Late Night Snacks: Ranked teams finish the night unscathed

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Providence 82, Boston College 78 OT

The Friars got 28 points from Bryce Cotton, seven of which came in the extra frame, as we got a thriller in the first game of the new Big East. BC forced the overtime when Olivier Hanlon, who finished with 23 points before fouling out, finished a three-point play with 18 seconds to tie the game. Cotton airballed a three at the other end, but redeemed himself by scoring four straight points in overtime after the Eagles had opened a 75-72 lead.

A paragraph worth of a recap doesn’t do this game justice, which is precisely what you should expect when Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery are on the call. Ryan Anderson chipped in with 21 points for BC, while LeDontae Henton had 15 points and 13 boards for Providence. Believe it or not, this could end up being an important win in March as both teams should be in NCAA tournament contention in March.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Fresno State 98, UC-Irvine 97 OT

How do you feel about half-court, overtime buzzer-beaters? Good? Me too. The crazy part about this game is that it capped an insane final minute that saw five lead chances. Five!

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES:

1) No. 19 Oregon 82, Georgetown 75: The Ducks got 55 combined points from their five incoming transfers, picking up a key non-conference win over a very good Georgetown team. Josh Smith finished with 25 points in his first game with the Hoyas.

2) No. 18 UConn 78, Maryland 77: Shabazz Napier led the way for the Huskies with 18 points, seven boards and seven assists as UConn held on despite blowing a 17 point lead in the final 10 minutes of the second half.

3) No. 19 Wisconsin 86, St. John’s 75: Five Badgers finished in double-figures as Wisconsin went 11-23 from beyond the arc in a win that they dominated from the start. St. John’s whittled an 18 point lead to four late in the second half, but Wisconsin answered with a pair of threes to push the lead back to 10.

STARRED:

1) Casey Prather doubled his previous career-high as he went for 28 points in No. 10 Florida’s 77-69 win over North Florida. The Gators needed every single one of those buckets, as they are dealing with starting the season short-handed. Patric Young had a dominating, two-point and two-rebound performance.

2) Trevor Cooney went off for 27 points, hitting 7-of-8 from beyond the arc, as No. 8 Syracuse erased an early 14 point deficit in an 82-60 win over Cornell. It’s worth noting that Tyler Ennis went 0-for-6 from the floor but finished with eight boards and seven assists to just two turnovers.

3) Kadeem Jack went for 30 points and 12 boards as Rutgers beat Florida A&M 92-84. The Scarlet Knights have a lot of work to do, but that work is easier when Jack can go for 30.

STRUGGLED:

1) Miami won the ACC regular season and tournament championships a season ago. The Hurricanes kicked off their defense of those titles by losing to St. Francis NY in overtime at home.

2) Kansas State lost their opener at home to Northern Colorado 60-58. You know who didn’t struggle? 6-foot-4 power forward Derrick Barden, who finished with 16 points and 17 boards for UNC.

3) Whoever was guarding Davante Gardner. Marquette’s big man finished the night with 25 points in 23 minutes off the bench, going 5-for-7 from the field and 15-for-20 from the charity stripe. Efficient. Todd Mayo added 20 off the bench in the 63-56 win over Southern.

NOTABLES:

  • In his first game as the point guard for No. 25 Baylor, JuCo transfer Kenny Chery put together 14 points, four assists and just a pair of turnovers in the Bear’s 72-60 win over Colorado. Not an easy thing to do against a team with that much perimeter defensive talent.
  • Aaron Gordon had 13 points, 10 boards and four blocks as No. 6 Arizona beat Cal Poly 73-62.
  • For the first time in Duke history, the Blue Devils had four players — Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon — score 20 points in the same game in their 111-77 win over Davidson.
  • Andrew Wiggins finished with 16 points and just nine FGAs as No. 5 Kansas beat UL-Monroe 80-63.
  • Julius Randle put on a show (23 and 15) but how about Marcus Lee (17 points) and Alex Poythress (10 points, 13 boards) showing out in Kentucky’s win over UNC-Asheville.
  • No. 7 Michigan struggled early, but ran over UMass-Lowell, 69-42, behind 17 points from Caris LaVert.
  • Marcus Smart had a quiet night as his teammates whipped up on Mississippi Valley State by 55 points.
  • Gary Harris finished with 20 points, 10 boards and six assists in a blowout win over McNeese State.
  • Doug McDermott had 20. Creighton dropped 101 and won by 30.
  • St. Mary’s started the year nicely, knocking off Louisiana Tech by 13 behind 28 points from Brad Waldow and 18 points, seven boards and six assists from Stephen Holt.
  • Kyle Anderson had 12 points, 12 boards and seven assists, but UCLA needed Damion Lee to airball a wide-open three with eight seconds left to hang on to a 72-67 win.
  • Buddy Hield had 19 points and Ryan Spangler added 15 points and 12 boards in a come-from-behind win over Alabama, 82-73, in Texas.
  • Bucknell put a scare into Stanford on the road, losing to the Cardinal 72-68.
  • An impressive start to the season for Khem Birch, who had 13 points, 17 boards and four blocks in an ugly win over Portland State. Roscoe Smith added 16 points and 10 boards for UNLV.
  • A cool 28 points and 13 boards for BYU’s Tyler Haws in a dominating win over Weber State.
  • T.J. Warren had 21 of his 27 points in the second half as N.C. State avoided a loss to Appalachian State.
  • Texas picked up a solid win over Atlantic Sun favorite Mercer, 76-73.
  • Florida-Gulf Coast got worked over by Nebraska as the Cornhuskers unveiled their brand new arena. Is #DunkCity still #DunkCity?
  • Anthony Drmic kicked off the season in a nice way, going for 34 points as Boise State scored 116 on Friday.
  • Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice had 22 points and nine boards in his debut for Illinois while Drake transfer Joey King went for 20 in a win for Minnesota.
  • J.J. Mann went for 21 points as Belmont knocked off Lipscomb in the first Battle of the Boulevard between Rick Byrd and Casey Alexander.
  • James Bell and Jayvaughn Pinkston had 46 points combined as Villanova overcame a 1-for-7 night by Ryan Arcidiacono.

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.