Late Afternoon Snacks: Stormy seas in the Big East

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Game of the Day
Villanova 75, No. 3 Syracuse 71 (OT): This is why I don’t think Villanova students should have stormed the floor when they beat Louisville earlier this week, and why they shouldn’t have today, either. It implies they didn’t think their team was good enough to compete against top teams in the Big East, when clearly they are. Darun Hilliard is shaping up to be a top playmaker, with 25 points and six assists in today’s game, and Maphtou Yarou is showing flashes of double-double ability in the post. With freshman Ryan Arcidiacono playing beyond his years – he calmly canned the game-sealing free throws in the extra period – this team is gelling nicely. ‘Cuse gave up way, way too many defensive boards in this one.
Meaningful Results
Georgetown 53, No. 5 Louisville 51: The Big East seems to be bound and determined to show us what we’ll be missing next season. Tough as nails from top to bottom once again, with no easy outs in league play. The Jekyll and Hyde act continued, as Good Georgetown showed up again, and Bad Louisville continued to inhabit KFC Yum! Luke Hancock finally showed up for the Cards, shooting 50% from the floor, but that was no panacea for the slump Peyton Siva is in; the senior guard scored zero points and handed out more turnovers than assists in a dismal performance. Otto Porter, on the other hand, is who we thought he was. His 17 points and 12 boards were big in this low-scoring game.
Wisconsin 45, No. 12 Minnesota 44: I’ll admit it. I doubted Bo Ryan’s ability to get it done with this year’s Badgers. It’s a mistake I’ll never make again. Ryan is likely to keep his record of making the NCAA tournament unblemished again this season, as he continues to grind out unlikely wins the way a dentist drills cavities. Look at the stat sheet, and you won’t see any individual heroes for the Badgers. But you will see that Gopher heroes Trevor Mbakwe (eight points, 10 boards) and Andre Hollins (20 points) got almost no help from their friends, who were locked out by Wisconsin defenders. The marquee wins are there for Bo Ryan again this season. A steady performance from here on out is pretty much a given.
Iowa State 73, No. 11 Kansas State 67: The Cyclones look like a team that will live or die by the outside shot – and indeed, they went 11 of 22 from behind the arc today – but that belies the hustle The Mayor has instilled in this team. ISU’s players fight hard for the long rebounds, as evidenced by Will Clyburn snatching ten rebounds to match forward Melvin Ejim for the game high in the category. Clyburn also scored 24, leading a team of complementary parts that just do what needs to be done at every turn. This was Bruce Weber’s first exposure to Hilton Magic. He understands now, I’m sure.
No. 1 Duke 84, Maryland 64: Freshman Amile Jefferson is still struggling a bit to fill Ryan Kelly’s shoes, but fellow first-year Rasheed Sulaimon had a great day for the Blue Devils, leading all scorers with 25 points on an absolutely torrid 6 of 8 from downtown. The Terrapins again looked like a collection of well-made gears that just aren’t quite meshing at an optimal level.
Games of the Night
Temple at No. 9 Butler, 6:00 pm ET (ESPN2)
North Carolina at N0. 18 NC State, 7:00 pm ET (ESPN)
USC at No. 6 Arizona, 7:00 pm ET (ESPNU)
No. 9 Florida at Mississippi State, 8:00 pm ET (ESPN2)

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.