his dunking ability, as most of them projected Kinsey to win the dunk contest before the event even started.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson impresses Duke fans in Cameron Indoor debut, downplays link to trial

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Duke freshman Zion Williamson made some ridiculous dunks look effortless in his Cameron Indoor Stadium debut on Friday night. As part of Duke’s annual “Countdown to Craziness” event, Williamson took part in a scrimmage against his Blue Devil teammates.

That included Williamson going head-to-head with fellow freshman R.J. Barrett in a scrimmage. And more absurd dunks in the warm up line.

But besides for the on-court action, Williamson was also asked about his family’s link to the college basketball corruption trial. On Tuesday, a transcript of calls was read to the New York courtroom that allegedly included Williamson’s stepfather on FBI tapes asking for money and a job from Kansas men’s basketball coaches. The tapes were not admitted as evidence.

“Honestly, I’ve paid no attention to it,” Williamson said to reporters, including ESPN’s David M. Hale, about the trial. “I’m just a college kid, out here having fun with my classmates, looking forward to stuff like Countdown and our first game. You only get one chance at the college experience, and I want to enjoy it.”

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski also downplayed Williamson’s link to the trial, pointing to the NCAA eligibility center’s “exhaustive” process to vette incoming recruits.

“They have an eligibility center now that these kids and their parents go through — and they go through everything,” Krzyzewski said. “We feel very comfortable with him and all our freshmen.”

We’ll likely hear more about Williamson, Kansas and this trial, as time goes on. Williamson also might legitimately not know much about this if it was his stepfather on the call. For now, Williamson is making a huge impression with Duke fans every time he steps foot on the floor.

(H/t: Lawrence Davis III and Duke men’s basketball)

Louisville lands commitment from Irish basketball star

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For the sixth time since Chris Mack took over the Louisville program, the new Cardinal head coach has landed a commitment from a member of the Class of 2019.

On Friday, it was Aidon Igiehon, a top 50 recruit, that announced he will be playing his college basketball for the Cardinals.

He followed in the footsteps of fellow four-stars Samuell Williamson, David Johnson, Jaelyn Withers and Josh nickelberry, not to mention three-star forward Quinn Slazinski.

And all this has happened over the course of the last five months.

Mack got the job in April, after he finished his final run with a Xavier program that he had been in charge of for the last nine years. That came just six months after Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino was fired for a series of scandals that had enveloped the university in the last few years, not the least of which was their involvement with the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.

That may be the most impressive part of all of this.

No one really knows what is going to happen with Louisville and the NCAA as a result of the way that they were able to entice Brian Bowen on campus. What we do know is that while Louisville was on probation due to the fact that a member of their coaching staff was paying for strippers and sex workers for players and recruits, an agreement was made for Adidas to pay the family of Brian Bowen $100,000 to get him to enroll at Louisville. Bowen’s father said under oath that, in addition to that money, he also accepted at least one $1,300 payment from former Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson.

Those are NCAA violations committed while the program was on probation.

And those are the kind of things that the NCAA does not take lightly.

Everyone involved with the reason that Louisville was on probation and that actually committed those violations has moved on, but that hasn’t stopped speculation that the Cardinals could be facing even more punishment from the NCAA, which is what has made this recruiting job by Mack so impressive.

He’s filled up an entire class of prospects before he’s even coached a game for the program all while this nonsense is swirling around his program.

Was there ever any doubt that the Cardinals hired the right guy?