The college basketball season is drawing to a close. The the championship game is tonight, and it’s an event celebrating all that is good on the hardwood. We will see some of the game’s finest players in action.
But one event that could be added to Final Four weekend is a college basketball all-star game. Unlike even college football, which boasts the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, college basketball has no hype-filled event showcasing its premier players and coaches.
College basketball, however, needs such a game. It needs an event that NBA scouts can pore over, networks can televise, and, most significantly, one that fans will enjoy. The four major sports have all-star games that are wonderful spectacles displaying the best of the best, where fans can see all the top players in one place. A college basketball all-star game would serve that purpose perfectly, as the sport’s abundant amount of teams and spread-out talent pool make it very rare to see even a few of the hardwood’s best in one game.
Theoretically, this game would take place the Sunday between the Final Four and Championship Game, filling the void created by the removal of the third place game in 1982. Players and coaches from teams in the Final Four would not participate, but this loss of talent would be more than made up for by the head coaches, who would be the coaches of two top finishers in last year’s NCAA tournament. As in the professional ranks, the best of the East conferences would meet the best of the West.
Here, then, are the players and coaches who would be selected to the teams this year, excluding those in the Final Four:
Center: Kendall Gray, Delaware State
This selection demonstrates the steep drop-off after Jahlil Okafor. But Gray is no slouch. He leads the NCAA in defensive rebounds and helped take the Hornets to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI).
Forwards: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville; Jordan Mickey, LSU
Harrell elevated his game this year to new heights and has landed himself on the Wooden watch list, while Mickey averaged 17.5 points per game while propelling the Tigers into the NCAA tournament.
Guards: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame; Terry Rozier, Louisville
Grant returned from some academic issues and led the Irish to the Elite Eight, and Rozier formed a lethal tandem with Harrell in the Bluegrass State.
Reserves: Justin Anderson, Virginia; D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s; Bobby Portis, Arkansas; Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse; Treveon Graham, VCU; Ty Greene, South Carolina Upstate; Jameel Warney, Stony Brook
Head Coach: Billy Donovan, Florida
Assistant Coaches: Archie Miller, Dayton; Rick Pitino, Louisville; Tony Bennett, Virginia
Center: Amida Brimah, Connecticut
Brimah had a significant impact for UConn this year, becoming a steady scorer (9.1 points per game) while making more than two-thirds of his shots. And he dominated on the defensive end, averaging 3.5 blocks per game.
Forwards: Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga; Stanley Johnson, Arizona
Wiltjer helped the Bulldogs make a run to the Elite Eight and put up impressive statistics across the board. Johnson, who replaces Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin, swept Pac-12 accolades and has excelled on the international FIBA stage as well.
Guards: D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State; Tyler Haws, BYU
The Gonzaga stars, Wiltjer and Kevin Pangos, aren’t the only West Coast Conference power players. The exciting Haws finished third in the nation in scoring (22.2 points per game) and deserves All-Star status. Russell quietly had one of the finest seasons in college basketball, and his draft stock has risen proportionately – he is up to fourth on Chris Mannix’s NBA draft Big Board.
Reserves: Georges Niang, Iowa State; Ryan Boatright, Connecticut; Buddy Hield, Oklahoma; Chasson Randle, Stanford; Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga; Delon Wright, Utah; Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa
Head Coach: Kevin Ollie, Connecticut
Assistant Coaches: John Beilein, Michigan; Sean Miller, Arizona; Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State
Who would win such a game? We will never know. But one thing is guaranteed: A college basketball all-star game like the one outlined above would be, above all, high-scoring, high-flying, television-golden, good, old-fashioned college basketball fun.
Photos: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images (Gray), Maddie Meyer/Getty Images (Harrell), Jared Wickerham/Getty Images (Mickey), Lance King/Getty Images (Grant), Elsa/Getty Images (Rozier), Jessica Hill/AP Photo (Brimah), Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images (Witlier), Paul Dye/J and L Photography/Getty Images (Johnson), Paul Vernon/AP Photo (Russell), Ethan Miller/Getty Images (Haws)