The Morning Mix

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Let’s hit the links.

Wednesday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Providence @ No. 8 Syracuse
7:00 p.m. – DePaul @ No. 11 Georgetown
7:00 p.m. – Minnesota @ No. 18 Ohio State
7:00 p.m. – James Madison @ Northeastern
7:00 p.m. – Charleston @ Western Carolina
8:00 p.m. – Air Force @ Boise State
8:00 p.m. – Vanderbilt @ Kentucky
8:00 p.m. – UTEP @ Southern Mississippi
8:45 p.m. – Stephen F. Austin @ Sam Houston State
9:00 p.m. – No. 9 Kansas @ No. 14 Oklahoma State
9:00 p.m. – No. 19 Wisconsin @ Northwestern
9:00 p.m. – Houston @ No. 21 Memphis
9:00 p.m. – Iowa State @ Baylor
10:00 p.m. – Washington State @ Arizona State
10:00 p.m. – Pacific @ UC-Irvine
10:05 p.m. – UC-Davis @ Long Beach State
10:15 p.m. – No. 22 Colorado State @ UNLV
11:00 p.m. – Santa Clara @ No. 3 Gonzaga
11:00 p.m. – Washington @ No. 12 Arizona

Read of the Day:
A tremendous story about race and basketball through the eyes of James Reed a former Morgan State player who broke social norms in pursuing his dreams. This is the best thing you will read all day. So don’t continue on until you’ve finished it. (SB Nation)

Andy Glockner’s Bubble Watch is a must-read every week. This is vital information people. Read it. (Sports Illustrated)

Top Stories:
Ten of the top 20 teams in the country have lost by more than 17 points? I’m not sure if there is a message in all of these statistics other than March is going to be absolutely crazy.

Hoops Housekeeping:
– Colorado forward Josh Scott is day-to-day after taking an eblow to the head against Arizona State over the weekend. (Ralphie Report)

Observations & Insight:
– Expansionocalypse rumors began circulating yesterday afternoon indicating that Virginia and North Carolina may have been offered a spot in the Big-Ten. UVA and UNC were the two most likely schools to follow after Maryland and Rutgers joined, but since then the ACC schools publicly announced their solidarity. I have absolutely no clue what this rumor means. (The Champaign Room)

– Aaron Torres ranks the top-10 coaches in the country and has some interesting choices. HINT: Coach-K is not in the top-5. (Aaron Torres Sports)

– An interesting-read on Bucknell’s “anit-HAVOC” defense. The Bison rank in the top-10 for effective field goal defense and defensive rebounding, yet rank 345th in the nation in causing turnovers. (Hoop Vision)

– West Virginia is not a very good team this year. They have a lot of new peices, some of which are not as talented as previously thought, and there is no chemistry. Freshman Eron Harris was seen crying on the bench during the Mountaineers 71-61 loss at Kansas State. While you may mock his tears, you cannot deny that the kid cares. (The Dagger)

– John Gasaway provides some itneresting info on Kansas’ Big-XII title chances, bad losses, and the Big East in the most recent edition of “Tuesday Truths”. (Basketball Prospectus)

– Vander Blue has emerged this season as Marquette’s premier scoring threat. Blue was a highly-touted recruit who spurned Wisconsin for their in-state rivals. But some Marquette fans still don’t appreciate the work that Blue has put in this season. (Anonymous Eagle)

– Allen Crabbe’s mother has weighed in on the Mike Montgomery incident. She says Crabbe has put it behind him. Finally, we can move on. (Mercury News)

– We’ve said it before, but it bares repeating: The Providence Friars are on the up-and-up. (Daly Dose of Hoops)

– Some good words on Oklahoma freshman je’lon Hornbeark, who is putting the finishing touches on a productive freshman campaign. (Crimson and Cream Machine)

– Jeff Borzello updated his Freshman of the Year Rankings. Now w/ less Nerlens Noel. (Eye on College Basketball) 

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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.