Commentary

King's Court: Regular-season awards

Originally Published: March 4, 2012
By Jason King | ESPN.com

A regular season that began nearly four months ago on an aircraft carrier wrapped up Sunday as Ohio State beat Michigan State on William Buford's jumper with 1 second remaining.

With one flick of the wrist, the best conference race in college basketball ended in a three-way tie.

It only seemed fitting.

Since that day off the coast of San Diego, we've seen a brawl in Cincinnati and a court-storming just about everywhere. We've watched proud programs resurface in Bloomington and fall in Los Angeles. We've witnessed rivalries end in Missouri and Kansas and intensify on Tobacco Road.

The regular season was a thrilling one -- and things are only about to get better. Still, before the time comes to hand out bids, it only seems appropriate to wrap a bow around the past four months.

Here are my picks for the teams and players that made 2011-12 so great.

Best game-winning play

Anthony Davis' block of John Henson (Dec. 3): Davis swatted a baseline jumper from the 6-foot-10 Henson that would've given North Carolina a one-point victory over Kentucky at Rupp Arena had it gone in. Instead, the Wildcats escaped with a 73-72 win. Rematch, please. New Orleans-style.

[+] EnlargeChristian Watford
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireChristian Watford's 3 against UK is the only thing standing between the Cats and a perfect season.

Christian Watford versus Kentucky (Dec. 10): The Indiana forward took a pass on the left wing from Verdell Jones III and swished a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired. The 73-72 loss marked the lone setback of the season for the Wildcats and sent Assembly Hall into a rapturous celebration, the likes of which it hasn't seen in many years.

Michael Snaer versus Duke (Jan. 21): With one flick of the wrist, Florida State's junior guard snapped the Blue Devils' 45-game winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Snaer's 3-pointer as time expired lifted the Seminoles to a 76-73 win.

Austin Rivers versus North Carolina (Feb. 8): Despite being defended by 7-foot Tar Heels senior Tyler Zeller, Duke's freshman guard managed to get off -- and make -- a 3-pointer from the right wing as time expired to catapult the Blue Devils to a stunning 85-84 comeback win in the final two minutes in Chapel Hill.

Shabazz Napier versus Villanova (Feb. 20): The UConn guard pulled up from 30 feet and calmly swished a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining to give the Huskies a 73-70 win in overtime. A loss would've been devastating to Connecticut's NCAA tournament hopes.

Winner: Watford versus Kentucky. The shot marked the turning point in Indiana's turnaround as a program.

Best game

Kentucky at Indiana (Dec. 10): There may not have been a more jaw-dropping sight all season than the view of the Assembly Hall court after Hoosiers fans stormed the hardwood following Watford's game-winning shot. Reporters almost missed the postgame news conferences because they were trapped in their seats in the stands.

Marquette at Georgetown (Jan. 4): Hollis Thompson's 3-pointer with 24 seconds left lifted the Hoyas to a 73-70 victory. Georgetown trailed by 17 points with 13 minutes remaining before the comeback, which was aided by 18 second-half points from Jason Clark.

UNLV at San Diego State (Jan. 14): Moments after suffering an ankle sprain that forced him from the game, Aztecs guard Jamaal Franklin limped back onto the court and somehow made an off-balance layup that gave San Diego State a 69-67 win in a game that was close the whole way.

[+] EnlargeThomas Robinson
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesThomas Robinson and Kansas mounted a furious second-half comeback to beat Missouri on Feb. 25.

Missouri at Kansas (Feb. 25): The Jayhawks trailed by as many as 19 points in the second half before rallying for a 87-86 overtime victory against their rivals at Allen Fieldhouse. The game may have been the last ever played between the longtime foes, as Missouri is moving to the SEC. Members of the national media said the noise level at Allen Fieldhouse -- which reached 127 decibels -- was the loudest they've ever experienced

Duke at North Carolina (Feb. 8): The Blue Devils rallied from a 10-point deficit with just over two minutes remaining to defeat the Tar Heels, who melted down on both ends of the court before Rivers swished his game-winning 3-pointer in a 85-84 win. North Carolina avenged the loss with an 88-70 beatdown of the Blue Devils in Durham three weeks later to claim the ACC regular-season crown.

