Late Night Snacks: No. 1 Syracuse remains undefeated

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 1 Syracuse 58, No. 25 Pittsburgh 56

Once against a Syracuse game went down to the wire, and once again the Orange made the plays needed to win in the end. Tyler Ennis’ 35-footer as time expired proved to be the difference, with he and C.J. Fair combining to scored the Orange’ final 13 points of the game. Talib Zanna led Pitt, whose resume is still in need of a marquee victory, with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) Texas Tech 68, Oklahoma 60

Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders followed up their win over Oklahoma State with a win at Oklahoma on Wednesday night. Robert Turner scored 16 points to led Texas Tech offensively, and the Red Raiders outscored the Sooners 20-6 at the foul line.

2) Boise State 71, New Mexico 70

After No. 5 San Diego State lost at Wyoming on Tuesday night the Lobos had a chance to move into a tie for first place in the Mountain West. New Mexico failed to take advantage of the opportunity, losing at Boise State with Derrick Marks making two free throws with 13.2 seconds remaining to give the Broncos the win.

3) George Mason 91, UMass 80

As Chaz Williams goes, so goes UMass. On Wednesday Williams shot 3-for-15 from the field, so it comes as no surprise that the Minutemen struggled. But to lose to a George Mason team that entered the game 1-8 in Atlantic 10 play? That’s not good. UMass is still an NCAA tournament team, but their margin for error in games like this one is slim.

STARRED

1) D.J. Balentine (Evansville) 

Made 20 of his 25 free throw attempts, finishing with 38 points, six rebounds and five assists in Evansville’s 104-98 overtime win over Illinois State.

2) Davon Usher (Delaware)

34 points (9-for-17 FG), eight rebounds and two assists in the Blue Hens’ 81-65 win over James Madison.

3) Shavon Shields (Nebraska) 

Shields entered Wednesday’s game against Illinois averaging nine points per game in Big Ten play. He finished the 67-58 win with 33 points, making all 15 of his free throws (8-for-12 FG) and five rebounds.

STRUGGLED

1) South Florida

The Bulls shot 12-for-50 from the field and turned the ball over 15 times in their 83-40 loss at No. 24 UConn.

2) Chaz Williams (UMass)

Williams scored just eight points on 3-for-15 shooting in UMass’ 91-80 loss to George Mason.

3) K.T. Harrell (Auburn) 

Shot 2-for-15 from the field in the Tigers’ 64-56 loss to No. 14 Kentucky.

NOTABLES

  • No. 22 Memphis’ 76-70 win over UCF proved to be more interesting than expected, with freshman center Dominic Woodson being banished from the bench by head coach Josh Pastner. Following the game Pastner announced that Woodson’s been suspended indefinitely, with his language on the bench being the reason why.
  • American moved into a tie for first place in the Patriot League with a 64-44 win over Lehigh. Darius Gardner led the way with 17 points.
  • A.J. English’s three-pointer with seven tenths of a second remaining gave Iona a 62-59 win over Saint Peter’s to maintain a two-game lead in the MAAC.
  • Treveon Graham accounted for 25 points, ten rebounds and five assists in VCU’s 92-75 win over George Mason. The Rams have now won 18 straight home games.
  • Rian Pearson scored 29 points and grabbed six rebounds in Toledo’s 82-76 win over Ohio.
  • No. 14 Kentucky shot just 30.9% from the field, but that effort was still enough to beat Auburn 64-58. Andrew Harrison led the way with 16 points.
  • Stanford’s hopes of getting to the NCAA tournament took a hit with a 64-60 loss at Washington.
  • As for California, the Golden Bears survived 39 points from Washington State’s DaVonte Lacy to beat the Cougars 80-76 in overtime in Pullman. Justin Cobb scored all 22 of his points after halftime.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 6 Villanova 87, DePaul 62
  • No. 24 UConn 83, USF 40

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.