Recapping your college hoops Saturday

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Winners

Kansas State: It seems like decades ago at this point, but back when the sun was still shining on Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats landed the biggest win of the day by going into Waco and knocking off No. 9 Baylor 57-56. Coming in, the Wildcats had lost four of their last six games and found themselves sitting squarely on the bubble. With a trip to Missouri and a date with Iowa State still to come on their Big 12 schedule, a loss here could have been a step towards a losing record in league play. Instead, Frank Martin’s team picked up their second win of the year over a top ten team.

Washington: Terrence Ross had 25 points and Tony Wroten went for 22 as the Huskies picked up a 79-70 win over Arizona at home on Saturday. With the loss, Arizona drops two games behind UW and Cal — who beat Oregon State this afternoon — and essentially finds themselves in a position where they are going to have to win the Pac-12’s automatic bid to go dancing. This certainly isn’t the kind of win that will lock up a bid for the Huskies, but its another step in the right direction. We are starting to see some separation in the league standings — if Cal can beat Colorado, the Huskies and the Bears will own a two-game lead on the field — which is likely what will need to happen for this to become a two-bid league.

Xavier: The Musketeers picked up a thrilling, 86-83 overtime win over Dayton thanks to 31 points, five boards and five assists from Tu Holloway, who once again came through with the heroics. Xavier remains in third place in the Atlantic 10 standings — Dayton falls to eighth — with enough juice on their resume to keep them feeling pretty good about their bubble standing. If Xavier wants to cement a bid, they have to win at St. Louis and at UMass.

Butler: You simply can never count out the Bulldogs. Ever. After trudging their way through the first three months of the season, Butler had the country writing them off. Then they went into Youngstown State and won. A win at Cleveland State followed. After beating Loyola (IL), Butler blasted Indiana State 75-54 in their BracketBusters matchup. They are currently tied for this in the Horizon League standings. Is anyone going to bet against this team in March? Anyone?

Murray State: I knew the Racers were for real. I didn’t need to see anymore evidence. And after the No. 16 Racers beat the pants off of No. 21 St. Mary’s 65-61, you shouldn’t need to see anymore, either. Murray State has two tough road games left and still has to play in the OVC Tournament. All this team needs to do to ensure a trip to the Big Dance is to avoid losing three games the rest of the season.

Northwestern: John Shurna set Northwestern’s career scoring record as he led the Wildcats to a 64-53 win over Minnesota in a game that some had termed an elimination game. Now sitting at 6-8 in the Big Ten, Northwestern will likely need to go 3-1 down the stretch to have a real shot. In that mix are home games with Michigan and Ohio State. They need to win one of them.

The CAA: In a normal bubble year, no one in the CAA would be deserving of at-large consideration at this point. That said, this isn’t a normal bubble year, which means that the strength of the top four in the league could, theoretically, push someone into an at-large bid, most likely Drexel. The league helped their cause on Saturday, as the Dragons beat Cleveland State 69-49, George Mason beat Lamar 75-71 and Old Dominion won at Missouri State 73-67. Throw in VCU’s win on Friday night, and its wonder this group is surging.

Notre Dame: The No. 23 Irish aren’t really a winner as much as they are the practitioners of one of the best comebacks of the season. Down by 20 in the second half, the Irish woke up and made a late run to force overtime. In the extra frame, Patrick Connaughton hit a pair of threes as Notre Dame took control. The final score was 74-70. Connaughton had seven threes on the afternoon.

Losers

Mississippi State: I’m done with the Bulldogs. Until they prove something, until they beat someone of consequence, I’m ignoring them. Well, maybe I termed that wrong. When they don’t lose to one of the bad teams in the SEC, I’ll start paying attention again. The Bulldogs lost to Auburn 65-55 on Saturday, which followed up losses to Georgia and LSU. As of now, Mississippi State is getting very, very close to the bubble’s cut line.

The WCC: Believe it or not, the 65-51 loss that No. 21 St. Mary’s suffered at No. 16 Murray State may not turn out to be as bad as we thought it would be. Why? Because the loss vaulted the Gaels back into first place in the conference standings thanks to No. 24 Gonzaga’s 66-65 loss at San Francisco. The Gaels currently sit a game up with two games left — both are on the road for St. Mary’s — which could end up being just the spark the Gaels need to turn this season around.

San Diego State: The No. 13 Aztecs simply had no answer for Michael Lyons, who went for 27 points, in a 58-56 win for Air Force. The loss is the third in a row for SDSU, which — thanks to UNLV’s loss at New Mexico — pushes them into a tie for second place in the standings, two games off the pace set by UNM. Of note: Jamaal Franklin’s ankle is bad enough that he didn’t play.

Conference USA: CUSA is definitely starting to feel the crunch of the bubble bursting. On Saturday, Memphis blew a 13 point lead at home before losing to UTEP 60-58. The Miners are not a quality team this season, which is what makes this loss so problematic. Memphis doesn’t have enough good wins to weigh it out. Southern Miss also lost on Saturday, this one coming at Houston 73-71. While the two teams are now still tied for first in the conference, they are now both facing some potential bubble issues heading into the Selection Sunday.

Mercer: The Bears suffered a devastating, 81-75 loss to Jacksonville on Saturday, who sits at just 5-11 in Atlantic Sun play. The Bears? They were 12-2, the same as Belmont coming in. The Bruins won handily. The real loser is us, however. Belmont and Mercer play on the last day of the season. I was hoping the game would take place when the two teams were tied for his.

Illinois: This team is just an embarrassment now. They are getting picked on enough, so I’ll leave Illinois alone for now. But I will say this: the game after your coach says that his career in Champaign is just about done you need to do more than lose to Nebraska 80-57. That’s bad.

Bucknell: Holy Cross jumped out to a 20-4 lead and led 28-10 at halftime, a deficit that was too big for Bucknell to overcome. Combine that with wins by Lehigh and American, and all of a sudden the Bison are sitting just a game up in the Patriot League standings.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.