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Anybody else watch The PuppyBowl last night? It was great. No power outages, no bad commercials, no holding penalties, no Ray Lewis bible verses. Just puppies. And kittens. And baby pigs. Like I said, it was great. But I’m sure you had fun too.

Let’s hit the links.

Monday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Notre Dame @ No. 6 Syracuse
7:00 p.m. – Oklahoma @ Iowa State
7:00 p.m. – George Mason @ Old Dominion (NBC Sports)
9:00 p.m. – Seton Hall @ Pittsburgh
9:00 p.m. – Texas @ West Virginia
 
 
Read of the Day:
John Feinstein on how Northern Illinois head coach Mark Montgomery has found positives in the wake of the Huskies’ 4-point first half performance against Eastern Michigan. Read it. (Washington Post)

Top Stories:
Should we be concerned No. 2 Kansas losing to Oklahoma State? For the first time in 33 games, the Kansas Jayhawks walked off the court at Allen Fieldhouse on the wrong side of the ledger, falling to Oklahoma State 85-80. But With how strong Kansas has been all season, how concerned should we really be about their loss on Saturday.

Cody Zeller, the nation’s best role player, lifts Indiana to 1st in Big Ten: Cody Zeller entered the season as the most heralded player in the country. Although he’s had a fine season, he hasn’t been his team’s best player. But when the Hoosiers to make big plays, Zeller is the guy they go to.

Report: Sun Belt may raid SoCon to add two new members: Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson sent out an email containing a new map of the Sun Belt Conference that included both Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. This is pretty interesting stuff.

Air Force moves into 2nd place in MWC by beating No. 22 San Diego State: Michael Lyons finished with 20 points, five boards and four assists as Air Force held serve on their home floor, knocking off No. 22 San Diego State 70-67. The win is the fifth in a row for the Falcons, and puts them in sole possession of second place in the Mountain West.

No. 14 Miami outlasts No. 19 NC State with a tip-in at the buzzer: Reggie Johnson tipped-in a missed runner from Shane Larkin with 0.8 seconds left to give No. 14 Miami a 78-77 win over No. 19 NC State in Raleigh on Saturday afternoon. NC State played great for 37 minutes, but struggled to execute down the stretch without guard Lorenzo Brown, who did not play due to injury.

No. 15 Wichita State loses second straight conference game, falls to Northern Iowa: Four days after falling to a pesky Indiana State team, the Shockers lost on the road to unranked Northern Iowa, 57-52. Carl Hall was the lone bright spot for Wichita State Saturday, going 8-of-13 from the field for 20 points and five rebounds.

No Dominic Artis makes Oregon worst ball-handling nationally? Having missed a win over Washington and losses in the Bay Area to Stanford and now Cal, The Ducks fall to 1-2 without the services of freshman point guard Dominic Artis. In those three games, the Ducks have committed 65 turnovers and rank 286th in the nation in turnover percentage, giving the ball away on 22.6% of their possessions.

Keith Dambrot’s Akron Zips nation’s hottest team with 13 straight wins: Heading in to the weekend, the Kansas Jayhawks had the nation’s longest active winning streak, having won 18 straight. But with the loss to Oklahoma State at home, the red-hot Akron Zips become the new leaders, having won 13 in a row, including a 8-72 win over reigning MAC champions Ohio.

No. 4 Florida continues their SEC domination with win over Ole Miss: Marshall Henderson had one of his best games of the season, and Ole Miss still came up 14 points short against Florida. The Gators are not beating SEC teams. They are destroying them. It is hard to see this team losing a conference game this season.

VIDEO: Eastern Kentucky’s Marcus Lewis alley-oop is Saturday’s best dunk: College hoops fans were treated to an excellent Saturday on the hardwood. The top play from a fully loaded slate of games came from Eastern Kentucky’s Marcus Lewis, who torched one defender before posterizing another.

 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Three days after being suspended for a violation of team rules, Evansville junior swingman Jordan Jahr has been kicked off the Purple Aces basketball team. He will complete the spring semester as the university. (ESPN)

– St. John’s guard Jamal Branch sprained his knee on Saturday against Georgetown after Nate Lubick fell on top of it while going for a loose ball underneath the basketball. Branch is expected to miss the next few games. (Rumble in the Garden)

– Jermaine Lawrence, a 5-star forward in the class of 2013 committed to Cincinnati on Sunday. (Sporting News)

– The pairings for the final installment of ESPN BracketBusters will be announced later today. (Courier-Press)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– In his latest “Fast Break” column, Seth Davis has good things to say about Nerlens Noel, Julian Gamble, Marcus Smart and Georgia State freshman R.J. Hunter. (Sports Illustrated)

– Henderson praises Florida defense, Gators praise Henderson’s scoring. Not exactly what I expected from post-game in Gainesville. (Sporting News)

– Myron Medcalf provides his observations from a full Saturday of college hoops. (ESPN)

– Gary Parrish asks a very good question: What ACC team is going to stop Miami? (Eye on College Basketball)

– After watching the Michigan take Indiana to the wire on Saturday night, Dana O’Neil is positive the Hoosiers and Wolverines are the top two teams in the nation. (ESPN)

– Jimmy Burch has a interesting and reasonable explanation as to why he thinks the Big-XII is not done with expansion. (Dallas Star-Telegram)

– John Gasaway thinks that turnover issues could plague Indiana down the road. (ESPN Insider)

– Does Kansas have a point guard? Bill Self doesn’t think his team does. (Sporting News)

– A Bryce Cotton jumper sends Villanova on a two-game losing streak following their back-to-back wins over Syracuse and Louisville. (Friar Basketball)

– Come Selection Sunday, which is less than 1,000 hours away, there may not be a more difficult team to analyze than Xavier. But are they ready for March Madness? It doesn’t look like it. (Roundball Direct)

– Illinois is looking to make major renovations to Assembly Hall and are reaching out to everyone for donations. (Champagne Room)

– Decked out in all pink, the Creighton Bluejays beat Bradley and took position at atop the Missouri Valley Conference. (The Dagger)

– Kevin Parrom was ejected from Arizona’s game on Saturday night again Washington State for intentionally elbowing DeVonte Lacy in the head. (Arizona Daily Star)

– Velton Jones was a game time decision for Robert Morris heading into their NEC Championship game rematch against LIU-Brooklyn on Saturday. The star guard battled through a shoulder injury and hit the game-winning shot with 15 seconds left to revenge last season’s loss for the Colonials. (Pittsburgh Sports Report)
 
 

Video(s) of the Day:
Go to the :18sec.mark to see a guy play the air-bongos on Jay Bilas’ head. (Bacon Sports)

Video(s) of the Day:
Did Nerlens Noel trip a Texas A&M player on purpose? Noel isn’t the type of player that typically does something like that, but it kinda sorta looks like he’s trying to trip him. Will we ever find out? Who knows?


 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
You know if was a good weekend when a a dunk like this wasn’t the best of the lot. (Big Sky BBall)


 
 
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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.