Michigan needs Trey Burke to break out of his shooting funk on Monday night

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ATLANTA — Trey Burke was phenomenal for a three minute stretch against Kansas in the Sweet 16.

He scored eight points in the final minute and a half of regulation, including a 30 foot step-back three that tied the game and forced overtime. Then Burke hit the first two shots of the overtime period for the Wolverines, giving Michigan a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

All told, he scored 13 points in three minutes of game-time, which was enough to finish off Michigan’s comeback win and send them on to the Elite 8. Without it, the Wolverines would have made the Final Four and they wouldn’t be playing for the National Title on Monday night. That much should be obvious.

But what isn’t quite as obvious is that outside of those three minutes, Burke hasn’t played up to those National Player of the Year honors he’s been collecting during this tournament. He was 2-12 from the floor and had just six points against South Dakota State. He had 18 points and seven assists against VCU, but he also had seven of Michigan’s 12 turnovers and was the only member of the Wolverines that appeared to struggle with ‘Havoc’. Outside of those three minutes, Burke was 4-16 from the floor against Kansas. He was 5-16 from the floor against Florida in the Elite 8.

And believe it or not, his worst game of the tournament came in the Final Four. Burke was 1-8 from the field. He had just seven points and handed out just four assists.

For the tournament, Burke is shooting just 32.4% from the field and 25.8% from three. And Louisville isn’t exactly the kind of team that will help a point guard bust out of a slump.

“We understand that guys are going to have off-nights,” Burke said. It’s helped that guys like Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary have played some of their best basketball of the season, or that Nike Stauskas, Spike Albrecht and Caris Lavert have shown the ability to hit big shots in big moments throughout the tournament. The easiest way to relieve pressure on a superstar that isn’t playing his best is to have his teammates step up.

But here’s the thing about Burke — his shots might not have been falling, but he hasn’t exactly played bad basketball. He has 35 assists in the five games and just 15 turnovers. He’s rebounded the ball. He’s done enough that John Beilein got a bit feisty today when someone mentioned Burke having an off-night.

“I bristled a little bit last night when people say that Trey Burke had an off game,” Beilein said. “Trey Burke did so many things behind the scenes in that game that we don’t win without Trey Burke, don’t come close. What you all have to understand, it’s more than just that box score, how many points.”

“If you understand all the nuances of the game, it’s a huge difference of whether we win or lose, some of the intangibles that happen in a game that you never see in a stat.”

That’s fair, but perhaps the most valuable aspect of Burke’s play during the tournament has come on the defensive end of the floor. Michael Carter-Williams shot 1-6 from the field last night, finishing with more turnovers (five) than points and assists combined (four). Burke played a major role in that, just like he played a major role in holding Nate Wolters to 3-14 shooting in the tournament’s opening round.

There’s more to Burke’s arsenal than simply being a weapon on the offensive end, but that’s what he’s the best at. Michigan can survive without him shooting the ball well, but they aren’t going to be at their best, and if they want to beat Louisville on Monday night, they are going to have to be at their best.

That means that Burke is going to have to shoot the ball better than he did on Saturday night and better than he has over the last three weeks if the Wolverines want to win.

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.