Pregame Shootaround 1.12.13: Duke on upset alert against NC State without Ryan Kelly

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Games of the Day: No. 8 Minnesota vs. No. 5 Indiana (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

With wins over Michigan State and Illinois, Minnesota has officially shown that it has staying power in the nation’s most powerful conference. The Gophers are in the nation’s Top 50 in scoring and the Top 25 in rebounding and assists, thanks in large part to the play of point guard Andre Hollins (13.7 points, 3.7 assists per game). The most important part, though, has been balance, with four players averaging in double figures and senior Trevor Mbakwe just outside double-digit scoring with 9.3 per game.

The biggest task for the Gophers Saturday will be containing Player of the Year candidate Cody Zeller. If Zeller has his way inside, it opens up opportunities on the perimeter for guards Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls, as well as forward Victor Oladipo. Assembly Hall is never an easy place for a conference opponent to get a win, but Minnesota could make it happen on Saturday.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 1 Duke (-3.5) vs. No. 20 NC State (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Duke will be without forward Ryan Kelly, who is out at least two weeks with a foot injury. His absence will be felt most on the offensive end where he typically spaces the floor and allows guard Seth Curry and center Mason Plumlee to match up in more isolated situations. Without Kelly last season in the NCAA tournament, the Blue Devils were upset by 15th-ranked Lehigh in the Round of 64.

NC State has a chance for a major conference win, especially with Kelly out. Saturday will be a chance for forward C.J. Leslie to produce, but it will be equally important that center Richard Howell not get into foul trouble against Plumlee.

With the advantage on the interior, NC State will try to win the battle on the perimeter as well. The key matchup will be at the point guard spot between the Wolfpack’s Lorenzo Brown and Duke’s Quinn Cook. Brown’s perimeter defense needs to disrupt Cook, which puts more stress on a Duke offense that is already missing a key asset.

Mid-Major Matchups of the Day: 

No. 14 Butler vs. Dayton (2:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Butler endured a tough road fight to beat St. Joe’s on Wednesday and now has to go on the road again against a tough Dayton team. Watch for the matchup in the backcourt in this one between Dayton’s Kevin Dillard and Butler’s Rotnei Clarke. Dillard has already outdueled Trevor Releford when the Flyers beat Alabama and outplayed Isaiah Canaan in a win over Murray State. But, if Clarke’s 28 points vs. St. Joe’s were any indication, he no difficulties coming up big on the road. Andrew Smith will be important in the paint for Butler, as well.

Saint Louis vs. Temple (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Saint Louis has not lost since its former coach, Rick Majerus, passed away on Dec. 1. They face one of their toughest tests of the season Saturday, though, against a Temple team that took down Syracuse and nearly walked out of Allen Fieldhouse with a win over Kansas. The key for Saint Louis will be to contain Khalif Wyatt, who has shown that his relentless old-school style of play can consistently frustrate defenses. Kwamain Mitchell needs to continue to find his stride after missing much of the season recovering from injury.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Freshman Ben McLemore saved Kansas with his 33 points in a comeback overtime win over Iowa State on Wednesday. They travel to Texas Tech Saturday and should be able to bounce back with a win.

2) After suffering its first loss of the season to Oregon, No. 4 Arizona continues its swing through the Beaver State with a matchup against Oregon State. In the loss, Arizona allowed Oregon to shoot 7-of-11 from three-point range. Saturday, they’ll need to rotate defensively and get a hand in the face of shooters Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks. Both guards shoot better than 40 percent from three.

3) Villanova has won seven games in a row, including quality wins over South Florida on the road and over a tough mid-major, St. Joe’s. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono will get one of his toughest matchups of the season so far, as he goes up against Syracuse sophomore Michael Carter-Williams. If Villanova wants the upset, they ought to take a page out of Temple’s book. Force Carter-Williams to score and be physical on the interior.

4) Aside from the Big Ten, the Mountain West might end up being the most exciting conference race to watch this season. We’ve got another good matchup Saturday, as Jamaal Franklin and San Diego State face Colorado State. The Rams will have to contain Franklin and Chase Tapley on the perimeter, but the combination of Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung gives CSU the advantage in the paint.

5) Georgetown ranks 263rd in the country in scoring offense with just over 63 points per game. They scored just 45 in a blowout loss to Pittsburgh. Shots around the rim won’t be easy Saturday, as the Hoyas run into Chris Obekpa, the St. John’s freshman tied with Kansas’ Jeff Withey for the nation’s lead in blocks per game (5.1).

The Top 25

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 20 NC State (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 3 Louisville vs. South Florida (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 4 Arizona vs. Oregon State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 8 Minnesota vs. No. 5 Indiana (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 6 Kansas vs. Texas Tech (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 7 Syracuse vs. Villanova (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 10 Missouri vs. Ole Miss (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 11 Florida vs. LSU (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 12 Illinois vs. Wisconsin (2:15 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 14 Butler vs. Dayton (2:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 16 San Diego State vs. Colorado State (8:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Connecticut (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 18 Kansas State vs. West Virginia (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 19 Georgetown vs. St. John’s (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 21 Cincinnati vs. Rutgers (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 24 UNLV vs. Air Force (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 New Mexico vs. Fresno State (3:00 p.m. ET)

Other Notable Games

Pittsburgh vs. Marquette (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Tennessee vs. Alabama (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

UCLA vs. Colorado (2:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Texas vs. Iowa State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

North Carolina vs. Florida State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Washington State vs. California (4:00 p.m. ET, Pac 12 Networks)

Texas A&M vs. Kentucky (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Saint Louis vs. Temple (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Washington vs. Stanford (11:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

San Francisco vs. St. Mary’s (11:00 p.m. ET)

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

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.