Postseason Awards: 2018-19 All-American teams, Player of the Year, Coach of the Year

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NBC SPORTS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Zion Williamson, Duke

The 2018-19 season was The Year of Zion.

Zion Williamson, the 6-foot-7, 280 pound behemoth that took the college basketball world by storm, wasn’t considered to be the best player in college basketball heading into the season — his teammate R.J. Barrett was — but it didn’t take long for us all to realize the mistake that we made.

It’s impossible to overstate the impact that Williamson had on the sport this season. He dictated the way every media outlet in the country covered college basketball. His presence on the floor completely and totally changes the way that this Duke team operates. Duke is 23-2 when Williamson plays more than 35 seconds this season — one loss came to the current No. 1 team in the country on a neutral floor by two points, and the other came without two other starters — and 3-3 when he sits. He is a game-changing presence on the defensive end and an unstoppable force when he gets the rim in his sights.

He also became the biggest story in college basketball for not playing.

Williamson has not seen the floor since he blew out a shoe on February 20th, spraining his right knee and setting off a firestorm of takes on whether or not he should suit up and finish out the season. He is, mercifully, expected back for the ACC and NCAA tournaments, which means that this Duke team — which is the best team in the country when Williamson plays — will have a chance to cut down the nets in Minneapolis.

And college basketball is better for it.

(John Weast/Getty Images)

NBC SPORTS CO-COACHES OF THE YEAR: Chris Beard, Texas Tech, and Matt Painter, Purdue

It’s hard for me to differentiate these two because they more or less did the exact same thing.

Let’s start with Beard. He took a Texas Tech team that lost six of their top eight players from last year’s team and was picked seventh in the Big 12 to a share of the Big 12 title. He helped turned Jarrett Culver into a top ten pick and a roster of guys that weren’t really chased by the bluebloods into conference champs. He is responsible, along with Kansas State’s Bruce Weber, for ending the 14 year Kansas run at the top of the conference.

On paper, Painter had a little more coming back this season. We all knew how good Carsen Edwards was going to be, but he was surrounded by a lot of whatever. No one knew what to expect of a team that lost four senior starters, especially playing in a league as tough as the Big Ten with two national title contenders at the top. But Painter found a way to get the job done, winning a share of the regular season title along with Michigan State.

Both of these coaches deserve all the credit in the world for the job they did with their teams this season.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICA

ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke (21.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 2.2 spg, 1.8 bpg, 68.3% FG)

He was a shoe-in for National Player of the Year. The only concern was whether or not he had played enough games to qualify.

CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State (19.0 ppg, 7.6 apg, 47.1/41.3/82.6)

Winston was sensational this season. Despite playing the point on a team that lost Josh Langford for the season and Nick Ward for the stretch run, Winston posted the best season of his career while leading the Spartans to a share of Big Ten title that also happened to include a sweep of in-state rival Michigan.

JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech (18.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.3 spg)

I’m not sure there was a more improved player in the country this season than Culver, who took over the lead guard from for a Red Raider team that won a share of the Big 12 title. If it wasn’t for a three week swoon in the middle of January, there wouldn’t even be a conversation here. This would be the consensus.

R.J. BARRETT, Duke (23.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.2 apg)

Barrett entered the season as the guy thought to be the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and he’s lived up to expectations. Since 1992, only five players have averaged 23-7-4 and only one of them — Anfernee Hardaway — did it for a “high-major”. Memphis, at the time, was playing in the Great Midwest Conference. Barrett did this in the ACC.

DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia (15.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 47.3% 3PT)

His numbers are somewhat diluted by the fact that he plays on a slow-paced Virginia team that prides themselves on sharing the wealth, but I’d make the argument that he is the second-best player in the country this season behind Zion. He can defend all five positions — and he has in different games this year — and he knocks down 47.3 percent of his threes while being borderline unguardable off the bounce.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICA

MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette (25.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.9 rpg, 41.6% 3PT)

Marquette’s late-season swoon is the reason that Howard is on the second team instead of the first team. The Golden Eagles lost four straight down the stretch of the season, and it was Howard’s propensity to turn the rock over that did the most damange.

JA MORANT, Murray State (24.6 ppg, 10.0 apg, 5.5 rpg)

Ja did the world a favor and qualified for the NCAA tournament, giving us all the gift of watching Morant try to put 50 on whatever power conference team the Racers draw.