Winner: Missouri-Kansas. Rivalries like these shouldn't end, but if they must, then give us one more go. A rubber match in the Big 12 championship with a possible No. 1 seed on the line will do. Thanks.

In like a lion, out like a lamb (fizzled down the stretch)

Connecticut: The Huskies won 12 of their first 13 games and appeared to be on track to challenge Syracuse for the Big East title. But Ryan Boatright missed three midseason games because of an NCAA suspension (he missed nine games in total), Andre Drummond struggled with consistency and Shabazz Napier called out his teammates for a lack of leadership. UConn is 4-9 since mid-January and is teetering on the edge of the NCAA tournament bubble.

[+] EnlargeRick Stansbury
Kelly Lambert/US PresswireRick Stansbury's squad looked to be UK's main challenger early in the season. A late swoon dropped MSU to .500 in SEC play.

Illinois: A season that started with 10 straight wins is ending with players bawling on the bench and the coach publicly questioning himself after continued failures on the basketball court. It's looking increasingly likely that the Bruce Weber era in Champaign will come to an end, and will do so without an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Illinois lost 11 of its final 13 regular-season games.

Mississippi State: Once 12-1 and ranked as high as No. 14 in the country, the Bulldogs looked like the best team in the SEC behind Kentucky. But somehow, despite all of its talent, Rick Stansbury's squad lost five of its final seven games and finished 8-8 in the league.

Seton Hall: The Pirates have two of the top players in the Big East in Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope, but not much else. Seton Hall turned some heads by winning four straight Big East games in January. But six straight losses followed. Kevin Willard's team enters the Big East tournament toting consecutive defeats against Rutgers and DePaul, the latter by 28.

Virginia: The Cavaliers started the season 14-1 and defeated Michigan back on Nov. 29, but haven't beaten a for-sure tournament team since. Virginia lost to Duke, twice each to North Carolina and Florida State and also had a pair of brutal setbacks against Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Winner: Illinois. Nebraska went on a 36-4 run against the Illini a few weeks ago. That's just wrong.

Onions (best in the clutch)

Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: There aren't many point guards who shoot as well as Canaan from beyond the arc (47 percent) and can also blow by defenders and either score in the lane or create for others.

Marcus Denmon, Missouri: The Tigers guard hit shot after shot to keep his team in the game at Kansas on Feb. 25. The senior, who is one of the key reasons for Missouri's resurgence, plays his best in big games.

[+] EnlargePierre Jackson
Ray Carlin/Icon SMIPierre Jackson has come up big for Baylor on several occasions.

Pierre Jackson, Baylor: No one in college basketball was better in late-game situations than Jackson, whose toughness and swagger changed Baylor's team. Jackson hit game-winners against Texas A&M, Texas, Mississippi State and West Virginia and had a game-clinching block against BYU.

John Jenkins, Vanderbilt: There isn't a 3-point shooter in America who you'd rather have taking the last shot than Jenkins, who has connected on 46 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-4 junior has the smoothest stroke in America. He averages 20 points per game.

Antoine Young, Creighton: The Bluejays point guard helped snap Creighton out of an early February funk by swishing the game winner against Long Beach State. Still, it was hardly the first time Young had come through in the waning minutes.

Winner: Jackson. The most impressive part about Jackson's late-game heroics is that all but one of his game-winners have occurred away from home.

Best first-year coaches

Bryce Drew, Valparaiso: The son of longtime Crusaders coach Homer Drew won the Horizon League league title with a 14-4 conference record.

Frank Haith, Missouri: Haith likely would've earned national coach of the year honors if the Tigers hadn't lost a 19-point lead -- and a share of the Big 12 title -- at Kansas last week. Still, with a 27-4 record, he's been nothing short of phenomenal.

Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee: Who would've thought early in the season that the Volunteers would end up with a 10-6 SEC record and on the NCAA tournament bubble? UT closed the season winning nine of its final 11 games and is the 2-seed in the conference tournament.

[+] EnlargeCanaan/Prohm
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireMurray State's Steve Prohm owns a shiny 30-1 career record as a head coach.

Steve Prohm, Murray State: The Racers opened the season with 23 straight wins and will take a 30-1 record into the NCAA tournament. Billy Kennedy's former assistant was the perfect hire.

