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Grayson Allen’s Duke career closes with a near-miss of an iconic March moment


OMAHA, Neb. — In a career that seems to have lasted an eternity and encompassed a universe of accomplishment and controversy, it’s fitting that the final game of Grayson Allen’s career featured a moment frozen in time.

In the space of a second, history hung in the balance and on a rim. Either Allen had made one of the most iconic shots ever, or he had lost a chance to put Duke in the Final Four.

He missed.

Top-seeded Kansas survived Allen’s shot at the end of regulation and outlasted No. 2 Duke in overtime, 85-81, to win the Midwest Region, clock the Jayhawks’ 15th trip to the Final Four and finish of one of the more interesting careers in recent memory.

Allen was a surprise hit in a national championship winner, an ascendant star, his own worst enemy in a series of bizarre tripping episodes and an elder statesman on a title contender. His career isn’t likely to ever be replicated. It’s been successful, self-destructive and salvaged. He’s been maddening and magnificent. Sometimes in the space of the same 40 minutes.

“He’s one of the outstanding players to have ever played in our program,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

The final chapter played out in a game worthy of the teams and programs it featured. By definition, Duke vs. Kansas in the Elite 8 is a historic happening. Two of the most storied and successful schools to ever do it facing off with the Final Four as the prize is as close to the pinnacle of the sport as it gets when there’s not a national title at stake.

There were 18 lead changes and 11 ties, All-Americans and lottery picks, Coach K and Bill Self. The play wasn’t always pretty, but the game was beautiful.

And perhaps the most polarizing player of the last decade had a shot at solidifying the immortality he may already own.

Twenty-six seconds on the clock. Scoreboard with matching 72s. Season at stake.

Allen crossed over to his right before Kansas’ Malik Newman forced him back left. A hesitation dribble. Allen pushed forward to his left. Rose up off his right foot and measured the shot before releasing. The ball collided with the backboard, carrommed into the rim and spun around, back to the backboard and then once more it danced across the rim.

That’s when time stopped. A country waited to watch history. Two teams awaited their fate. One man saw his legacy, sliding across a small piece of metal in the middle of America.

“It came really close to going in,” Allen said, “and it didn’t.”

It’s as simple and cruel as that. It didn’t go in, and as such, Allen missed out on his One Shining Moment, his spot next to Christian Laettner in tournament lore and a chance at a second national championship.

“To have a chance at winning it and moving on and not being able to do it, it hurts a lot,” Allen said. “But I’m so happy, so happy I made that choice to come here, so happy that they asked me — they asked me to come here and gave me a scholarship.

“I’ve learned so much in my four years here, coming out a completely different person and for the better. And the relationships I’ve built with Coach, the coaches. Some of my teammates who are guys I call my brothers now, those will last for a really long time. And that’s one of the things I’ll cherish. Those don’t go away.”

Duke was the beneficiary of maybe the most famous miss in NCAA tournament history when Gordon Hayward’s oh-so-close heave delivered them the 2010 national championship. Allen’s misfire may not be in that pantheon, but it’s one that will stand the test of time. That missed shot won’t be forgotten. It’ll be remembered not as a scarlet letter, but as a what-if. A tantalizing tease of a moment when history diverged. When the shot looked like it was going in, but didn’t.

The game officially didn’t end there in regulation, but, really, that was the last moment of Grayson Allen’s Duke career. The ball sitting on the rim, his critics and fans both on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what happens.

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.