CAM JOHNSON, North Carolina (16.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 46.9% 3PT)

As good as Coby White has been, Luke Maye was last year and Nassir Little will be in the future, I think that Johnson has been UNC’s best — and most consistent — player all year long. White is up and down, Little is down and up and Maye isn’t what he was last season. Johnson has been their rock.

GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee (19.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.3 apg)

Williams has been the rock that has held together a Tennessee team that, surprisingly enough, finished tied for second in the SEC despite spending much of the season ranked in the top three. He’s a throwback that old school basketball folks will love.

BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga (16.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.2 bpg)

Clarke is the best defensive player in college basketball this season. He also posted a PER (player efficiency rating) of 37.4. The only player since 2009 to ever post a number that his was … Zion Williamson at 42.3. That tells you the company that Clarke keeps.

(Zach Wajsgras/The Daily Progress via AP)

THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICA

COBY WHITE, North Carolina (16.3 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.2 rpg)

White can be streaky, but he was very good for much of the year playing the most important position in UNC’s offensive attack.

CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue (23.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg)

Edwards’ efficiency was down this season, but the attention that he drew made it easier for his teammates to do what they did. Let’s not overthink this: Edwards put up those numbers on the Big Ten regular season champ.

TY JEROME, Virginia (13.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, 4.1 rpg, 42.6% 3PT)

Call me biased, call me whatever: I love Ty Jerome’s game and I never want him to leave college. He’s a killer that looks like you can copy his notes in physics class.

RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga (20.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg)

Like Edwards, let’s not overthink this. Hachimura is the leading scorer on the No. 1 team in the country. He’s an all-american.

DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas (19.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.8 ap)

The shame of the way this season played out is that we never got to see Lawson at his best, running Self’s high-low offense with Udoka Azubuike at the rim.

Texas A&M beats Auburn 83-78, completes season sweep

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Wade Taylor IV had 22 points and seven assists, Julius Marble scored a career-high 20 points and Texas A&M beat Auburn 83-78 on Tuesday night to complete a regular-season sweep.

The last of 11 lead changes in the final eight minutes came after Texas A&M made 7 of 9 shots, with three straight makes from Marble, to build a 78-74 lead with 2:09 left.

Auburn guard Wendell Green Jr. was short on a long 3-pointer and Tyrece Radford secured the defensive rebound before being fouled with 24.9 seconds left. Radford made two free throws to extend Texas A&M’s lead to 80-76. Green had a layup roll off the rim and Andersson Garcia went 1 of 2 from the line for a five-point lead before Auburn was short on another 3-pointer with 10.8 left.

Texas A&M was 31 of 39 from the free-throw line compared to 9 of 14 for Auburn.

Garcia added 11 points and Radford scored 10 for Texas A&M (17-7, 9-2 SEC), which also beat then-No. 15 Auburn 79-63 on Jan. 25. The Aggies are off to their best conference start since joining the SEC in 2012.

Green finished with 20 points and six assists for Auburn (17-7, 7-4). Johni Broome had 18 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late and Jaylin Williams and Allen Flanigan each scored 12 points.

Texas A&M plays at LSU on Saturday. Auburn, which has lost four of its last five games, hosts No. 3 Alabama on Saturday.

South Carolina’s Staley defends team after Auriemma comments

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina coach Dawn Staley strongly defended her top-ranked Gamecocks on Tuesday following critical comments by UConn coach Geno Auriemma two days earlier.

Auriemma said after the top-ranked Gamecocks’ 81-77 victory that Huskies guard/forward Lou Lopez Senechal had bruises on her body from the game.

“It’s just appalling what teams do her now,” he said. “It’s not basketball anymore. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not basketball.”

Staley fired back Tuesday on her radio call-in show, saying when her team has success, “we’re called something other than players that are locked in.”

“They play the right way,” she continued, “and approach it the right way whether they win or lose. We don’t denounce anybody’s play. They are always uplifting the game of women’s basketball and when we were getting our heads beat in by UConn for all those years, I said nothing.”

South Carolina’s victory Sunday was its fourth in the past five meetings between the schools, including the national championship game last April.

Staley’s South Carolina teams had been 0-7 against UConn before their recent run of success.

“We’ve been called so many things and I’m sick of it,” Staley said. “I’m sick of it because I coach some of the best human beings the game has ever had.”

South Carolina (23-0, 10-0) visits Auburn on Thursday night.

