2013 SWAC Tournament preview

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Due to extenuating circumstances, the SWAC Tournament has one of the most unique formats of any postseason conference tournament this year.

The regular season conference champion, Texas Southern, is ineligible for postseason play due to low APR scores. Add in the fact that the third place team, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, is in the same situation, and second-place Southern has the opportunity to get to their third NCAA Tournament by winning just two games. They are the lone team in the tournament with a bye to the semifinals.

There may not be a team with an easier path to the NCAA Tournament than the Jaguars, at least on paper. Win two games, with all that’s standing in their way being seven teams with .500-or-worse records in conference only one of those teams with more that 10 overall wins.

Yes, you have to play the games. But when you have to play the games against teams you’re clearly better than, things look a bit easier.

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

THE BRACKET

Where: Garland, Texas (Curtis Culwell Center)

When: March 13-16

Final: March 16, 4:30 p.m. EST (ESPN2)

Favorite: Southern

It’s an easy pick when the other two contenders are ineligible. Coach Roman Banks should be commended for the work he’s done with this team, though. Before this year’s 21-9 overall record and 15-3 conference mark, the Jaguars themselves were ineligible for the postseason and floundering in the SWAC cellar two years ago.

And if they lose?: They’ll have no one to blame but themselves. Southern is the SWAC’s only 20-win team and only team with a winning record that’s eligible for the conference tournament. The Jaguars are first in the conference in scoring defense (57.4 points per game), scoring margin (+10.8) and are second in scoring offense behind Texas Southern (68.3). They’re also first or second in 11 other statistical categories in the SWAC. If they have one weakness, it’s offensive rebounding, where they’re last (8.9 per game) in the conference. But that’s probably because they’re second in the SWAC in overall field goal percentage and first in three-point field goal percentage.

Sleepers: I’ll go ahead and say it, no one is beating Southern. The two teams that could’ve done it are ineligible to do so. But if anyone can knock them off, it’ll be Alabama State, who has a coach in Lewis Jackson who has won two SWAC tournaments, the last in 2010.

Studs:

Davon Usher, Mississippi Valley State – He leads the conference in scoring at 18.8 points per game.

Demarquelle Tabb, Alabama A&M – He’s seventh in the conference in scoring (13.9 per game) and leads it in rebounding (9.5 per game).

Malcolm Miller, Southern – Leads all conference tournament-eligible players in scoring (16 per game) and is ninth in the league with 5.8 rebounds per game.

CBT Prediction: Southern. No way around it. As previously stated, the two best candidates to beat them are ineligible and they also make up two of the Jaguars’ three losses this season. Banks should really get more pub for the job he’s done this season.

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.