Late Night Snacks: Working overtime in the Mountain West

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Game of the Night

No. 16 San Diego State 79, Colorado State 72 (OT): Wonderful, classic game. In the first half, SDSU’s speedy, athletic offense had its way, staking the home team to a 41-23 halftime lead. In the second, Colorado State ramped up their formidable defense and clawed back into it, tying things up 63-all on a Colton Iverson layup shortly before time expired on regulation. In OT, it was the Chase Tapley show. The senior guard scored 12 of his team’s 16 points in the extra period, and managed to keep his head when tempers got hot in waning seconds of added time. Jamaal Franklin led all scorers with 23 points, and Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson had a beastly 18 point, 11 rebound effort for the visiting Rams. After the game, SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said he thought these two teams would contend for the MWC crown. We tend to agree.

Meaningful Results

No. 24 UNLV 76, Air Force 71 (OT): No easy outs in the Mountain West, obviously. The Falcons got a huge game from forward Mike Fitzgerald. The 6’6″ senior poured in 22 points to match UNLV’s Anthony Bennett for the game high. Foul trouble eventually did Air Force in, but not until an overtime period was played, and not until Bryce DeJean-Jones scored eight of his 18 in OT. Shades of Chase Tapley.

No. 4 Arizona 80, Oregon State 70: Having already snapped their unbeaten streak against the Ducks earlier this week, the Wildcats weren’t taking any chances with the Beavers. Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill each had 16 points to lead four Arizona starters in double figures, but it took a little defense to survive 18 points from OSU’s Ahmad Starks and a man-style 13/15 double-double from Devon Collier to move to 3-1 in the rejuvenated Pac-12.

Ole Miss 64, No. 10 Missouri 49: Murphy Holloway’s 22 points happened in 31 minutes of relatively early play. As the clock ran down, it became obvious that the Tigers were not even thinking of coming back, and he got to take it easy and watch the backups play a bit. Ole Miss used a fierce perimeter defense to harass Mizzou’s four-guard lineup into a miserable 2-18 night from behind the arc.

Starred

Elston Turner, Texas A&M: 40 points all by his lonesome, in Rupp Arena, over the defending national champs. Not a bad night’s work.

Keith Clanton, Central Florida: Clanton earned 36 points the hard way, because he really doesn’t shoot threes much. Clanton was 1-1 from behind the arc, but most of his work was done inside, where he was 14-18 to go with 5-7 from the stripe. Despite all that, Eastern Carolina won the game, 88-85 in OT.

Struggled

South Florida: No. 3 Louisville more than doubled USF’s rebounding efforts, grabbing 48 against the Bulls’ 22. They also had 12 steals in a defensive clinic that led to a 64-38 win at the KFC Yum! Center.

Phil Pressey, Missouri: Ten points, five assists and five turnovers. 0-4 from deep, and no free throws. An utterly forgettable night for an All-America candidate. If only he could forget it.

Fan Bases that have earned the right to Take a Breath and Take a Seat

Miami (OH) and Buffalo: MACtion isn’t limited to the football field, it seems. I got exhausted just reading the tweet:

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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.