Dave Rice, UNLV: The Runnin' Rebels fizzled a bit down the stretch and finished one game back of San Diego State and New Mexico in the Mountain West standings. But they finish the regular season with 25 wins and their victory over then-No. 1 North Carolina created the buzz the program so desperately needed.

Winner: Haith. When forward Laurence Bowers went down with a season-ending knee injury, Haith adjusted and went with a four-guard lineup that's as tough to defend as any unit in the country. When the Tigers are making their 3s -- and they usually are -- they're a legitimate threat to make the Final Four.

Best coaching theatrics

Buzz Williams dances on West Virginia's court: The Marquette coach said he simply became nostalgic upon hearing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" -- one of his favorite childhood songs -- after the Golden Eagles' 61-60 win. He had every reason to be in a dancing mood after the Golden Eagles overcame a double-digit deficit to collect their 13th Big East win. Mountaineers fans weren't buying it; Williams later apologized.

Roy Williams pulls his starters at Florida State: Williams shooed everyone but his walk-ons into the locker room well before the final horn to avoid getting trampled in the ensuing court-storming in Tallahassee. It wouldn't have hurt worse than the 33-point beating Florida State had just handed the Tar Heels.

Pat Knight calls out his players: The Lamar coach -- and Bob Knight's son -- said his seniors were the worst group of players he's ever coached, that they had hearts like the tin man and that they were "stealing money" by being on scholarship.

Fran McCaffery's chair slam: A frustrated McCaffery left an indention on the Breslin Center Court when he slammed his chair onto the hardwood while screaming at his players during a timeout during a 95-61 beatdown at the hands of Michigan State. It was actually rather frightening.

Chris Mack tries to be one of the guys: Mack, Xavier's second-year head coach, was looking for something to fire his team up. The Musketeers were reeling, having lost five of six games following the brawl with Cincinnati. Mack opted to go for a dunk in a layup line ahead of a visit to Fordham and blew out his knee. If it was any consolation, the Musketeers won, thought it probably wasn't.

Winner: Pat Knight. His remarks about "coddling" kids should be passed on to parents across the country.

The Next Butler (mid-major schools that could make the Final Four)

[+] EnlargeJoe Ragland
Matt Ryerson/US PresswireCreighton and Wichita State give the Valley a pair of March threats.

Creighton: The Bluejays are an average team defensively, so an opponent that boasts superior speed and athleticism will give them trouble. But Creighton is extremely well-coached and efficient on offense. The Missouri Valley tourney champs get high-percentage shots and capitalize on them. A deep run is possible if the matchups are favorable.

Long Beach State: Dan Monson's squad has faced North Carolina, Kansas, Louisville, Creighton and Pittsburgh on the road. The 49ers won't be intimidated by anyone. This is a senior-laden team with tons of swagger.

Murray State: Point guard Isaiah Canaan has been one of the nation's top point guards all season. And don't sleep on his supporting cast of Ivan Aska, Donte Poole, Ed Daniel and Jewuan Long. You don't go 30-1 by accident.

Saint Mary's: The Gaels became the first team to win an outright West Coast Conference title other than Gonzaga in the last 11 years. Saint Mary's has a roster full of Australians who were taught to play the game the right way. They'll have trouble against a bigger, more athletic team like they did against Baylor in the 2009 Sweet 16.

Wichita State: The Shockers are a solid seven deep. In Joe Ragland they have a fearless point guard who plays his best in big games. Seven-foot center Garrett Stutz has improved as much as any player in the country and Gregg Marshall is an excellent head coach.

Winner: Wichita State. There won't be many teams in the field that the Shockers can't beat on a good night, although their loss to Illinois State in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley tournament may hurt their seed.

Possibly Coming to a non-Big Six school near you?

Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest: Sometimes you just admit you made a mistake and move on. Who knows if that will happen with Bzdelik, who is 5-27 in two seasons against the ACC.

Darrin Horn, South Carolina: In four seasons with the Gamecocks, the former Western Kentucky coach is just 60-63 overall and 23-42 in the SEC.

Ben Howland, UCLA: Will the scathing report in Sports Illustrated force the Bruins' administration to fire a coach who took UCLA to three straight Final Fours? If so, schools will be lining up to hire him.

