LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Is Duke back?

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FRIDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

Is Duke back?

The Blue Devils took advantage of Joel Berry II’s foul trouble by going on a 29-8 run en route to a 93-83 win over arch rival North Carolina in the ACC Tournament title game. Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen were all clicking. Harry Giles showed flashes of the potential he had when he enrolled in Durham. … Isn’t this what we’ve been waiting for from Duke all season long? If so, it couldn’t be happening at a better time. CBT’s Rob Dauster was in Brooklyn and had several takeaways from Duke’s massive comeback win.

Josh Hart made a late push for national player of the year with a 19-point, 10-rebound effort in Villanova‘s Big East Tournament semifinal win over Seton Hall on Friday night. The senior wing made key plays on both ends off the floor, none bigger than a putback lay-in in the final seconds, which ended up being the deciding bucket in a 55-53 win. He gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game after the Pirates led for more than 30 minutes. He and Jalen Brunson, Villanova’s other first-team all performer, scored the team’s final 19 points. The Wildcats are still in line to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

After a harrowing beginning to Michigan’s trip to the nation’s capital, it wouldn’t have been shocking if the Wolverines were one-and-dones in the Big Ten Tournament. However, Michigan has strung together consecutive wins in D.C., the most recent being a 74-70 overtime win over top-seeded Purdue in the quarterfinals. D.J. Wilson led with 26 points. CBT’s Rob Dauster has more here.

One of the concerns around Kentucky is how it will play when Malik Monk has an off-night. With Monk being limited to only two points, off 1-of-7 shooting, the rest of the Wildcat backcourt answered the call in an SEC Tournament win over Georgia. Isaiah Briscoe had 20 points, six rebounds and two assists. De’Aaron Fox also looked to be back in rhythm. CBT’s Rob Dauster explains why that’s important for Kentucky’s tournament hopes here.

Vanderbilt may have secured its berth in the NCAA Tournament by defeating No. 17 Florida for the third time this season. The Commodores outscored the Gators 14-4 in overtime to earn a marquee 72-62 victory.

STARRED

Semi Ojeleye, SMU — The American Player of the Year scored 17 of his career-high 36 points in the first half, building SMU a comfortable lead. While Mustangs got a scare from East Carolina, they move on to the AAC semifinals. Ojeleye also added 12 rebounds.

D.J. Wilson, Michigan — Back to wearing their regular uniforms, Michigan landed another victory in the Big Ten Tournament, defeating top-seeded Purdue in overtime to advance to the semifinals. Wilson had 26 points and eight boards, all while keeping All-American Caleb Swanigan in check. He had three blocks, none bigger than a rejection on Carsen Edwards which sent the contest to an extra frame.

Jack Gibbs, Davidson — For the sixth time this season, one of the nation’s leading scorers registered a 30-point game. Gibbs dropped 34 points in a win over top-seeded Dayton. The Wildcats advance to the A-10 Tournament semifinals.

Josh Hart, Villanova — The Big East Player of the Year made several key plays, as mentioned above, in a thrilling victory over Seton Hall. His 19 points and 10 rebounds not only serve as the latest proof that he could be the nation’s best player, but it keeps the Wildcats near the top of the list when the selection committee determines the No. 1 overall seed.

Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen, Duke — The trio combined for 62 points, off 17-of-32 shooting. Harry Giles also had an impactful 15 minutes, scoring six points and grabbing seven boards.

