With the an excellent college basketball season and one of the most exciting Tournaments in history squarely in our rearview mirror now, it’s time to take a look back at the season, hand out some awards and recognize some of the players that made this season a memorable one.

To start with, we’ll dive right in with our best players in the nation. While other organizations hand out their All-American awards based on the strength of a player during the regular season, we’ll take the entire season, including post-season play into account.

All-Murawa Player of the Year

Evan Turner, Jr, Ohio State

Evan Turner takes down Player of the Year despite missing a stretch of games in December following his scary fall after a dunk that fractured his back. However, after being clearly the best player in the nation prior to the injury, Turner was able to return to form ahead of schedule and lead his Buckeyes to a Big Ten championship.

All-Murawa Coach of the Year
Brad Stevens, Butler

Stevens clearly won his award on the basis of his team’s post-season run (and his brilliant job during that run), squeaking past guys like Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim to earn my award.

All-Murawa Team, First Team
G Da’Sean Butler, Sr, West Virginia
G Jon Scheyer, Sr, Duke
G Evan Turner, Jr, Ohio State
F Wesley Johnson, So, Syracuse
C DeMarcus Cousins, Fr, Kentucky

Second Team
G James Anderson, Jr, Oklahoma State
G Greivis Vasquez, Sr, Maryland
G John Wall, Fr, Kentucky
F Quincy Pondexter, Sr, Washington
F Ekpe Udoh, Jr, Baylor

Third Team
G Jordan Crawford, So, Xavier
G Jacob Pullen, Jr, Kansas State
G Scottie Reynolds, Sr, Villanova
F Gordon Hayward, So, Butler
F Darington Hobson, Jr, New Mexico

For some reason Wall was being mentioned in the same breath as Turner in regards to player of the year consideration. In my estimation, Wall wasn’t even the best player on his team, and was at best the fourth best guard in the nation; I could find no way to put Wall ahead of any of the guards that made my first team.

Scheyer was perhaps the most efficient point guard in the country, running a potent Duke offensive to near-perfection, handing out assists while taking care of the ball and maintaining his ability to knock down threes with the slimmest bit of space, and even adding some slippery moves in the teeth of the defense.

Butler, meanwhile was perhaps the nation’s most clutch player, time and again knocking down game winners despite entire buildings understanding that he would have the ball in his hand. His career ended in heartbreak, as he lay on the floor in Lucas Oil Stadium with a serious knee injury and a looming semifinal loss, but Butler was not only a great player for the Mountaineers, he was a great leader, a great student and a great citizen.

Johnson was on target for this type of honor since his play in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in Madison Square Garden in mid-November. His play dropped off slightly down the stretch of the regular season due in part to a wrist injury, but he picked things back up in March to finish a great season in Syracuse.

While it was Wall that got much of the press for Kentucky, it was Cousins who was their most unstoppable force. The best per-40-minute rebounder in the country, an active quick offensive post-player and a solid defensive force, Cousins was clearly the best big man in the country in his one season at this level.

Other people whose post-season play changed their positions on (or even off) of this team:
Reynolds – clearly swooned down the stretch, a tough end to an otherwise stellar career in Philly.
Hayward – went from an honorable mention type guy to one who was seriously considered for a second-team spot.
Pullen – along with teammate Denis Clemente, Pullen was somewhere in this neighborhood all season long, but his play in the tournament definitely solidified his place on this team. If this were Bracketology, Clemente would likely be the first name listed under the “First Four Out” header.

All-Defensive Team, First Team
G Jermaine Dixon, Sr, Pitt
G Venoy Overton, Jr, Washington
F Ekpe Udoh, Jr, Baylor
C Jarvis Varnado, Sr, Mississippi State
C Hassan Whiteside, Fr, Marshall

Second Team
G Ronald Nored, So, Butler
G J.P. Prince, Sr, Tennessee
F Devin Ebanks, So, West Virginia
F Kawhi Leonard, Fr, San Diego State
C Cole Aldrich, Jr, Kansas

The highlight of this team may be the trio of shotblocking big men on the first team, impressive enough to relegate an All-American type center like Aldrich to the second team. If Whiteside were to remain in school for four years (increasingly unlikely, as he may not even see a sophomore season), he would put up Varnado-like numbers in the blocks column.

