The Morning Mix

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This is the week we put football in the rear-view mirror and focus exclusively on college hoops. Yeah I’m talking to you, Joe Casualfan. The Morning Mix is the place you need to go every morning for the latest news and notes from the CBB world.

Let’s hit the links.

Tuesday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – No. 2 Florida @ Arkansas
7:00 p.m. – Boston College @ No. 8 Miami
7:00 p.m. – Wake Forest @ North Carolina
7:00 p.m. – Villanova @ DePaul
8:00 p.m. – No. 13 Kansas State @ Texas Tech
8:00 p.m. – Wichita State @ Southern Illinois
8:05 p.m. – Illinois-Chicago @ Valparaiso
9:00 p.m. – No. 10 Ohio State @ No. 2 Michigan
9:00 p.m. – Florida State @ Georgia Tech
9:00 p.m. – South Carolina @ Kentucky
 
 
Read of the Day:
A powerful story from Alex Prewitt of the Washington post on Jamar Board, one of the most revered streetball players in the Washington metro-area. Known as “The Silent Assassin”, who was cousins with former-Tennessee guard Bobby Maze and set a Goodman League single game record with a 75-point performance in a 2011 game. Board was found dead on December 29th with a gunshot wound to the head. It has yet to be determined if it was a murder or a suicide. Seriously, read this. (Washington Post)

This one is pretty cut-and-dry. Virginia lost to Georgia Tech this weekend. You rank the ‘Hoos in the top-25, you get skewered in the Poll Attacks. Read It. (Eye on College Basketball)

Top Stories:
The top 10 dunks of the college basketball season: With the football season in the books, College Basketball Talk fills you in on what you’ve missed. Here are the ten best dunks of the college basketball season thus far.

Contenders and Pretenders: College Basketball Talk is helping you get situated now that the football season is over. Here is our list of National Championship contenders and pretenders.

Five sleepers and five upset specials to keep an eye on: College Basketball Talk briefly breaks down five teams that can make deep tournament runs and five teams that may bow out early.

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett leads CBT’s Freshman of the Year rankings: Here’s what you need to know about the top freshman in the country.

Michigan sophomore Trey Burke sits atop CBT’s National Player of the Year rankings: Michigan guard Trey Burke leads our Player of the Year rankings through three months. Doug McDermott and Mason Plumlee aren’t far behind.

Creighton/St. Mary’s highlights ‘BracketBusters’ line-up: ESPN announced the pairings for the final installment of BracketBusters are Monday night. The marquee game features Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Saint Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova. In other action: Ohio @ Belmont, South Dakota State @ Murray State and Detroit @ Wichita State.

Shabazz Napier is UConn’s closer: Despite not being able to play in any post-season games this season, the UConn Huskies continue to play hard, especially down the stretch. Shabazz Napier has been a big reason why, especially in overtime.

Wyoming’s Luke Martinez has court date set for arraignment:

 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– We got horrible news out of Irvine, Calif., yesterday as it was reported that an assistant coach on the Cal State-Fullerton’s women’s team was murdered on Sunday night. (Orange County Register)

– The North Carolina Tar Heels are really banged up. Three key contributors are questionable for their game tonight against Wake Forest. (ESPN Tar Heel Blog)

– Michigan State guards Gary Harris and Travis Trice are questionable for participation in the Spartan’s game on Wednesday against Minnesota. Harris is still battling back spasms and Trice is recovering from a concussion. (Detroit Free-Press)

– A Detroit-area businessman has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a point-shaving investigation involving the University of Toledo basketball team from 2004-06. (Yahoo Sports)

– Former-Murray State guard Zay Jackson will 60 days in jail as part of the plea deal he reached stemming from his charges of wanton endangerment. (SB Nation)

– The court date for Wyoming guard Luke Martinez has been set. Martinez is facing a felony charge of aggravated assault and battery stemming from a Dec. 30 incident at a bar. (Casper Star-Tribune)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Why does everybody think college basketball sucks this season? (The Big Lead)

– The Towson Tigers got 20 points and 12 rebounds from Jerrelle Benimon en route to a 81-68 win over UNC-Wilmington on Autism Awareness Night. Jeff Goodman tells the story about how Towson head coach Pat Skerry coordinated this tremendous event. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Andy Katz got a bunch of good quotes from coaches regarding the BracketBuster pairings that were announced yesterday. (ESPN)

– In case you aren’t too familiar with the slate of mid-major basketball, here are the rankings for the 13 televised BracketBuster games. (Big Apple Buckets)

– Ten things to know now that college basketball is suddenly relevant. (USA Today)

– Anybody else excited for the Trey Burke-Aaron Craft match-up tonight? Craft got the best of Burke in the first game. Could tonight be Burke’s “Naismith Moment”? (UMHoop.com)

– Michigan will wear all-maize uniforms for the Ohio State game tonight. You might wanna put on sunglasses before you click the link. (The Dagger)

– It took Illinois just one month to plummet from the top-15 to the bubble. That’s impressive. (The Dagger)

– Once a month Matt Norlander puts together a collage of the best college basketball photos. Here are January’s best. (Eye on College Basketball)

– It looks like Jalen Rose had himself a good time in Bloomington for last weekend’s edition of ESPN College GameDay. (Deadspin)
 
 
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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.