RELATED: Get caught up on all of today’s bubble action

REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Dillon Brooks was saddled with foul trouble, but No. 5 Oregon still held off Cal, 73-65, in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. Even though Cal was without Jabari Bird, who reportedly suffered a concussion, it bodes well for the Ducks to find a way to win when Brooks isn’t at his best. For Cal, this likely spells N-I-T.
  • No. 11 West Virginia scored only 16 first-half points, but rallied, and held on, in the second half against Kansas State. The Mountaineers won, 51-50, and advance to the Big 12 Tournament title game. K-State may have done enough with a win over Baylor on Thursday, but the Wildcats might have to sweat it out on Sunday.
  • No. 12 SMU, the top seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, nearly surrendered a 22-point lead, but held on to an 81-77 win over East Carolina in the quarterfinals. Semi Ojeleye had 36 points in the win.
  • Kyle Washington had 21 points, followed by Jacob Evans’ 20, as No. 15 Cincinnati rolled past Tulsa in the AAC quarterfinals.
  • It got closer than Mike Brey would have liked it to be, No. 22 Notre Dame is going to meet Duke the ACC Tournament title game after defeating No. 16 Florida State, 77-73, in the second semifinal from Brooklyn. Duke won the first meeting, led by a combined 56 points from Tatum, Allen and Kennard.
  • Playing its third game in as many days, fatigue may have caught up on TCU. The Horned Frogs trailed by double digits at half en route to an 84-63 loss to No. 23 Iowa State. Deonte Burton led the way with 22 points.
  • No. 24 Wisconsin defeated Indiana for the third time this season, ending the Hoosiers’ 2016-17 with a 70-60 victory in the Big Ten quarterfinals. The usual suspects led the way for the Badgers with Bronson Koenig scoring a game-high 16 points, followed by Ethan Happ with 14. Nigel Hayes was a rebound-shy of a double-double.
  • A 20-2 second half run propelled Northwestern to a 72-64 win over No. 25 Maryland. The Wildcats went on a 31-0 run in the previous round against Rutgers.

NOTABLE

  • The game of the night may have been in the WAC. In the semifinals, top-seeded CSU Bakersfield needed four overtimes to defeat Utah Valley, 81-80. How will the length of that game impact the Roadrunners in Saturday’s championship game?
  • Middle Tennessee State advanced to the Conference USA title game. The Blue Raiders need one more win, and they won’t have to worry about being left on the cutting room floor by the selection committee. The top seed in the C-USA will play No. 6 Marshall in the championship game.
  • Rhode Island, which sits squarely on the bubble in Pittsburgh, landed an A-10 Tournament quarterfinal win over St. Bonaventure behind 19 points and eight rebounds from Hassan Martin.
  • The top seed in the SWAC, Texas Southern, landed a 62-57 win over Grambling. The Tigers are one win away from their third NCAA Tournament appearance in the past four years.
  • Kevin Hervey scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in UT-Arlington‘s 71-54 win over Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt quarterfinals. The top-seeded Mavericks boast a win at Saint Mary’s this season. They could be a trendy pick for an upset if they reach the NCAA Tournament.
  • Top-seeded Akron is one step closer to an automatic berth, defeating Ball State, 74-70, in the MAC semifinals. The Zips were led by 19 points apiece from Isaiah Johnson and Antino Jackson.
  • Davidson upset top-seeded Dayton in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals. Jack Gibbs, all all-first team selection, came up big with 34 points. It was the sixth time this year he recorded a 30-point performance. Watch the highlights here.
  • New Orleans had a double-bye in the Southland Conference Tournament. After its first postseason win, the Privateers are halfway to an NCAA Tournament appearance. New Orleans, led by conference player of the year Erik Thomas’ 18 points, downed Sam Houston State by a dozen on Friday night.
  • North Carolina Central is one-win away from the program’s second NCAA Tournament appearance, as Eagles defeated Maryland-Eastern Shore, 77-49, in the MEAC semifinals. NC Central’s average margin of victory in the tournament is 31.5 points.
  • The second Big East Tournament semifinal of the evening, ending like the first: in the final seconds. After Xavier‘s Trevon Bluiett tied the score with a step-back three, Marcus Foster buried a triple with 8.3 seconds left to lead Creighton to Saturday’s title game.
  • Texas Southern and Alcorn State, the two top teams in the SWAC, meet for an automatic bid. Texas Southern won both regular season meetings by a combined seven 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.