Bubble Banter: Colorado, Dayton the day’s biggest winners

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There are 11 days left until Selection Sunday. Every morning from now until the bracket comes out, we’ll help you get caught up on the happenings with impact on the bubble from the night before. 

You can see NBCSports.com’s latest bracket here.

WINNERS

Dayton: The Flyers are suddenly in a great position to earn a bid after they went into Saint Louis and knocked off the Billikens on Wednesday night. We wrote about them here.

Arkansas: All of a sudden, the Razorbacks look like they’re the third-best team in the SEC, and the only team not named Florida or Kentucky to feel comfortable about their NCAA tournament standing as of today. They’ve now won six straight games — including one in Rupp Arena — and have just a single, one-point loss since February 1st. They have four top 50 wins, are 9-8 against the top 100 and only have a single ugly loss on their resume. The SEC is bad enough, however, that Arkansas probably can’t afford to lose to the likes of Alabama, who they play this weekend. But they’re in good shape.

Colorado: The Buffaloes moved to 7-6 without Spencer Dinwiddie in the lineup, picking up a win over sputtering Stanford in Palo Alto. Their final game of the regular season is at Cal, which means that the Buffs are probably in a position to withstand a loss. They have five top 50 wins, terrific computer numbers and a win over Kansas. What’s going to determine their standing is how the committee views their performance post-Dinwiddie.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers won at Indiana, which was a step in the right direction but it wasn’t a stamp on their ticket to the dance. Not yet. They’re 3-7 against the top 50 and have three ugly losses. Wisconsin heads to Lincoln on Saturday. Win that, and we’ll talk.

Tennessee and Missouri: The Vols put a whipping on Auburn at Auburn while Missouri needed a couple of beneficial whistles down the stretch to handle Texas A&M at home. But that doesn’t matter as much as the fact that both teams were able to land a win, which leaves them in the same position: needing a win when they square off in Knoxville this weekend. Both teams are currently sitting in the realm of the Last Four In.

Utah: The Utes are still in the conversation after beating Cal on the road on Wednesday. They have five top 50 wins, they’re 6-8 against the top 100 and they still have a chance to land another quality road win at Stanford this weekend. The problem? They played no one outside of the league. Their non-conference SOS is 346th, which just brutalizes their computer numbers. They will still have some work to do in the Pac-12 tourney even with a win over the Cardinal.

LOSERS

Stanford: The Cardinal are suddenly in a bad spot. They beat UCLA two weeks ago, which put them in a terrific spot to earn a bid down the stretch of the season. But they’ve lost three in a row since then and are suddenly looking at the possibility of playing their way out of the dance. They have four top 30 wins and just one bad loss, but their record against the top 100 is now just 6-10. They’re probably still avoiding the First Four, but they need to be Utah this weekend to avoid a potentially messy situation in the Pac-12 tournament.

Cal: Not a good night for the Bay Area Pac-12 schools. Utah had one road win on the season before Wednesday, and the Utes picked off Cal in Haas Pavilion. The Bears have now lost eight of their last 12 games, they’re 4-8 against the top 50 (although they did beat Arizona) and they lost a pair of games to sub-100 teams. In other words, Cal is in a bad, bad spot. They host Colorado on Saturday. Lose that game, and the Bears could very well head into the Pac-12 tournament on the wrong side of the bubble.

Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks had a chance to lock up a bid with a win at George Washington, but they weren’t able to get it. GW is a top 30 team, and a loss on the road to a top 30 team certainly doesn’t hurt St. Joe’s profile. They’ve got four top 50 wins (including VCU and UMass, who are both in the top 25), but they didn’t do much outside of the league. They get La Salle at home this weekend. It would behoove Phil Martelli to win that 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.