The time has arrived. In the waning days of the NCAA basketball season, it’s time to reflect on the efforts of young men who put together extraordinary campaigns and have earned their placement on the All-America first team.
Numerous other publications — CBS Sports, AP, SN — have compiled their list of first team All-Americans and, for the most part, they’re almost identical. The athletes selected to this team must have a combination of team success and grand individual success.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Buddy Hield, G, Senior, Oklahoma
Not only is Buddy Hield an All-America first-teamer, but the National Player of the Year award is his to lose. At this point in the season, there’s no one else more deserving of these accolades than Hield. He carried Oklahoma through the regular season and is now carrying them through the tournament. Three games of 27+ points have the Sooners in National Title position. His senior year is one characterized by tremendous efficiency. Only one player averaged more points per game than Hield, who’s 25.4 is nothing short of amazing. His shooting percentages, however, are even gaudier: 50% from the field, 47% from three, and 88% from the line.
Denzel Valentine, G, Senior, Michigan State
With averages of 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.8 assists, Denzel Valentine emerged as college basketball’s best all-around prospect and became the first player in NCAA history to average those numbers. As a point forward, Valentine had nine games with 10+ assists, the most among any major conference player. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see him play extended time in the tournament because I’m sure he, along with Buddy Hield, would’ve generated numerous headlines and made March even more exciting. Despite being upset in the first round of tournament play by (15) Middle Tennessee, Valentine’s season is one worthy of a first-team All-America selection.
Tyler Ulis, G, Sophomore, Kentucky
The smallest guy on the court initiated some of the biggest plays for the Wildcats this season. Ulis is listed at just 5’9, so it’s not shocking if people overlook the stellar numbers he put up this season. Coach Calipari gave Tyler Ulis full control of the team this year, and Ulis took it in stride. He averaged 17.3 points, seven assists, and just two turnovers per game — a very impressive stat for a relatively high-usage player (23.2%). The Wildcats were seeded in the four position for March Madness, but Ulis didn’t have enough to spur them beyond the second round. Nonetheless, it was spectacular watching him lead this team.
Malcolm Brogdon, G, Senior, Virginia
I almost left Brogdon off the team. Sure, other players had better seasons (Ben Simmons, Grayson Allen to name a couple), but few have the numbers he does while leading his team deep into the tournament. In fact, the other guys make up the rest of the All-America team. The ACC POY was the best player on a superb Virginia Cavalier team, and he was good enough to lead them to the Elite Eight. His 18.4 PPG average is good enough for fourth in the conference, and he boasted career highs in assists per game (3.1), field goal percentage (45.7%), three-point percentage (39%), and free throw percentage (89.7%).
Brice Johnson, F, Senior, UNC
The fourth senior and lone forward on the All-America team has been a driving force in UNC’s fantastic season. Johnson is a legitimate double-double threat and is averaging 17.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game — including a 39-points, 23-rebound explosion against FSU. With a PER of 33.4, Johnson is another tremendously efficient player who plays well within his means, and those means are currently looking to propel the Tar Heels past the Syracuse Orange and into the National Title game.