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Keegan Murray has given Iowa a first-team Associated Press All-American for the third straight year, and Kofi Cockburn has made it two in a row for Illinois — not bad for a couple programs that haven’t had a whole lot of them.
The Fighting Illini never had a first-team pick until Ayo Dosunmu made it last season when Cockburn was voted to the second team. And the Hawkeyes had not had a first-team selection since the 1952 season until Luka Garza, last year’s AP player of the year, made his second consecutive appearance in the five-man team.
Throw in Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis and the Big Ten was well represented Tuesday on the AP’s first team, which also included Kentucky big man Oscar Tshiebwe — this year’s player of the year favorite — and Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji.
“I’ve had to learn from a lot of guys last year just what it takes to be great at this level,” said Murray, a sophomore guard from Cedar Rapids who is fourth nationally in scoring at 23.6 points per game heading into the NCAA tournament.
“I mean, it’s kind of like everything just got put together for me, just all the hard work that we put in.”
“We struggled earlier on this year a little bit and now we’re doing really well,” Murray said, “and it’s just a great feeling.”
All the first-team picks have their teams positioned to make a postseason run.
Cockburn, the bruising forward from Kingston, Jamaica, and the fourth-seeded Fighting Illini play Chattanooga on Friday, the same day Davis and the third-seeded Badgers open against Colgate. Tshiebwe has Kentucky seeded second going into Thursday’s game against Saint Peter’s. Agbaji and the top-seeded Jayhawks open against one of the play-in teams.
Davis is the Badgers’ third first-team All-American, joining Alando Tucker in 2007 and Frank Kaminsky in 2015, while Tshiebwe is the first for Kentucky since Tyler Ulis in 2016. Agbaji gives the Jayhawks a first-team pick for the third time in six years after Frank Mason in 2017 and Devonte Graham in 2018.
Just like Murray with the Hawkeyes, Agbaji already has some experience cutting down nets this season.
The Big 12 player of the year led Kansas past Texas Tech in the conference title game, adding tournament MVP honors to a growing collection of hardware that Agbaji has earned during his senior season.
“It’s great to see him do all these things. He’s accomplishing pretty much every goal he set out to accomplish,” Jayhawks teammate Christian Braun said, “and it’s awesome to watch him every day, you know, work hard and practice hard and do all these things, and then accomplish everything he set out to accomplish.”
Drew Timme of Gonzaga led the AP second team for the second straight year and was joined by freshman teammate Chet Holmgren. Jaden Ivey of Purdue gave the Big Ten another All-American, while likely No. 1 draft pick Jabari Smith of Auburn and Benedict Mathurin of Arizona rounded out the second team.