Doc Sadler, Nebraska: He's a great x's and o's coach, but Sadler has struggled on the recruiting trail, where he's been unable to land many difference-makers. Sadler never had a winning record against Big 12 opponents and he went just 4-14 in his first year against the Big Ten.

Bruce Weber, Illinois: The Ilini are a mess, and it doesn't appear as if things will get better soon with Weber second-guessing himself to the press. Since beating Ohio State on Jan. 10, Illinois is 2-11. Ouch.

Winner: Weber. It's time.

Ready to jump to a Big Six school?

[+] EnlargeRandy Bennett
AP Photo/George NikitinRandy Bennett and Saint Mary's snapped Gonzaga's streak of 11 straight WCC titles.

Randy Bennett, Saint Mary's: It's baffling that Bennett hasn't been hired at a bigger school by now. This is his fifth straight season of 25 or more wins. He's got a long-term contract with the Gaels. Maybe he just doesn't want to leave.

Larry Eustachy, Southern Miss: It's time for a Big Six school to give a second chance to Eustachy, who has turned around his life and revitalized his career in Hattiesburg.

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: Marshall is very well-paid and WSU is a big-time program. He won't leave for anything other than the perfect fit.

Josh Pastner, Memphis: North Carolina State called Pastner about it's opening last year and more schools will follow suit if he continues to recruit at a high level. Pastner, whose team won the Conference USA title this year, has improved significantly as a game coach.

Shaka Smart, Virginia Commonwealth: One year after leading the Rams to the Final Four, Smart's name has been linked to the Illinois job that's sure to open soon.

Winner: Smart. Can the Rams convince him to stay again? Don't count on it.

Rodney Dangerfield Award (No respect)

Ivan Aska, Murray State: Anyone who thinks the Racers are a one-man team probably haven't seen much of Aska, a forward who averages 10.9 points and a team-high 5.7 boards. Guard Donte Pool (14.2 points) deserves praise, too.

Rob Jones, Saint Mary's: Matthew Dellavedova is the face of the Gaels' program, but Saint Mary's wouldn't be anywhere without the undersized-but-gritty Jones, a 6-foot-7 forward who averages 14.8 points and 10.7 rebounds.

Doron Lamb, Kentucky: The sophomore guard ranks second on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game and is making 48 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. His freshmen teammates, however, generate much more buzz.

Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt, Temple: For whatever reason, Temple has been overshadowed this season. But these teammates combine to average 34.9 points for the Atlantic 10 champion Owls, who are 24-6 with nonconference victories over Duke and Wichita State.

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: The sophomore forward has been the best player on the court at times for the Buckeyes this season. He's averaging 15.2 points and 4.9 boards while shooting 53 percent from the field.

Winner: Thomas. Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft and William Buford command most of the headlines, but the fearless, versatile Thomas is one of the main reasons Ohio State is hailed as a Final Four contender.

The Draymond Green Handyman Award (Jack of All Trades)

[+] EnlargeWill Barton
Spruce Derden/US PresswireWill Barton did a little bit of everything for Memphis.

Will Barton, Memphis: Along with 18.7 points and 8.1 boards, the 6-foot-6 Barton contributes 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals. We've also heard he juggles, tells jokes, plays the piano and cooks a mean omelet.

Royce White, Iowa State: What didn't this guy do? The Minnesota transfer leads the resurgent Cyclones in scoring (12.9), rebounding (9.2), assists (5.2), steals (1.2) and blocks (1.0), while shooting 53 percent from the field for a tourney-bound ISU.

Kris Joseph, Syracuse: It's hard to stand out on a team full of stars, but Joseph averages a team-high 14.1 points and five boards and isn't afraid to mix it up defensively.

Toure Murry, Wichita State: The Shockers' 6-6 forward averages 12.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists for the country's top mid-major team. He's one of the main reasons Wichita State could make a deep NCAA tournament run.

Mike Moser, UNLV: UCLA probably wishes it had never let Moser transfer. He's averaging 14 points and 10.7 rebounds and can score from anywhere on the court.

Winner: Barton. He's the best player in Conference USA and one of the best in the country, a true winner.

Don't Forget to Write ("Good Guy" seniors we'll miss)

Quincy Acy, Baylor: One of college basketball's most ferocious dunkers has helped Baylor transition from a national laughingstock to a legitimate top-10 team. Here's hoping he's in line for a nice paycheck somewhere.