Forward Mawot Mag to miss rest of season for No. 24 Rutgers

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 01 Minnesota at Rutgers
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PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Junior forward Mawot Mag will miss the rest of the season for No. 24 Rutgers after tearing the ACL in his right knee.

Rutgers announced the injury Tuesday, hours before the Scarlet Knights were to play at No. 18 Indiana. Mag was hurt Saturday in the first half of a game against Michigan State, a 61-55 win.

Mag, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, started every game for Rutgers this season, averaging 7.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and a steal. His best performance came in an overtime win over Ohio State when he scored a career-high 15 points and added a late 3-pointer to give the Scarlet Knights breathing room in a 68-64 decision.

Aundre Hyatt, a junior who has been averaging 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds off the bench, is expected to replace Mag in the starting lineup.

“We’re going to miss Mawot greatly,” coach Steve Pikiell said. “He’s a high-energy player, a veteran presence and the ultimate glue-guy. He’s one of our best team defenders and one of our best offensive rebounders. There’s not a better person in our program.”

No. 9 Kansas blows lead, then holds off No. 5 Texas, 88-80

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Dajuan Harris Jr. was willing to acknowledge that Kansas was facing something rare when fifth-ranked and Big 12-leading Texas arrived at Allen Fieldhouse.

The defending national champs played like it.

Gradey Dick scored 21 points, Harris had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists, and the ninth-ranked Jayhawks held on after blowing a 14-point first-half lead to beat the Longhorns 88-80 and tighten the league race.

Kevin McCullar Jr. added 16 points, Joseph Yesufu scored 14 off the bench and KJ Adams finished with 10, helping the Jayhawks (19-5, 7-4) overcome an off night from Jalen Wilson. The league’s leading scorer at 21.5 points per game battled foul trouble and was held to just two, ending his streak of 25 straight double-figure games.

“We knew we had to come in here and get a win,” said Dick, who had the Jayhawks’ only two 3-pointers. “The big thing, just in preparation for the week, was coming out with energy. When we do that, we’re a scary team.”

The Jayhawks needed everyone’s help holding off the Longhorns’ Marcus Carr.

The Minnesota transfer, who had a game-high 29 points, kept answering Kansas baskets down the stretch. His 3-pointer got the Longhorns within 77-68 with 2:25 left, three free throws made it 78-71 with 1:31 to go, and his three-point play got the Longhorns (19-5, 8-3) within 86-80 with 23.5 seconds remaining.

Texas quickly fouled Dick at the other end, and his free throw with 18 seconds left helped to put the game away.

“It was as close to a must-win as you could have this early in the season to win the league,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “You go down three games with seven left, you’d have to win out and get a lot of help from others. Now, we still have as hard a schedule as everybody, but we can kind of control our own destiny where if we play well, we have a shot.”

Timmy Allen finished with 18 points for the Longhorns. Sir’Jabari Rice had 12 before fouling out.

“It was their night tonight in terms of what they got done,” Texas interim coach Rodney Terry said.

The Longhorns have made a habit of overcoming double-digit deficits: 18 down to beat TCU, 12 down to beat Texas Tech and 14 down to beat No. 12 Kansas State last Saturday in a game played just down the road.

So it wasn’t that surprising when Texas dug another 14-point hole Monday night.

Just like the Longhorns did in Manhattan, though, they began to rally. Texas shook off 10 first-half turnovers to get within 42-35 by the break, then kept coming in the second half. Hunter hit a 3-pointer, Carr added a couple of buckets and it was 43-all when Self called a timeout to slow Texas’ momentum.

Unlike the Horned Frogs, Red Raiders and Wildcats, the Jayhawks rose to the challenge.

McCullar’s three-point play while they were clinging to a 49-48 lead gave them a boost, and Dick added a couple of free throws. But it was back-to-back buckets by Harris, who is known more as a distributor than as a scorer, that pushed the lead to 58-50 with about 12 minutes to go.

Texas closed within 66-60 but, after the Jayhawks pulled down two offensive boards, Dick hit another 3-pointer. And when Yesufu bookended a couple of free throws by Harris, the lead had stretched to 75-62 with 3 minutes to go.

The Jayhawks were able to fend off Carr and the Longhorns from there.

“Give those guys credit. They came in and played at a very high level,” Terry said, “and we knew that would be the case.”

