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Why didn't KU have a 1st-team AP All-American? It's complicated

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Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) signals the ball going the Jayhawks' way as he and Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) celebrate a UNC-Greensboro turnover during the second half, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is UNC-Greensboro forward James Dickey (21).

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) signals the ball going the Jayhawks' way as he and Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) celebrate a UNC-Greensboro turnover during the second half, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is UNC-Greensboro forward James Dickey (21). by Nick Krug

Some years in college basketball, picking All-America teams can be uncomplicated, even obvious. This bizarre, postseason-less 2019-20 campaign was not one of those years.

Sure, Dayton’s Obi Toppin fell into the clear-cut category, but as Friday’s release of the Associated Press All-America teams reminded everyone, it got a little trickier for the 65-member voting panel after that.

The complex nature of filling out the rest of the first team ultimately cost Kansas stars Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson from securing a spot. Instead, the two best players on the unambiguous No. 1 team in the country landed on the second team.

Both Azubuike, a 7-foot senior center, and Dotson, a 6-2 sophomore point guard, were legitimate first-team candidates. But neither was so clearly better than the other that voters could separate them. In tandem, Azubuike and Dotson made KU great. Still, neither had otherworldly statistical production to back up his case.

KU, in Bill Self’s 17 seasons as head coach, has landed one player on the AP’s first team four times — and has never had two first-teamers in the same year. So getting both Azubuike (13.7 points per game, 10.5 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 74.8% shooting) and Dotson (18.1 points, 4.0 assists, 2.1 steals, 46.8% shooting) on the first team this year was never going to happen.

What would it have taken for one of KU’s stars to represent college basketball’s best team on the first tier? For one, voters valuing winning over individual numbers.

Along with college basketball’s breakout star, Toppin (20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 63.3% shooting), every other member of the AP first team averaged at least 20 points per game. Iowa junior big man Luka Garza (23.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 54.2% field goals), Marquette senior guard Markus Howard (27.8 points, 3.3 assists, 41.2% 3-point shooting), Seton Hall senior guard Myles Powell (21.0 points, 2.9 assists) and Oregon senior guard Payton Pritchard (20.5 points, 5.5 assists, 41.5% 3-point shooting) all had gaudier statistics than KU’s two standouts.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson gestures to the crowd after a three point basket against Baylor during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Ray Carlin)

Kansas guard Devon Dotson gestures to the crowd after a three point basket against Baylor during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Ray Carlin) by Associated Press

Azubuike and Dotson had them all beat in the win-loss column, though. When the season ended abruptly because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Jayhawks were 28-3 and a near lock to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Toppin was the only first-teamer who could claim anything close to that, as he helped Dayton go 29-2 and be in position for a coveted No. 1 seed.

Seton Hall went 21-9 overall (13-5 Big East), and in ESPN’s most recent version of bracketology was a No. 3 seed. Oregon went 24-7 (13-5 Pac-12) and had a spot on the No. 4 line. Iowa was 20-11 (11-9 Big Ten) and a No. 6 seed. Marquette went 18-12 (8-10 Big East) and could’ve met KU in the second round as a No. 9 seed.

Did Garza, Powell, Howard and Pritchard all have more impactful seasons than Azubuike, whose defensive dominance and force of nature offensive presence inside helped KU become the favorite to win it all in 2020?

Were all four of them really more effective than Dotson, who was a blur on both ends of the floor and got to the paint for layups and drawn fouls more than many bigs, helping KU enter the canceled postseason on a 16-game winning streak?

It’s complicated, and there are nuances, and that’s why KU went without an AP first-teamer, even though, for instance, ESPN.com’s All-America lists from Jeff Borzello had both Azubuike and Dotson on the first team.

Some AP voters clearly recognized how great KU became because of its two stars. Dotson picked up 30 first-team votes and Azubuike had 22. Compare that to the first-team votes for the other three AP second-teamers and the respect is obvious. San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn had 12, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston picked up nine and Duke’s Vernon Carey Jr. garnered three.

The voting process gave Dotson 237 points and Azubuike 235, so they weren’t too far behind the final two members of the first team, Powell (37 first-team votes, 261 points) and Pritchard (37 first-team votes, 259 points). Toppin (325 points) was a unanimous selection. Garza (321 points) showed up on the first team on 63 ballots. Howard (279 points) received 43 first-team votes.

While there are far greater issues to worry about these days than college basketball honors, the relatively worst part of these second-team results for Azubuike and Dotson is they don’t have the chance to go out and prove themselves as first-team talents with most of America watching. Not that even that would’ve mattered much to those two. They were more invested in winning a national championship than individual numbers.

Comments

Dale Rogers 2 weeks ago

Hoping against hope, maybe it means Dotson will come back next season for a national championship and first team all-american. Probably not, but hoping...

Dirk Medema 2 weeks ago

The only numbers in favor of the others is pts. It’s not just valuing winning over other stats. It’s valuing all the stats. It’s also a matter of valuing D. They were part of the best D ever iirc, surpassing 2018-19 Virginia.

In some ways it’s similar to’08 when players were penalized for having good teammates.

Len Shaffer 2 weeks ago

You're right, Blake, it's fake news to report the All-American teams. What an idiot; stick to Fox Noise.

Micky Baker 1 week, 6 days ago

Sometimes it's better to take it tongue in cheek. It seems to me that it was sarcasm.

Tim Orel 2 weeks ago

Did Dok set the record for career average in shots made?

Micky Baker 1 week, 6 days ago

It's kind of a travesty to be honest. Dotson and Doke both rose to the challenge against one of the players that was on the first team. They combined for 60 points against Dayton. They went undefeated after losing to Baylor. I can see Toppin and Doke going 1 & 2 in any order, but Dotson is the best point guard in the nation. Not just because he is the floor leader, but he can take over games and when the ball was in his hands when the going got tough, he met the challenge almost every single time. The one game in the Big 12 KU lost, Dotson missed most of it due to his injury in that game. Dotson is a for sure 1st team guy in my view.

Creg Bohrer 1 week, 6 days ago

Agreed.. Dotson was the best point guard on the floor no matter who was opposite.. But Dok was also the best center no matter who was opposite.. It's a shame that the media rob them or just the fact they had such a great team they stole from each other.

Glen Miller 1 week, 4 days ago

The AP All-American team is a joke. It's stat based and nothing more. It's mostly about the guys who are all about getting "theirs". Outside of Toppin, not one of those teams would have been playing into the second weekend most likely. Meanwhile, Dotson and Doke showed up and produced on the biggest stages against the best teams....... 1st teamers without question in my mind!!

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