Kim English, Missouri: No one gives a better postgame interview than the Tigers' senior sharpshooter. He's one of the more articulate, cerebral players in college basketball today. And to think he once had a stuttering problem. A TV gig may be in his long-term future.

Draymond Green, Michigan State: After the Spartans opened the season against North Carolina on an aircraft carrier, it was Green who suggested players from both teams leave their jerseys as souvenirs for the troops. A great ambassador for college basketball off the court -- and a beast to contain on it.

Robbie Hummel, Purdue: How could anyone not respect a kid that battled back from multiple torn ACLs? Finally healthy, Hummel led his team in points (16.8) and rebounds (7.0) as a senior.

Ronald Nored, Butler: The defensive catalyst never got enough credit for his contributions to Butler's back-to-back appearances in the national championship game. Can't imagine the guy has an enemy off the court.

Winner: Five-way tie. They're all winners.

And now, without further ado, my selections for all-conference teams including individual awards, followed by my All-America teams.

All-ACC

ACC

First team

Harrison Barnes, sophomore, North Carolina
Kendall Marshall, sophomore, North Carolina
Austin Rivers, freshman, Duke
Mike Scott, senior, Virginia
Tyler Zeller, senior, North Carolina

Second team

Lorenzo Brown, sophomore, North Carolina State
John Henson, junior, North Carolina
Mason Plumlee, junior, Duke
Michael Snaer, junior, Florida State
Terrell Stoglin, sophomore, Maryland

Player of the year: Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
Coach of the year: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Freshman of the year: Austin Rivers, Duke
Transfer of the year: Kenny Kadji, Miami
Defensive player of the year: John Henson, North Carolina
Sixth man of the year: Ian Miller, Florida State
Most underrated: Durand Scott, Miami
Most improved: C.J. Williams, North Carolina State

All-Big East

Big East

First team

Jack Cooley, junior, Notre Dame
Jae Crowder, senior, Marquette
Darius Johnson-Odom, senior, Marquette
Kevin Jones, senior, West Virginia
Dion Waiters, sophomore, Syracuse

Second team

Jason Clark, senior, Georgetown
Gorgui Dieng, sophomore, Louisville
Kris Joseph, senior, Syracuse
Jeremy Lamb, sophomore, Connecticut
Herb Pope, senior, Seton Hall

Player of the year: Jae Crowder, Marquette
Coach of the year: Mike Brey, Notre Dame
Freshman of the year: Otto Porter, Georgetown
Defensive player of the year: Fab Melo, Syracuse
Sixth man of the year: Dion Waiters, Syracuse
Most underrated: Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Most improved: Jordan Theodore, Seton Hall

All-Big Ten

Big Ten

First team

Trey Burke, freshman, Michigan
Draymond Green, senior, Michigan State
Jared Sullinger, sophomore, Ohio State
Jordan Taylor, senior, Wisconsin
Cody Zeller, freshman, Indiana

Second team

Aaron Craft, sophomore, Ohio State
Tim Frazier, junior, Penn State
Tim Hardaway Jr., sophomore, Michigan
Robbie Hummel, senior, Purdue
John Shurna, senior, Northwestern

Player of the year: Draymond Green, Michigan State
Coach of the year: Tom Crean, Indiana
Freshman of the year: Cody Zeller, Indiana
Transfer of the year: Bo Spencer, Nebraska
Defensive Player of the year: Aaron Craft, Ohio State
Sixth man of the year: Derrick Nix, Michigan State
Most underrated: Matt Gatens, Iowa
Most improved: Meyers Leonard, Illinois

All-Big 12

Big 12

First team

Marcus Denmon, senior, Missouri
Pierre Jackson, junior, Baylor
Thomas Robinson, junior, Kansas
Tyshawn Taylor, senior, Kansas
Royce White, sophomore, Iowa State

Second team

J'Covan Brown, junior, Texas
Kim English, senior Missouri
Perry Jones III, sophomore, Baylor
Rodney McGruder, junior, Kansas State
Ricardo Ratliffe, senior, Missouri