BANGED-UP BIRDS

The Jayhawks were missing several backups. Zack Clemence has a hurt knee, Bobby Pettiford Jr. is dealing with a hamstring injury and Zuby Ejiofor a foot injury. Kyle Cuffe Jr. (knee) and Cam Martin (shoulder) also were out.

“I thought the bench was great. As good as they’ve been all year,” Self said. “We had nine guys we could put in the game.”

BIG PICTURE

Texas has struggled to get off to good starts this season, and it seemed the energy the Longhorns expended climbing back into Monday night’s game was missing by the end. Carr tried to carry them but he needed more help.

Kansas got the production it needed from the bench. Yesufu provided the scoring pop but big man Ernest Udeh Jr. and guard MJ Rice, both seldom-used freshmen, also provided important minutes for the Jayhawks.

UP NEXT

Texas heads home after its Sunflower State swing to play West Virginia.

Kansas has a two-game trip next with Oklahoma on Saturday and Oklahoma State.

No. 19 Miami rolls past Duke 81-59, moves to 13-0 at home

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Miami guard Isaiah Wong pointed to the crowd, waving his arms, asking for noise, asking for the celebration to start.

The lead, at that point, was 3-0.

Didn’t matter. From start to finish, the Hurricanes were in total control — and got a rare rout over Duke.

Norchad Omier had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Jordan Miller added 16 points and No. 19 Miami never trailed on the way to a 81-59 win over Duke on Monday night.

Wooga Poplar scored 14 and Wong scored 11 for Miami (19-5, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference). The Hurricanes led by as many as 26 and improved to 13-0 at home.

“That was a great performance, from start to finish,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “There was a lot of energy. And all I can tell you is, everybody who came tonight’s game is invited back – because that’s the kind of environment that we’d love to have every night.”

Ryan Young and Dereck Lively II each scored 11 points for Duke (17-7, 8-5), which saw its three-game winning streak snapped. Jeremy Roach added 10 points for the Blue Devils, who were outrebounded 38-31 and committed 21 turnovers.

It was the second game this season where Duke never led, and the 22-point loss was its second-worst this season. The Blue Devils lost to N.C. State by 24 on Jan. 4.

“Congratulations to Miami. There’s a reason they haven’t lost here at home,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “They’re really good. They obviously had it clicking on all cylinders right away.”

It was the second-biggest Miami victory margin in the series between the schools, topped only by the Hurricanes’ 90-63 win over then-No. 1 Duke on Jan. 23, 2013. Miami also enjoyed huge edges in points off turnovers (23-9), second-chance points (24-9) and fast-break points (17-7).

And Miami got payback for a 68-66 loss at Duke earlier this season.

“We had something to prove,” Miller said. “They beat us last time. We were revved up for this game and we got it done.”

Duke fans started leaving with 4:24 left and Miami up by 26, the Hurricanes’ student section serenading them as they departed.

Miami ran out to a 13-1 lead and stretched it to 34-17 later in the first half, putting Duke in unfamiliar territory quickly. The Blue Devils had trailed by more than 15 in just two other games – by 29 to N.C. State, and by 19 to Purdue.

“When you have 21 turnovers, you can’t expect yourself to have a good game,” Lively said.

It was 40-26 at the half. When Miami opened the second half on a 9-0 run to build a 23-point lead, the outcome quickly became academic.

“The crowd fueled us to keep it going,” Larranaga said.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: Maybe it’s too difficult to quickly reset after a rivalry game. This is the third consecutive year the Blue Devils have lost the game immediately following their first matchup of the season with North Carolina. “It’s tough. It’s not easy. But it’s what you have to do. … It’s part of playing in the ACC,” Scheyer said.

Miami: The Hurricanes remained one of six teams from major conferences to be unbeaten at home – the others being Alabama, UCLA, Providence, Iowa State and Duke. Across Division I, 20 teams entered Monday with perfect home marks.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Miami has been in the poll for nine straight weeks, the program’s longest such run since being ranked in each of the first 11 polls of the 2017-18 season – and figures to stay there if it tops Louisville on Saturday. Duke has been out of the AP Top 25 for the last four weeks; the Blue Devils were two slots away in the poll released Monday, behind only Florida Atlantic on the “also receiving votes” list.

BARRY HONORED

Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Barry, Miami’s all-time leading scorer, was presented with a customized basketball during a first-half stoppage of play.

UP NEXT

Duke: Visits No. 8 Virginia on Saturday.

Miami: Hosts Louisville on Saturday.