Dixon, Overton, Nored and Prince proved to be versatile man defenders that could lock up with just about anybody in the country, and Leonard is a rising star who does a ton of things well, but it is his ability to defend inside and out, bigger guys and smaller guys, that earns the freshman his spot on this list.

Ebanks did not play his best basketball on either end of the court in the Mountaineers season-ending loss to Kentucky, but he was a tough presence both in the WVU defense with the ability to take on players from point guards to power forwards, and even man the point when Bob Huggins switched to zone.

All-Freshman Team, First Team
G Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky
G John Wall, Kentucky
F Xavier Henry, Kansas
F Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
C DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky

Second Team
G Avery Bradley, Texas
G Derek Needhman, Fairfield
F Derrick Williams, Arizona
F Elias Harris, Gonzaga
C Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech

Clearly John Calipari does the recruiting thing very well. Three Wildcats man our first team, with Cousins and Wall also earning spots on our national teams. Bledsoe was excellent as well, despite the natural point guard playing somewhat out of place next to Wall in the backcourt.

Henry and Leonard perhaps represent opposite ends of the forward spectrum, with Henry a smooth offensive wing while Leonard was a tough, grind-it-out rebounder and defender.

Prior to the season, Favors was right there with Wall and Cousins as the best recruits in the nation, and while Favors did average 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks per game, he never really lived up to expectations in his first (and perhaps only?) year in Atlanta.

All-Glue Team, First Team
G Chris Kramer, Sr, Purdue
G D.J. Gay, Jr, San Diego State
G Joe Mazulla, Jr, West Virginia
F Willie Veasley, Sr, Butler
F Draymond Green, So, Michigan State

Second Team
G Eric Hayes, Sr, Maryland
G Ronald Nored, So, Butler
G Keiton Page, So, Oklahoma State
F Dominique Sutton, Jr Kansas State
F Cam Thoroughman, Jr, West Virginia

This group of guys may not always put up impressive numbers, but they are each indispensible to their team’s success.

Kramer was the tough, strong man defender, capable of grabbing rebounds, running the offense for a possession or two, and even taking over during crunch time like he did against Texas A&M in the tournament.

The diminutive Gay had less than impressive numbers throughout the season for the Aztecs, but anytime a big play was called for, he was there ready to step up.

Mazulla played much of the season one-armed, unable to effectively use his right arm due to a shoulder injury, he even shot free throws left-handed, but still gutted it out on both ends of the floor for his Mounties.

Veasley is just a six-foot-three do-everything guy for the Bulldogs. At various times this season, he guarded guys like Clemson’s power forward Trevor Booker, Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen, even Minnesota’s seven-footer Ralph Sampson III.

And Green, Michigan State’s sixth-man did a bit of everything for Izzo, running some point-forward in the absence of injured point-guard Kalin Lucas, grabbing rebounds, defending in the post, and even becoming their go-to offensive player when the season was on the line.

Onions Squad – Big shots by the bushel, often causing the other team to cry
Da’Sean Butler, Sr, West Virginia
Ali Farokmanesh, Sr, Northern Iowa
Jacob Pullen, Jr, Kansas State
Jordan Crawford, So, Xavier
Austin Freeman, Jr, Georgetown
Chandler Parsons, Jr, Florida
Devan Downey, Sr, South Carolina
Andy Rautins, Sr, Syracuse
Evan Turner, Jr, Ohio State
Quincy Pondexter, Sr , Washington

The only thing that needs to be said about these guys is that if your team is playing against one of them, and you’re up a couple points late, don’t get comfortable. Some guys hit big winners every now and then; these guys make a career out of it.

