Miami, Florida grab No. 1 seeds, Kentucky in the tournament?

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This probably isn’t a surprise: Indiana and Duke are one-two on the s-curve and are the strongest No. 1 seed candidates as we move toward March.  Since a last-second loss at Illinois, the Hoosiers have reclaimed the outright Big Ten lead by winning at both Ohio State and Michigan State.  A victory at Minnesota tonight puts IU in the driver’s seat for the league’s regular season crown and top seed in the Big Ten tournament.  That scenario would also give the Hoosiers the inside track toward the top spot in the Midwest Region – which flows through Indianapolis.  Duke has steadily worked its way through the absence of Ryan Kelly.  The Blue Devils are No. 1 in the RPI and have played the nation’s second toughest schedule.

Miami-FL and Florida are the final No. 1 seeds.  It’s hard to know if either will hold those positions in two weeks.  A second Big Team is likely to grab a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.  And if Gonzaga closes out a perfect West Coast Conference season and wins its conference tournament, it might be hard for the Committee to deny the Bulldogs a top seed.  Regardless, there’s enough parity among the top three or four seed lines to make the Sweet 16 very entertaining.

Every Selection Committee member has his or her own personal views on which resume items are most important.  Just take a look at some of today’s bubble teams.  Arizona State, Mississippi, Baylor, and Kentucky all have obvious flaws.  If RPI and schedule strength – particularly out of conference – are sticking points, than the Sun Devils are probably out.  At the same time, ASU has two wins over Colorado to go along with victories over UCLA and California.  That’s four wins against three teams currently projected in the Field of 68 – which is more than any of the other three.  Safe to say, the next two weeks will be critical for all of the above.

UPDATED: February 26, 2013

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc). Records are for games against Division I teams only.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Kentucky vs. Saint Mary’s | Midwest Region
  • Virginia vs. Arizona State | West Region
  • NORFOLK STATE vs. SOUTHERN | East Region
  • CHARLESTON SO vs. ROBERT MORRIS | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTWashington, DC                     MIDWESTIndianapolis
Philadelphia Dayton
1) Duke 1) INDIANA
16) NORFOLK ST / SOUTHERN 16) ROB MORRIS / CHARLESTON-SO
8) San Diego State 8) NC State
9) Missouri 9) Oklahoma
Kansas City Salt Lake
5) Notre Dame 5) Butler
12) Iowa State 12) Kentucky / Saint Mary’s
4) Wisconsin 4) Syracuse
13) BUCKNELL 13) DAVIDSON
Philadelphia Salt Lake
6) MEMPHIS 6) OREGON
11) La Salle 11) Villanova
3) GEORGETOWN 3) NEW MEXICO
14) STONY BROOK 14) SF AUSTIN
Auburn Hills Kansas City
7) UCLA 7) Illinois
10) North Carolina 10) Creighton
2) Michigan State 2) KANSAS
15) HARVARD 15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
SOUTH – Dallas WEST – Los Angeles
Lexington Lexington
1) MIAMI-FL 1) FLORIDA
16) NORTHEASTERN 16) MERCER
8) VCU 8) WICHITA STATE
9) Colorado 9) Cincinnati
Austin Austin
5) Marquette 5) Ohio State
12) AKRON 12) Virginia / Arizona State
4) Kansas State 4) Oklahoma State
13) BELMONT 13) LOUISIANA TECH
Dayton San Jose
6) SAINT LOUIS 6) UNLV
11) MID TENNESSEE ST 11) Temple
3) Louisville 3) Arizona
14) VALPARAISO 14) MONTANA
Auburn Hills San Jose
7) Colorado State 7) Pittsburgh
10) California 10) Minnesota
2) Michigan 2) GONZAGA
15) NIAGARA 15) LONG BEACH

NOTES on the BRACKET: Indiana is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Duke, Miami-FL, and Florida. Next in line are Gonzaga, Michigan State, Michigan, and Kansas.

Last Five teams in (at large): Iowa State, Virginia, Saint Mary’s, Kentucky, Arizona State

First Five teams out (at large): Baylor, Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Alabama

Next Five teams out (at large): Arkansas, St. John’s, Charlotte, Boise State, Indiana State

Breakdown by Conference …

Big East (8): Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Villanova

Big Ten (7): Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois

Pac 12 (6): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, California, Arizona State

Big 12 (5): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State

Atlantic 10 (5): Butler, VCU, Temple, La Salle, Saint Louis

ACC (5): Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Miami-FL, Virginia

SEC (3): Missouri, Florida, Kentucky

Mountain West (4): San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Conference USA (1): Memphis

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … BELMONT (Ohio Valley), BUCKNELL (Patriot), MIDDLE TENNESSE ST (Sunbelt), SOUTH DAKOTA STATE(Summit), VALPARAISO (Horizon), DAVIDSON (Southern), LOUISIANA TECH (WAC), NIAGARA (MAAC), STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (Southland), AKRON (MAC), MERCER (A-Sun), HARVARD (IVY), LONG BEACH (Big West), NORTHEASTERN (Colonial), STONY BROOK (American East), MONTANA (Big Sky), NORFOLK STATE (MEAC), CHARLESTON-SOUTHERN (Big South), ROBERT MORRIS (NEC), SOUTHERN (SWAC)

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.