Who will win the 2012 ACC/Big Ten Challenge? CBT staff makes its picks

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Just prior to the start of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, CollegeBasketballTalk took some time to pick the winners. Here’s the way we see it:

To read the preview for Day 1 of the ACC Big Ten Challenge, click here. A preview for Day 2 will be posted Wednesday.

Iowa vs. Virginia Tech

Eric Angevine – Iowa

Rob Dauster – Iowa

Daniel Martin – Iowa

David Harten – Iowa

Troy Machir – Virginia Tech

Raphielle Johnson – Iowa

Terrence Payne – Iowa

CBT Pick: Iowa, 6-1

No. 21 Minnesota vs. Florida State

Eric Angevine – Minnesota

Rob Dauster – Florida State

Daniel Martin – Minnesota

David Harten – Minnesota

Troy Machir – Minnesota

Raphielle Johnson – Florida State

Terrence Payne – Florida State

CBT Pick: Minnesota, 4-3

No. 18 NC State vs. No. 3 Michigan

Eric Angevine – NC State

Rob Dauster – Michigan

Daniel Martin – Michigan

David Harten – Michigan

Troy Machir – Michigan

Raphielle Johnson – Michigan

Terrence Payne – Michigan

CBT Pick: Michigan, 6-1

Maryland vs. Northwestern 
Eric Angevine – Maryland

Rob Dauster – Maryland

Daniel Martin – Maryland

David Harten – Northwestern

Troy Machir – Maryland

Raphielle Johnson – Maryland

Terrence Payne – Maryland

CBT Pick: Maryland, 6-1

Nebraska vs. Wake Forest 
Eric Angevine – Nebraska

Rob Dauster – Wake Forest

Daniel Martin – Wake Forest

David Harten – Nebraska

Troy Machir – Nebraska

Raphielle Johnson – Nebraska

Terrence Payne – Wake Forest

CBT Pick: Wake Forest, 4-3

No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 14 North Carolina
Eric Angevine – Indiana

Rob Dauster – Indiana

Daniel Martin – Indiana

David Harten – Indiana

Troy Machir – Indiana

Raphielle Johnson – Indiana

Terrence Payne – Indiana

CBT Pick: Indiana, 7-0

Wisconsin vs. Virginia 
Eric Angevine – Virginia

Rob Dauster – Wisconsin

Daniel Martin – Wisconsin

David Harten – Virginia

Troy Machir – Wisconsin

Raphielle Johnson – Wisconsin

Terrence Payne – Wisconsin

CBT Pick: Wisconsin, 5-2

Clemson vs. Purdue 
Eric Angevine – Clemson

Rob Dauster – Purdue

Daniel Martin – Clemson

David Harten – Purdue

Troy Machir – Clemson

Raphielle Johnson – Clemson

Terrence Payne – Clemson

CBT Pick: Clemson, 5-2

Miami vs. No. 13 Michigan State
Eric Angevine – Michigan State

Rob Dauster – Michigan State

Daniel Martin – Michigan State

David Harten – Michigan State

Troy Machir – Miami

Raphielle Johnson – Miami

Terrence Payne – Michigan State

CBT Pick: Michigan State, 5-2

No. 22 Illinois vs. Georgia Tech 
Eric Angevine – Illinois

Rob Dauster – Illinois

Daniel Martin – Illinois

David Harten – Illinois

Troy Machir – Illinois

Raphielle Johnson – Illinois

Terrence Payne – Illinois

CBT Pick: Illinois, 7-0

Boston College vs. Penn State 
Eric Angevine – Boston College

Rob Dauster – Boston College

Daniel Martin – Penn State

David Harten – Boston College

Troy Machir – Penn State

Raphielle Johnson – Boston College

Terrence Payne – Penn State

CBT Pick: Boston College, 4-3

No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Duke 
Eric Angevine – Duke

Rob Dauster – Duke

Daniel Martin – Duke

David Harten – Duke

Troy Machir – Duke

Raphielle Johnson – Ohio State

Terrence Payne – Duke

CBT Pick: Duke, 6-1

CBT Consensus Pick: Big Ten wins 2012 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, 7-5

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.