All-Non-BCS Team, First Team
G Kevin Anderson, Jr Richmond
G Jordan Crawford, So, Xavier
G Jimmer Fredette, Jr, BYU
F Gordon Hayward, So, Butler
F Darington Hobson, Jr, New Mexico

Second Team
G Aubrey Coleman, Sr, Houston
G Randy Culpepper, Jr, UTEP
F Elias Harris, Fr, Gonzaga
F Adam Koch, Sr, Northern Iowa
C Omar Samhan, Sr, St. Mary’s

Third Team
G Shelvin Mack, So Butler
G Jared Quayle, Sr, Utah State
G Randy Wittman, Sr, Cornell
F Edwin Ubiles, Sr, Siena
C Derrick Caracter, Jr, UTEP

Since some of these players’ programs don’t particularly like the “Mid-Major” label, we’ll just call these the non-BCS awards. Why make a special category just for these guys? Well, really, these schools and these players are to me what makes college basketball so special. Sure, guys like John Wall and Evan Turner and Wesley Johnson are fun to watch, but to me, it is even more fun to watch a guy like Adam Koch or Kevin Anderson or Darington Hobson, guys who were passed over for one reason or another by the “big boys”, lead their teams on a charge against the Goliaths of the world. And in a year like this one, when one of their own made it all the way to the last second of the last game with that slingshot still firing at the giants, we definitely need to recognize these types of guys from some of the smaller schools that make college basketball what it is.

Most Improved
G Ashton Gibbs, So, Pitt
G Scoop Jardine, So, Syracuse
F Ekpe Udoh, Jr, Baylor
C Derrick Caracter, Jr, UTEP
C Greg Zoubek, Sr, Duke

Zoubek’s the man here. For three years he was little more than the big pudgy guy that Coach K would bring off the bench to pick up a few fouls when his regulars needed a break for a few minutes. This year, he turned into a major factor for the National Champion, a guy without whom Duke would likely have been left for dead far short of Indianapolis. He turned into a monster rebounder, especially on the offensive end, and excellent passer out of the post (again, especially off of those offensive rebounds) and a solid interior defender. Zoubek’s senior season was a good summary of everything that is good about college basketball.

Jardine bounced back from last year’s redshirt season due to an injury to become one of the Orange’s “seven starters” system as Syracuse took home the regular season Big East title.

Pitt needed some young guys to step up to replace the production of ex-Panthers like LeVance Fields and without missing a beat Gibbs did just that, jumping from averaging just four points in ten minutes a game last season to almost 16 ppg in over 34 minutes.

Udoh took advantage of his year off after transferring from Michigan and took his game to a whole new level in Waco, keeping all of the devastating shotblocking and defensive ability he had displayed previously and adding a seriously skilled and fluid offensive game.

And Caracter reappeared on the basketball landscape after seemingly burning all of his bridges in his first tour of duty under Rick Pitino in Louisville. Caracter brought all of the talent that he had shown since his high schools days to El Paso, and left the attitude behind, giving head coach Tony Barbee plenty of production and minimal headaches.

Senior Class Awards – seniors who did not make any of the above teams, who we nevertheless want to give some props to for great careers, just to be able to write their names again one last time.

Kwadzo Ahelegbe, G, Northern Iowa
Bilal Benn, F, Niagara
Eric Boateng, C, Arizona State
Trevor Booker, F, Clemson
Matt Bouldin, G, Gonzaga
Jamal Boykin, F, California
Ryan Brooks, G, Temple
Tweeny Carter, G, Baylor
Wayne Chism, F, Tennessee
Patrick Christopher, G, California
Sherron Collins, G, Kansas
Bryan Davis, F, Texas A&M
Kelvin Davis, G, San Diego State
Jerome Dyson, G, Connecticut
Landry Fields, F, Stanford
Derek Glasser, G, Arizona State
Luke Harangody, F, Notre Dame
Lazar Hayward, F, Marquette
Trevon Hughes, G, Wisconsin
Matt Janning, F, Northeastern
Anthony Johnson, G, Montana
Jerome Jordan, C, Tulsa
Gerald Lee, F, Old Dominion
Tyrone Lewis, G Niagara
Jason Love, C, Xavier
Roman Martinez, F, New Mexico
Tasmin Mitchell, F, LSU
Jerome Randle, G, California
Theo Robertson, F, California
Stanley Robinson, F, Connecticut
Derrick Roland, G, Texas A&M
Donald Sloan, G, Texas A&M
Ishmael Smith, G, Wake Forest
JT Tiller, G, Missouri
Nic Wise, G, Arizona

