10 tidbits to know: Duke’s bad night, UCLA’s improvement and more

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports. Look for his Top 10 Tidbits every week.

1. Great win for Miami but I’m still chalking it up as an awful night for Duke.  Rick Pitino has always said that one or two nights a year nothing goes right — and I agree with that view.  Remember last season when Providence beat Louisville by 31 points?  Providence finished at the bottom of the Big East and Louisville went to the Final Four.  It happens sometimes.  How many more nights this year is Duke going to shoot 29% from the field, 4 for 23 from 3 point land and Seth Curry goes 0-10?  My guess would be zero.

2. How about the Bryant Bulldogs out of the NEC.  They are in 1st place at 6-1 in league and 13-5 overall.  They had 9 total victories in the 3 prior seasons to this year.  Tim O’Shea’s rebuilding project from D-2 into D-1 is starting to take form.

3. Give credit where credit is due.  UCLA is better than we all anticipated.  In November the Bruins were overrated and Howland was on the hot seat.  A beyond big time win on the road at No. 6 Arizona this week has Bruin fans back. Howland’s team has 16 wins already and let’s take a look at their 4 losses.  Of course Cal Poly was a bad one — but the other 3 are Georgetown, San Diego State when they were  ranked 23rd and Oregon when they were ranked 21st.

4. Ole Miss is obviously No. 24 in the country but did you know they’ve only played one ranked team? No. 10 Missouri on January 12th.  Even more surprising: they’re slated as of right now to only play 2 more ranked opponents — Florida and Missouri again.  Should a team be worthy of Top 25 status if they only play two ranked programs in a year?

5. Stephen F. Austin out of the Southland Conference recently received a vote for USA Today Top 25.  Resume is impressive.  16-1 overall, 7-0 in league and wins vs Tulsa and Oklahoma.

6. It’s going to be really fun following the America East in mid to late February. Stony Brook, Albany and Vermont are in a 3-way war right now for the top of the league standings.

7.  The VCU–Richmond game this week was another example of a fascinating talking subject in the world of hoops.  Should you foul at the end of a game when you’re up 3 or play it straight up and take your chances?  What’s fascinating is that nearly every coach in the off-season or off the court will tell you that they’d foul.  Then the season begins…and so few actually do it.

8.  Northeastern was not able to score a big non-conference win early — but what a job they’ve done in conference play this year.  The Huskies are in 1st place by 2 games, all by themselves at 7-0 in the CAA.  Bill Coen’s team shoots nearly 45% from the floor.

9. I don’t know about you, but I can watch Otto Porter from Georgetown play the game of basketball all day long.

10.  Do not miss La Salle at VCU this weekend.  That is going to be some basketball game to watch if you like uptempo guard play.

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Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports. You can catch him on NBC Sports Network’s SportsTalk – Mon-Fri. 6 p.m. ET. Follow Vin on Twitter:  @VinParise

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.