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SATURDAY’S SNACKS: Butler, Louisville, North Carolina earn wins over top-15 teams

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SATURDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

The struggles continued for No. 7 Duke as they had another game to forget in a road loss at No. 14 Louisville. Anas Mahmoud had the best game of his career for the Cardinals and Duke struggled to defend ball screens. CBT’s Rob Dauster has four takeaways from this one including one on Duke being a total mess.

Two more of the ACC’s best teams also did battle on Saturday as No. 11 North Carolina handed No. 9 Florida State its first loss in conference play. Three more takeaways from Dauster on this one as he goes more into detail on Joel Berry’s outstanding game.

The Big East also had a big game on Saturday afternoon that saw No. 12 Butler hold on to beat No. 15 Xavier for a home win. Kelan Martin continued his sluggish Big East start, but a freshman guard is continuing to emerge for the Bulldogs. Here’s more on the Bulldogs and their very strong NCAA tournament profile.

Coming off of a blowout loss at the hands of West Virginia, No. 1 Baylor managed to go into Manhattan and knock off No. 25 Kansas State, 77-68. At the same time Baylor was winning that game, the No. 10 Mountaineers had to come back to knock off a Texas team that was playing without their best player.

No. 19 Virginia was able to outlast Clemson for an ACC road win as senior London Perrantes buried the key go-ahead three in the final two minutes. While this was a solid win for the ‘Hoos, this loss is potentially devastating for Clemson’s tourney hopes.

STARRED

Lonzo Ball, UCLA: The Bruins struggled as their legs gave out on them, but Ball still managed to post 15 points, eight assists, six boards and five steals in an 83-82 win at Utah. The Bruins swept the Mountain school.

Alec PetersValparaiso: The senior scored 19 of his 30 points in the second half to help the Crusaders beat Cleveland State. Peters also added nine rebounds on the day as he’s now over 2,100 career points.

Jack Gibbs, Davidson: The senior guard poured in 30 points and added seven rebounds in Davidson’s big Atlantic 10 win over VCU. Gibbs played all 40 minutes of Saturday’s game and was 9-for-19 from the floor with four three-pointers.

Tucker Haymond, Western Michigan: It was a career afternoon for the senior guard as Haymond had 35 points to lead the Broncos over Kent State for a MAC win. The career-high effort came on 12-for-18 shooting for Haymond.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • It didn’t come easy, but No. 2 Kansas overcame an off-shooting night to get past Oklahoma State as Frank Mason had 22 points.
  • No. 3 Villanova had a strong outing from guard Donte DiVincenzo (19 points) as the Wildcats won on the road at St. John’s.
  • Some hot shooting sparked No. 6 Kentucky past Auburn as freshman Malik Monk tallied 24 points.
  • Marcus Foster had 21 points to lead No. 8 Creighton to a rout over Truman State.
  • No. 10 West Virginia survived with a two-point road win over Texas in the Big 12. Teyvon Myers led with 16 points.
  • It took another close win but No. 20 Notre Dame was able to hold on for a road win at Virginia Tech. Steve Vasturia paced the Irish with 20 points.
  • This one needed overtime, but No. 23 Florida outlasted Georgia as Canyon Barry finished with 27 points and seven rebounds.
  • Penn State used a big second-half run to push past No. 24 Minnesota. This is the type of loss that could come back to haunt the Gophers as they held a 10-point halftime lead. Mike Watkins had 15 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Nittany Lions.

NOTABLE

  • Miami cruised past Pitt for an easy ACC win. The Hurricanes were led by Davon Reed as he finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. The win was also a milestone for Jim Larrañaga as he notched his 600th career victory.
  • Dayton stayed in the Atlantic 10 race with a road win at Duquesne. Charles Cooke led the way for the Flyers with 19 points.
  • Providence handed Seton Hall another bad loss for its NCAA tournament resume in Big East play. Kyron Cartwright led the Friars with 20 points and eight rebounds.
  • Georgetown held off UConn in an old-school rivalry game. The Hoyas trailed by six at half before rallying as L.J. Peak had 21 points and eight rebounds.
  • After the bad road loss at Illinois, Michigan bounced back with a Big Ten win over Nebraska as Moe Wagner led with 23 points.

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.