USA TODAY Sports college basketball All-American team – USA TODAY
USA TODAY Sports’ Nicole Auerbach says you shouldn’t be surprised if these small school teams make a magical run in the NCAA tournament.
USA TODAY Sports
Thirteen schools, four classes and seven conferences are represented on the 2017 USA TODAY Sports men’s college basketball All-America teams. Nearly all of them will have the chance to lead their teams to a run in the NCAA tournament.
The players listed in alphabetical order:
Lonzo Ball, Fr., G, UCLA: Must-see TV anytime he’s on the court, Ball emerged quickly as one of the nation’s most exciting and entertaining players, leading UCLA through an unbeaten nonconference slate that included a win against Kentucky at Rupp Arena. He’s taken what would have been a talented UCLA offense and turned it into the country’s most efficient offense, one marked by a lightning-quick transition game and how-did-he-do-that passes.
Ball’s season stat line, as impressive as it is, doesn’t even do him justice — 14.9 ppg, 7.8 apg, 6.2 rpg — because none of that shows just how much he controls any game he’s part of. But any opposing coach understands that — almost immediately.
Dillon Brooks, Jr., F, Oregon: Had he not been injured at the start of the season, there’s a good chance Brooks would be getting national player of the year consideration. But he’s the reason these Ducks have turned into one of the most explosive offenses in the nation — and a team opponents will not want to see anywhere close to their draw in the NCAA tournament.
Brooks, who is averaging 16.0 ppg, 2.9 apg, 2.7 rpg, has played his best basketball since the start of February — which, not coincidentally, has coincided with some of Oregon’s most dominant performances (as well as a couple of head-scratchers we’ll just ignore for now). There’s a reason Oregon will be a trendy Final Four pick when the bracket is unveiled, and that reason is simple: Brooks.
Josh Hart, Sr., G, Villanova: The Wildcats lost two key players from their national championship team to graduation, yet Villanova barely has skipped a beat. Hart is why. He has led the team in scoring for each of the past two seasons (18.7 ppg this year), but this season he has added a few new wrinkles to his game. He’s worked to improve his jump shot — and he’s shooting nearly 5% better from beyond the arc this season as a result — and he’s improved his assist-to-turnover rate this season as well.
But beyond that, he’s become a leader for Villanova, a guy who admittedly leads by example more than he does vocally, but a critical piece in a team that’s handled all the pressure that comes along with defending a title … and put itself in position to land a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday and give itself the best shot of anyone since Florida in 2007 to win back-to-back national championships.
Frank Mason III, Sr., G, Kansas: There’s a very high bar to clear at Kansas. To become one of the Jayhawks’ all-time greats — which coach Bill Self believes Mason is, and that his jersey will hang in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse — you have to be somewhat legendary. And Mason, an under-recruited kid who originally committed to Towson, has turned into just that over the course of a storied four-year career in Lawrence.
Perhaps most impressive: Just how consistently excellent Mason has been this year, as a senior, starting with a 30-point effort against Indiana and a buzzer-beater to beat Duke to open the year and 16 other games in which he scored at least 20 points. He’s averaged 20.5 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.2 apg this year.
Caleb Swanigan, So., F, Purdue: Swanigan has been undoubtedly one of the best players in all of college basketball this season — and he also might be the nation’s most improved player at the same time. Consider this: He’s averaging 8.4 more points, 6.2 more minutes, 4.2 more rebounds and one assist per game more than he did a season ago. He’s shooting significantly better from the field overall, and he has posted 25 double-doubles this season.
But the greatest part of Swanigan’s rise is just how hard he’s had to work for it, and how much the kid nicknamed “Biggie” has overcome in life to get here — all the weight he’s had to lose, and so much instability in his home life growing up — to now shine on the sport’s biggest stage.
Josh Jackson, Fr., G, Kansas
Justin Jackson, Jr., F, North Carolina
Luke Kennard, So., G, Duke
Malik Monk, Fr., G, Kentucky
Nigel Williams-Goss, Jr., G, Gonzaga
De’Aaron Fox, Fr., G, Kentucky
Ethan Happ, So., F, Wisconsin
Lauri Markkanen, Fr., F, Arizona
Monte Morris, Sr., G, Iowa State
Johnathan Motley, Jr., F, Baylor