Player of the year: Thomas Robinson, Kansas
Coach of the year: Bill Self, Kansas
Freshman of the year: Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
Transfer of the year: Pierre Jackson, Baylor
Defensive player of the year: Phil Pressey, Missouri
Sixth man of the year: Michael Dixon, Missouri
Most underrated: Jordan Henriquez, Kansas State
Most improved: Jeff Withey, Kansas

All-Pac 12

Pac 12

First team

Jared Cunningham, junior, Oregon State
Jorge Gutierrez, senior, Cal
Devoe Joseph, senior, Oregon
Brock Motum, junior, Washington State
Tony Wroten, freshman, Washington

Second team

Allen Crabbe, sophomore, Cal
Solomon Hill, junior, Arizona
Lazeric Jones, senior, UCLA
Andre Roberson, sophomore, Colorado
Terrence Ross, sophomore, Washington

Player of the Year: Tony Wroten, Washington
Coach of the Year: Dana Altman, Oregon
Freshman of the Year: Tony Wroten, Washington
Transfer of the Year: Devoe Joseph, Oregon
Defensive Player of the Year: Jorge Gutierrez, Cal
Sixth Man of the Year: C.J. Wilcox, Washington
Most Underrated: Kyle Fogg, Arizona
Most Improved: Abdul Gaddy, Washington

All-SEC

ACC

First team

Brad Beal, freshman, Florida
Anthony Davis, freshman, Kentucky
John Jenkins, junior, Vanderbilt
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, freshman, Kentucky
Arnett Moultrie, junior, Mississippi State

Second team

Dee Bost, senior, Mississippi State
Kenny Boynton, junior, Florida
Terrence Jones, sophomore, Kentucky
Doron Lamb, sophomore, Kentucky
Jeffery Taylor, senior, Vanderbilt

Player of the Year: Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Kentucky
Freshman of the Year: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
Transfer of the Year: Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State
Sixth Man of the Year: Darius Miller, Kentucky
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Most Improved: Trae Golden, Tennessee
Most Underrated: Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee

All Others

First team

Will Barton, sophomore, Memphis
Isaiah Canaan, junior, Murray State
Damian Lillard, junior, Weber State
Doug McDermott, junior, Creighton
Mike Moser, sophomore, UNLV

Second team

Matthew Dellavedova, junior, Saint Mary's
Drew Gordon, junior, New Mexico
Scott Machado, senior, Iona
Joe Ragland, senior, Wichita State
Casper Ware, senior, Long Beach State

Player of the Year: Doug McDermott, Creighton
Coach of the Year: Steve Prohm, Murray State
Freshman of the Year: Tony Mitchell, North Texas
Transfer of the Year: Mike Moser, UNLV
Sixth Man of the Year: Carl Hall, Wichita State
Defensive Player of the Year: T.J. McConnell, Duquesne
Most Improved: Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
Most Underrated: Keith Clanton, Central Florida

All-America Teams

First team

Anthony Davis, freshman, Kentucky: Led team in scoring (14.1) and rebounding (9.8) while averaging a national-best 4.7 blocks. … Statistics would've likely been even more impressive if he wasn't surrounded by so many other future first-round NBA draft picks.

Draymond Green, senior, Michigan State: One of the most well-rounded players in the Big Ten averages 16.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals for one of the most improved teams in the country. The senior forward has played in two Final Fours and is hoping for one more.

Doug McDermott, sophomore, Creighton: The son of Creighton head coach Greg McDermott ranks third in the nation with 22.9 points per game. … The versatile forward, who can score from anywhere, shoots 60.2 percent and also averages a team-high 8.2 rebounds.

Thomas Robinson, junior, Kansas: Led Kansas to an eighth straight Big 12 title by averaging 18 points in his first year as a starter. … Ranks second in the nation in rebounds with 11.9 per game. … His three-point play and block in the final seconds helped force overtime in Kansas' huge win against Missouri on Feb. 25.

Tyler Zeller, senior, North Carolina: The Tar Heels' most consistent player ranks second on the team in points (16.3) and rebounds (9.3). … The 7-foot senior shoots 80.3 percent from the foul stripe and is averaging 23.3 points in his last three games.

Second team

Isaiah Canaan, junior, Murray State: The Racers will take a 30-1 record into the NCAA tournament thanks mainly to Canaan, who averages 19.2 points and 3.7 assists and shoots 47.3 percent from 3-point range. … Made four or more 3-pointers in 11 games.

