The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Arizona claims top spot after North Carolina bounces another top five team (Sports Illustrated)
In the latest installment of Luke Winn’s power rankings, Arizona moves into the top spot after Michigan State fell at home on Wednesday night. Three Big Ten teams are in the Top 5, with one being a Wisconsin team that’s already put together a solid resume that should benefit them going forward.

Les wants more defense out of UC Davis (Sacramento Bee)
UC Davis is in the midst of a four-game losing streak, which they will attempt to end against Nevada on Saturday night. The biggest reason for the struggles: defense, and it’s important that the Aggies improve in this area with the prolific Deonte Burton running the show for the visiting Wolf Pack.

Cauley-Stein’s shot-blocking helps No. 3 Kentucky (Associated Press)
Kentucky’s freshmen have received a lot of attention thus far, but one of the big reasons why the Wildcats have played so well has been the presence of sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein. Averaging 9.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game on the season, Cauley-Stein has blocked 20 shots in the last three games. The Wildcats take on No. 20 Baylor tonight.

Weekend homework: Colorado’s chance (ESPN)
Since losing to Baylor in the season opener Colorado’s won eight straight games, but that streak will be put to the test on Saturday afternoon when No. 6 Kansas visits the Coors Events Center. The Jayhawks blew CU out of the water in last season’s meeting, which should serve as motivation, but the game also offers Colorado a chance at the signature win currently missing fro their resume.

Isaiah Austin: “Kentucky is not better than us in any way, shape or form” (Dallas Morning News)
Sophomore forward Isaiah Austin is a key player for Baylor, and he’ll need to have a big game if the Bears are to have a shot at knocking off No. 3 Kentucky tonight in Arlington, Texas. And while the focus should be on what the game means to both teams there’s also the fact that there will be plenty of NBA scouts in attendance, with many wanting to see what progress Austin’s made from a skill standpoint.

Rebels prepping for big challenge in renewed series at No. 2 Arizona (Las Vegas Sun)
UNLV’s endured its share of struggles thus far, and a good showing at No. 2 Arizona on Saturday would go a long way towards helping Dave Rice’s team turn things around ahead of the start of Mountain West play. And there is some history between the two programs, as they staged some incredible games during the 1980s and 1990s.

SDSU-USD series becoming a rarity (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Last night No. 24 San Diego State held off city rival San Diego 65-64 at Jenny Craig Pavilion. The two teams have met in each of the last 15 seasons, alternating home courts every year. And while SDSU sees the value in such series, that can’t be said for other power programs across the country who tend to avoid taking on such road tests in non-conference play.

Cowboys spend week learning from loss to Memphis (The Oklahoman)
No. 9 Oklahoma State’s loss to Memphis in the title game of the Old Spice Classic on Sunday wouldn’t be described as a stunning result, as the Tigers are a talented team that was motivated by what happened in Stillwater two weeks prior. The result, and how it occurred, provided Travis Ford’s team with some needed teaching points as they look to make a run at the Big 12 crown.

Robbins’ role takes a jump (Corvallis Gazette Times)
As a freshman, Oregon State guard Victor Robbins didn’t see too much playing time as he averaged just five minutes per game. But as a sophomore Robbins has moved into the starting lineup and he’s taken advantage of the increased opportunities, posting averages of 8.4 points and three rebounds per game.

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.