Bubble Banter: Kentucky was biggest Friday’s bubble loser

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It’s a massive day for teams on the bubble’s cutline, as the Atlantic 10 and the SEC quarterfinals today could determine a handful of bids, for both the NCAA tournament and the NIT. Here are the teams that have hurt their bubble chances today:

Kentucky: With the number of other bubble teams that had already lost on Friday, the only thing that Kentucky needed to do to avoid serious bubble speculation was to beat Vanderbilt in the SEC quarterfinals. They couldn’t do that, however, getting blown out by a Vanderbilt team that, while improved, had lost 50-33 to Marist earlier this year. And with that, the Wildcats will now spend all weekend waiting and sweating out their tournament fate.

As of this morning, our Dave Ommen had Kentucky as the last team into the tournament, and losing to a team with an RPI outside the top 100 certainly won’t help matters. Kentucky’s in pretty bad shape. Let’s leave it at that.

Iowa State: The Cyclones are probably if a pretty good spot in terms of the bubble right now. Heading into the day, Dave Ommen had them as a No. 11 seed, but the Cyclones weren’t one of the last five teams into the tournament. They had some room to spare, and since the rest of the bubble teams lost today, losing to a potential No. 1 seed in Kansas probably won’t hurt ISU’s chances all that badly. Selection Sunday will still be a bit stressful, but ISU should feel pretty good about their chances.

Virginia: It is going to be a long, long weekend for Virginia. The Cavs lost to NC State on Friday afternoon in the ACC quarterfinals, and it wasn’t close: the Wolfpack jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 75-56 win. As of this morning, our Dave Ommen had Virginia as the first team out, and that’s before the rest of the teams on the bubble with them have a chance to improve their resumes. It’s not a lock, especially if the committee decides to over look Virginia’s bad losses. But it doesn’t look good.

La Salle: The Explorers had a chance to really improve their bubble chances on Friday afternoon, as they took on Butler in the Atlantic 10 quarters. La Salle ended up losing, which means that they, too, are going to have a stressful Saturday night. La Salle hasn’t really done anything to improve their profile since beating Butler and VCU in the same week, which is part of the reason why Dave Ommen had them as one of the last five teams in as of today. The loss to Butler hurts them in the sense that they missed a chance to improve their chances and now must hope that they had already done enough.

Temple: The Owls weren’t all that close to the bubble heading into the day, and their chances probably won’t change all that much with a loss to a potential tournament team in UMass, especially when you consider how many teams trying to catch them lost on Friday. That said, Temple isn’t a lock. There will be some relief for the Owls when their name is called by Greg Gumbel.

Tennessee: The Vols are going to have to play the waiting game. They are still in a better position than some of the other SEC teams, but they may not be on the right side of the bubble right now. Dave Ommen didn’t have the Vols listed as one of the last five in, which means they may have enough breathing room to handle this loss and still get in. With four top 50 wins and nine top 100 wins, Tennessee has a decent profile. But it is going to be a long wait until Sunday.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes had to beat Michigan State to have a chance. They blew a 12 point lead in the final 10 minutes. That’s one way to play your way off the bubble.

Charlotte: It was a longshot for the 49ers. They were one of the next five out in Dave Ommen’s bracket this morning, which means that they likely needed to beat St. Louis and Butler en route to the A-10 title game if they even wanted a chance at dancing. They lost to the Billikens in the quarters on Friday afternoon.

  • Ole Miss vs. Missouri (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Oregon vs. Utah (11:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.