Marcus Denmon, senior, Missouri: Averaged a team-high 18 points for one of the best teams in school history. … Shot 47 percent from the field overall and 42 percent from 3-point range. … Had 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.

Jae Crowder, senior, Marquette: Averages 17.6 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds for a team that finished second in the Big East. … Versatile forward finished the regular season by averaging 24.7 points in his final six games.

Kevin Jones, senior, West Virginia: One of nation's most versatile players averaged 20 points and 11.2 rebounds and posted 20 double-doubles. … Best game was a 28-point, 17-rebound effort against Baylor.

Jared Sullinger, sophomore, Ohio State: Future NBA lottery pick averages team highs in points (17) and rebounds (9.3) for one of the top teams in the country. … A first-team All-American last season. … Battled injuries early in the season.

Third team

Will Barton, sophomore, Memphis: The 6-foot-6 Barton averages 18.7 points and 8.1 rebounds -- an impressive statistic for a wing. … Shoots 52.5 percent from the floor. … Vocal leader of a squad that won the Conference USA regular-season title.

Darius Johnson-Odom, senior, Marquette: The Golden Eagles' scoring leader averaged 18.3 points per contest. … He scored in double figures in all but one game -- and he missed the first half of that contest because of a suspension.

Kendall Marshall, sophomore, North Carolina: Ranks second in nation with 9.6 assists per game. … The most irreplaceable player on the Tar Heels' roster. … Had 20 points and 10 assists in Saturday's conference-title-clinching win at Duke.

Tyshawn Taylor, senior, Kansas: Point guard averaged 17.2 points overall and a team-high 18.6 points in Big 12 games. … Scored 20 or more points in nine of his final 15 contests. … Also averaged 4.9 assists.

Cody Zeller, freshman, Indiana: The freshman has been the biggest difference-maker for a Hoosiers squad that has had a program-changing season. … Averaging team highs in points (15.5) and rebounds (6.4). … Shoots 63.4 percent from the field.

Player of the Year
Thomas Robinson, Kansas: The nation's most consistent player posted 22 double-doubles for a Kansas team that surpassed expectations to finish 26-5 overall and 16-2 in Big 12 play. Robinson's gaudy statistics were achieved despite facing double- and triple-teams throughout the season. The 6-foot-9 junior is expected to be a top-10 pick in this summer's NBA draft.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Davis
Jeff Moreland/Icon SMIAnthony Davis has been a defensive force for Kentucky.

Coach of the Year
Tom Crean, Indiana: One year after finishing 12-20 overall and 3-15 in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers are 23-7 (10-7 Big Ten) and headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. Crean led his team to wins against three top-5 teams. Indiana is the only school in the country that touts a win over Kentucky.

Freshman of the Year
Anthony Davis, Kentucky: Will likely become the second Kentucky player in three years to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in this summer's NBA draft. … Posted 13 double-doubles and scored in double figures in 17 of his final 19 games.

Transfer of the Year
Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State: The 6-foot-11 UTEP transfer averaged a double-double with 16 points and 10.7 rebounds and shot 55.2 percent from the field and 77.3 percent from the foul stripe.

Defensive Player of the Year
Anthony Davis, Kentucky: One of the top defensive players in recent college basketball memory changed the way opponents prepared and played. … Shattered Shaquille O'Neal's SEC freshman blocks record (116) by swatting 140 shots -- so far.

Sixth Man of the Year
Michael Dixon, Missouri: Junior averages 13.3 points off the bench for the Tigers, who will take a 27-4 record into this week's Big 12 tournament. … Also ranks second on team in assists with 3.2 per game. … Hit a game-winning layup to beat Texas in Austin.

Most Underrated
Kevin Jones, West Virginia: The senior forward may have been in the national player of the year discussion if his team hadn't underachieved with a 19-12 record and a 9-9 mark in the Big East. Jones' numbers (see above) are almost unmatched. He's arguably the top offensive rebounder in the nation.

Most Improved
Thomas Robinson, Kansas: The King's Court national player of the year didn't even start for Kansas last season. Playing behind the Morris twins, Robinson averaged 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in just 14.6 minutes of action per game. Head coach Bill Self and assistant Danny Manning deserve credit for developing Robinson.

Jason King covers college basketball for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKingESPN.