Villanova wins the Holy War, but St. Joe’s is still blowing close games

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The talent is there for St. Joseph’s to be as good as they want to be.

It was there last year as well, but the Hawks, for whatever reason, took home too many moral victories a year ago. What’s that mean? Well, it’s a nice way of saying that they were really good at being competitive and not so good at closing out games in which they had a late lead. The Hawks lost 14 games a year ago, and in 11 of them, they held a second half lead.

The thinking was that this year would be different. This is now an experienced, veteran team, as they returned everyone from last year’s 20-win campaign.

That’s why Tuesday’s 65-61 loss to Villanova is so disheartening.

Let’s ignore, for a second, that the Wildcats are St. Joe’s biggest rival and a fellow member of the Big 5. (This game is called the Holy War, after all.)

The Hawks had this game all but won. After Langston Galloway had hit his sixth three of the game with 2:16 remaining, St. Joe’s was up 61-56. But after two James Bell free throws, Halil Kanacevic turned the ball over. That led to a layup from Daniel Ochefu at the other end of the floor. On the ensuing possession, Kanacevic missed two free throws, which meant that when the Hawks lost track of Bell defensively, his three ball with 34 seconds left gave Villanova a 63-61 lead.

And that’s when things got really bad.

St. Joe’s called a timeout with 26 seconds left, but when they couldn’t get a shot off of the set that Martelli drew up in the timeout, they were forced to call another time out — their last of the game — with 11 seconds on the clock. That play resulted in Carl Jones running off of a high-ball screen from Galloway and kicking the ball out to 6-foot-9 CJ Aiken, who is a wanna-be jump-shooter that cannot dribble the ball. He got trapped, Jones came over to save him, and eventually the Hawks got lucky when the ball happened to go out of bounds off of Villanova with 3.5 seconds left.

On the ensuing inbounds, the Hawks were unable to get the ball in and Kanacevic was forced to try and bounce the ball off of the Villanova defender, which didn’t go well; it bounced off of him before going out of bounds.

Villanova ball.

And after two James Bell free throws, game over.

These are the games that St. Joe’s was supposed to be able to win this season.

If they want a real chance at winning the Atlantic 10 this season — which is as tough, deep and balanced as it has been in a long time — this needs to be a turning point. Every game in league play is going to be close. They cannot afford to salt away wins.

(As an aside, if you make the decision to flip a double-bird at the crowd on the road while playing in a game on national television, you probably shouldn’t choke away the game down the stretch. If anyone reading this PSA knows Halil Kanacevic, please pass this message along. Thank you.)

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

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Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.

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.