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No. 1 goes down! No. 9 Florida State topples Xavier

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For the first time since 2004, two No. 1 seeds have been knocked out of the NCAA tournament before the first weekend has come to a close.

On Sunday, No. 9-seed Florida State erased a 12-point deficit in the final 10 minutes and a seven-point deficit in the final five minutes, closing the game on an 18-4 run as they toppled No. 1-seed Xavier, 75-70, to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.

This upset came on the heels of No. 1-seed Virginia becoming the first top seed in tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed when they fell at the hands of UMBC on Friday night. If that isn’t consolation for Xavier fans, maybe this will be: The Musketeers aren’t the only top five team from the Queen City to blow a lead on Sunday. No. 2-seed Cincinnati was dropped by No. 7-seed Nevada, who erased a 22-point lead in the final 11:43 to land the second-biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history.

With that, Florida State is on to the second weekend of the tournament. Braian Angola led the way for the Seminoles, scoring 16 points to lead five players in double-figures. It really is a fairly remarkable feat that Leonard Hamilton was able to get this team this far in the dance, but the story here is not the Seminoles.

It is Xavier.

And oh boy, do we have a lot to get to.

Let’s start with this: J.P. Macura was robbed. He picked up three fouls in the second half that were all questionable-at-best calls. The first one was a block from behind and a fast break layup. He pinned the ball on the backboard cleanly, but he drilled the shooter with his chest hard enough that getting a whistle wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

A couple minutes later, Macura cleanly picked the pocket of a Florida State’s Mfiondu Kabengele but was whistled for his fourth foul, which sent him to the bench with 8:55 left in the game and the Musketeers ahead 59-48. He came back in the game after a Florida State run cut the lead to two points, but he fouled out of the game on a questionable charge call with just over two minutes left.

Florida State outscored Xavier 27-11 after Macura’s fourth foul. It’s safe to say that those whistles changed this game.

Then there’s Trevon Bluiett. Xavier’s all-american was a non-entity on Sunday night. He finished with just eight points on 2-for-8 shooting, and while credit should be given to Florida State for the defense that they played on him, Bluiett needs to shoulder the blame as well. Mack, too. On the final possession of the game, with the Musketeers down three and just 21 seconds on the clock, Bluiett didn’t touch the ball before Kerem Kanter airballed a three with seven seconds left. On the possession prior to that, he fell down in the lane trying to score the go-ahead bucket.

It certainly wasn’t the most impressive finish that we’ve seen to a basketball game.

But that isn’t the biggest storyline coming out of this game.

Chris Mack is.

More specifically, where Chris Mack will be coaching next season is.

Mack has been at Xavier since 2004. He’s been the head coach of the Musketeers since 2009. He’s also the guy that Louisville has targeted to be their next head coach, sources told NBC Sports. Mack has been pursued by bigger programs before — he was linked and/or pursued for every big coaching hire made in the last two years, from Georgetown to Indiana to Ohio State — but Louisville may just be the job that he would consider leaving Xavier for.

Mack is a native of Cincinnati. He went to high school in Cincinnati. He graduated from Xavier. He started his coaching career for a girls JV high school team in Cincinnati. He’s Cincinnati through and through, and that would have made it hard to leave Xavier before they moved to the Big East.

But his wife is from Louisville. And the Louisville program, while mired in scandal now, is one of the ten best jobs in America. It might be top five, depending on who you ask. Rick Pitino made triple the salary that Mack is making with an ACC budget and ACC pedigree as one of the flagship basketball programs for Adidas.

Throw in the fact that this is coming at a time when Mack will be losing his two best players to graduation, and the dots connect.

We should get an answer sooner rather than later.

Until then, Xavier fans will be left to stew over a bitter end to a season that had so much promise.

If this is it for Chris Mack with the Musketeers, it sure wasn’t a storybook ending.

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

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Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.

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.