2013 Big East Tournament Preview

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UPDATED 11 March 2013, 11:21 p.m. ET

We’ve seen signs of the dissolving Big East as we know it, celebrated its triumphs, and eulogized its ending for much of the 2012-13 season. This week in New York City, though, it will come to a conclusion with the last conference tournament for the Big East as it was. With such parity in this field, there is also the chance that it could be one of the best tournaments, prone to upsets and full of dramatics that we’ve become accustomed to in this conference for over 30 years. Check out a preview below:

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.

When: March 12-16

Final: March 16, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Favorite: Georgetown

After losing to South Florida on Jan. 19, Georgetown has won 12 of its last 13 games and is one of the more dangerous teams in the conference. The Hoyas lost second-leading scorer Greg Whittington earlier in the season, but have not missed a beat. That is mostly because of the increased production of likely conference player of the year Otto Porter, as well as guards Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The biggest possible stumbling block for the Hoyas will be offensively, making sure they are able to keep the offense flowing and avoid big slumps like they fell victim to early in the season.

And if they lose? Louisville

Three straight losses early in the Big East season had critics writing Louisville off. Since late January, though, the Cardinals have won ten of their last 11 games, with the only loss coming in a five-overtime thriller on the road to Notre Dame. Guard Russ Smith has scored in double figures in all but one of those games, but the key will be how well his backcourt mate Peyton Siva plays. Last season, Siva’s emergence in the postseason is what helped Louisville to the Final Four. Can he do it again?

Sleeper: Marquette

Coach Buzz Williams and his Marquette team quietly crept into the Top 25 this season and up to the top of the Big East to grab a share of the conference title. The Golden Eagles have adapted to personnel changes year-to-year and Vander Blue is proving that he can be a No. 1 scoring option for this team. Marquette does not rebound or score the ball at a particularly high rate, but they play solid defense and shoot efficiently from the field.

Other Studs:

– Jack Cooley, Notre Dame

Cooley has been a double-double machine for the Irish this season and the anchor in the middle of the lane that complements the strong backcourt of Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. The more involved Cooley is, the better off the Irish will be in New York.

– Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse

Carter-Williams has been the biggest breakout star in the conference this season and is the facilitator that makes Syracuse go. Unfortunately, the Orange are in a skid and have lost four of their last five games. Granted, four of those fives games have been against ranked teams, but that is what a schedule in March can be, especially in a single-elimination tournament.

– Bryce Cotton, Providence

The Big East’s scoring leader is part of a sneaky Providence teams that many higher seeds likely don’t want to face. Along with Vincent Council in the Friar backcourt, coach Ed Cooley and Providence could surprise some teams at MSG.

CBT Prediction: Villanova beats St. John’s in its Wednesday matchup with St. John’s, then upsets Louisville in the quarterfinal. By then, the Wildcats will have fully solidified their spot in the NCAA tournament.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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.