This was a weird year for college basketball.
For much of the first three months of the season, Trae Young looked like a shoe-in to be college basketball’s National Player of the Year.
Then, in the final six weeks of the season, Young found himself second in the running for Big 12 Player of the Year.
For a while thereafter, Jalen Brunson looked like he would be the favorite to win the award, but he also had a rough end of the season. The end result is that there really isn’t a favorite to win the award at this point.
But there does, however, appear to be a pretty clear-cut group for First-Team All-America, all of whom have a real case to be the National Player of the Year.
Here is that team, and the 15 players that we will mark down as college basketball’s best in 2017-18.
Who did we miss?
FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICA
JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova: 19.0 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.0 rpg, 40.5% 3PT
Brunson is the NBC Sports National Player of the Year, so it only makes sense that the leads our crop of first-team all-americans. Brunson is the most important player on a national title contender, the most valuable piece on any team with a real shot of cutting down the nets on that final Monday of the season. His efficiency numbers are simply incredible as opposed to historically-unprecedented thanks to a late-season swoon, but he is still the one guy in the country that I want with the ball in his hands and the game on the line.
TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: 27.5 ppg, 8.9 apg, 3.9 rpg
Young led the nation in scoring and assists, becoming the first player in college basketball history to do so. At one point this season, Oklahoma was a top ten team. But that success was somewhat short-lived. By the middle of conference play, the secret was out on how to slow Young and the Sooners down, and Lon Kruger just didn’t have any answers. As far as I’m concerned, you cannot be considered for National Player of the Year if you are not on a title contender. You can, however, be a first-team all-american.
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas: 17.6 ppg, 7.2 apg, 4.0 rpg, 42.3% 3PT
Graham, not Young, won the Big 12 Player of the Year award in 2018, and it was well-deserved. He was the anchor for a Kansas team that won their 14th straight Big 12 title despite having so many question marks. He made big shots, he was their best perimeter defender and he carried the Jayhawks for long stretches as a senior. Maybe we under-appreciated just how good a backcourt of Graham and Frank Mason III was a year ago.
MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke: 20.7 ppg, 11.2 rpg
Bagley is a freak of nature. He’s one of college basketball’s best rebounders. He’s nearly unstoppable when he gets the ball in the paint. He has the kind of explosive athleticism most mere mortals only dream about, and he’s doing all of that for the team that I think is the best in college basketball. He might be the favorite to be National Player of the Year if Duke didn’t have long stretches where they seemed to function better without him.
DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona: 19.9 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 1.6 apg
Ayton or Bagley? That’s something that is going to be discussed by far too many people in basketball circles over the course of the next three months, whether we’re talking about college basketball postseason awards or where he is going to get picked in the NBA Draft. Ayton is the more physically-imposing of the two and probably the better defender, but his Arizona team has not had the same level of success as Duke.
SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICA
KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: 17.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, 3.1 rpg
Evans saw his numbers take a hit in the final five games of the regular season as he tried to battle through turf toe to win the Red Raiders a Big 12 title. It did not go as planned. If he gets back to 100 percent for the NCAA tournament, he would be my pick to go on a run the way that Shabazz Napier or Kemba Walker did before him.
TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier: 19.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 43.4% 3PT
Bluiett is the big-shot maker, the leading scorer and the face of the program that became the first team not named Villanova to win a Big East title since the new league was created. There aren’t three players in the country — if any — that I would want taking the final shot of a game.
GARY CLARK, Cincinnati: 12.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.3 bpg
His numbers are middling, but the impact he has on Cincinnati defensively is not. And for a team who wins because they are having an all-time great season stopping the ball, that is hard to overlook.
KEITA BATES-DIOP, Ohio State: 19.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg
Bates-Diop has been a revelation for the Buckeyes this season, as he’s finally developed into what the recruiting pundits thought he would be when he was rated as a five-star recruit coming out of high school. You have to think that if he was healthy all of last season, Chris Holtmann would still be at Butler because Thad Matta would still be employed.
JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s: 21.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.1 apg
Landale is the best low-post scorer in the country. He’s a throw-back, with the kind of low-post moves that would make Kevin McHale jealous. Here’s to hoping that the Selection Committee makes the decision to put the Gaels in the NCAA tournament on Sunday.
THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICA
JEVON CARTER, West Virginia: 17.0 ppg, 6.5 apg, 4.8 rpg, 2.9 spg
He is college basketball’s best on-ball defender and the engine that allow Press Virginia to run the way that Bob Huggins wants it to run. He’s had a sensational, underrated career in Morgantown.
AARON HOLIDAY, UCLA: 20.1 ppg, 5.8 apg, 43.9% 3PT
Holiday really hasn’t gotten all that much attention this season because the Bruins have not been relevant since LaVar Ball stopped feuding with Donald Trump, but you’ll have a hard time convincing me that there has been a better point guard in college basketball outside of the Big 12 this season.
CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue: 18.5 ppg, 3.0 apg, 41.2% 3PT
Edwards has been absolutely fantastic this season, Generously listed at 6-foot-1, he’s turned into one of the most dangerous scorers in the Big Ten and a huge piece of what Matt Painter wants to do offensively.
MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State: 16.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 36.9% 3PT
Bridges has not lived up to the hype that he had coming into the season. That does not, however, mean that he has had a bad season. We all just typecast him as a player that he wasn’t. Bridges is at his best when tasked with playing a role, not when he needs to be a go-to guy. It’s what will make him last in the NBA for 12 years.
LUKE MAYE, North Carolina: 17.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, 46.3% 3PT
College basketball’s most improved player. Who had Luke Maye, not Joel Berry II, being the obvious pick as UNC’s all-american this season?