Late Night Snacks: Saint Mary’s, California improve respective resumes

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Game of the Night: Saint Mary’s 64, BYU 57

The Gaels, in the first of two games that will have a significant impact on their NCAA tournament hopes, did enough late to hold off the Cougars in Moraga. Matthew Dellavedova scored 20 points and Beau Levesque added 17 for the Gaels, who host Creighton on Saturday evening in an important non-conference battle.

Brandon Davies paced BYU with 25 points but the Cougars are now 0-2 against the Gaels this season, and even if they beat No. 3 Gonzaga next Thursday BYU will most likely need to win the WCC tournament in order to get to the Big Dance.

Important Outcomes 

1. California 48, No. 23 Oregon 46

A Justin Cobbs jumper with seven tenths of a second gave the Golden Bears their sixth win in the last seven games, while also tightening things atop the Pac-12 standings. Cobbs finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and with a sweep of the Ducks and a win over No. 12 Arizona to their credit the Golden Bears have two key tiebreakers in their possession. Oregon was once again without point guard Dominic Artis, and Arsalan Kazemi tallied 11 points and 18 rebounds inside.

2. Temple 82, La Salle 74

La Salle entered the Liacouras Center with hopes of winning their first-ever outright Big 5 title, but left having to share it with the rival Owls. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson was outstanding for Temple, finishing with 23 points, 18 rebounds and five assists to lead four Owls in double figures. Temple picks up another quality win for their resume, and it remains to be seen just how many teams the Atlantic 10 (six?) can get into the field of 68.

3. Illinois 64, Penn State 59 

The Fighting Illini didn’t shoot particularly well (39.5%) but they did enough to hold off a Penn State team that’s now 0-14 in Big Ten play. D.J. Richardson (18 points) and Brandon Paul (16) led the way for Illinois, who avoided what would have been a bad loss from a resume standpoint. The Nittany Lions may still be winless in Big Ten play but Patrick Chambers’ team continues to play hard, and Jermaine Marshall scored a game-high 20 points to pace PSU. Their best shot at a league win: March 7 at Northwestern.

Starred

1. F Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (Temple) 

Hollis-Jefferson was the star of the Owls’ 82-74 win over La Salle, finishing with 23 points, 18 rebounds and five assists. The point and rebound totals are both career-highs for him.

2. G/F Nick Paulos (UNC Greensboro) 

Paulos was hot from beyond the arc in the Spartans’ 94-68 win over Chattanooga, hitting ten of 12 from deep and scoring 30 points. As a team UNCG shot 20-of-36 from three.

3. G Devon Saddler (Delaware) 

Saddler finished with 31 points (9-of-14 FG, 11-of-15 FT), two assists and two steals in the Blue Hens’ 73-71 double overtime win over Drexel.

Struggled

1. Chattanooga’s three-point defense

The Mocs entered Thursday’s home game against UNC Greensboro allowing SoCon opponents to hit 37.7% of their three-pointers, a figure that ranked 11th in the conference. UNCG shot 20-of-36 from three, rolling to the 94-68 victory.

2. F E.J. Singler (Oregon) 

Singler had a rough night offensively, shooting 1-of-12 and scoring seven points in the Ducks’ 48-46 loss to California.

3. Fairleigh Dickinson players not named Kinu Rochford

Rochford shot 10-of-15 from the field in the Knights’ 69-63 loss at Saint Francis (PA), scoring 21 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. His teammates combined to shoot 16-of-50 (32%).

Three Facts 

1. Middle Tennessee wrapped up the Sun Belt regular season title with an 85-50 win over South Alabama, guaranteeing the Blue Raiders of an automatic bid to the postseason NIT should they need it. Kermit Davis’ team has been the class of the Sun Belt, and obviously they hope the distinction translates into a trip to the NCAA tournament after they were upset in last year’s conference tournament.

2. The leaders in the race for Big East Coach of the Year are likely Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Georgetown’s John Thompson III and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, but Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie deserves some recognition as well. The Huskies moved to 8-5 in league play with a 73-66 overtime victory over Cincinnati, with Shabazz Napier scoring 27 points to lead the way.

3. Ryley Beaumont’s layup with eight seconds remaining proved to be the difference in Elon’s 63-62 win over Samford, clinching the North Division title (Southern Conference) for the Phoenix.

Top 25 Scores 

No. 6 Duke 88, Virginia Tech 56

California 48, No. 23 Oregon 46

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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.