The NBA Can Wait Team

Even before seeing Da’Sean Butler lying on the floor at the Final Four with a busted knee, I wouldn’t really begrudge a guy if he chose to leave school early to pursue a job playing basketball elsewhere. That being said, it does make me sad to see some of these guys go, knowing that with the little I watch the NBA, I will likely never see them play again once their gone. And so, I’ve got a team of players who I’d like to see stick around for another year (or two… or three), either because they could really use some more time before they go to the next level, or because I just really want to see them some more.

Solomon Alabi, So, C, Florida State
Alabi could leave now and perhaps even get picked in the lottery. Being 7-foot-1 will do that for you, but he could really use some more time to work on his offensive game, otherwise he’ll go sit on an NBA bench for a few years, never improve and turn into Kelvin Cato or something.
Eric Bledsoe, Fr, G, Kentucky
John Wall is gone, that is a given. But I’d sure like to see Bledsoe play a year at the point before heading to the NBA, and it likely would help his draft stock as well. Consider this one a tie between what is good for the player and what is good for the basketball fan. But, he’s probably gone anyway.
Avery Bradley, Fr, G, Texas
A defender beyond his years, a great athlete, and a guy who will likely be a first round pick if he leaves this year. But come back for a year, entertain us all, and work on your offensive game and perhaps you start working your way up near the lottery.
Devin Ebanks, So, F, West Virginia
Long, super-athletic, stellar defender, offensively skilled. You just need a little more polish offensively before you’re ready to go.
Derrick Favors, Fr, C, Georgia Tech
With all the hype that preceded Favors into the ACC, I just want to see this guy put together one all-conference type season before he heads off into the sunset. Probably a pipe-dream, however, as he is a near-lock to be a high-lottery guy.
Jimmer Fredette, Jr, G, BYU
Okay, Fredette’s on this list for purely selfish reasons. We all got cheated out of watching him in the New Mexico/BYU game for the MWC regular season championship due to illness, and I want to see one fully healthy season out of this guy to see what kind of amazing things he can do.
Elias Harris, Fr, F, Gonzaga
Another purely selfish one here. I want to see what this guy can do once he learns the game a bit. He could be the best thing ever to go through Spokane, and as of today, it looks like Harris will be around for at least another year.
Manny Harris, Jr, G, Michigan
A terribly disappointing season in Ann Arbor, and given that Harris’ draft stock ain’t exactly sky high, it wouldn’t hurt anybody to have him return to school, improve his game and maybe get his Wolverines back into the tournament. But, he and his agent that he is hiring obviously have different ideas.
Darington Hobson, Jr, F, New Mexico
Tough one. His draft stock may be as high as it ever gets, but imagine is this guy developed a consistent outside shot.
Patrick Patterson, Jr, F, Kentucky
Much like Bledsoe, I just want to see what Patterson can do out of the shadow of Wall/Cousins. However, it seems doubtful that we’ll get that chance.
Greg Monroe, So, C, Georgetown
Purely selfish again. Monroe can leave and immediately be a lottery pick, and likely a high-lottery pick. That said, I’d sure love to see him play just a little bit more, and he is so far teasing us with that possibility. If he returns for his junior year, the Hoyas have to be considered a Final Four favorite.
Evan Turner, Jr, G, Ohio State
Turner is as gone as the rotary telephone. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see him lead a Buckeye charge to the Final Four as a senior. But I’m sure that back injury will have something to say about his decision.
Willie Warren, So, G
Things weren’t pretty in Norman this season; things have gotten far uglier since the season ended, with reports of players being paid and with anyone with any talent heading for the hills. But Warren was terrible this season (although he likely would have been a first-round pick if he left after last season). The NBA would like to see that he has some little bit of maturity to go along with his loads of talent, and I would like to see him live up to his expectations at the college level. Go ahead. Stick around.

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