De'Andre Hunter, who might have been a first-round pick in this year's NBA Draft, is returning to Virginia

Virginia freshman De'Andre Hunter announced Friday that he'll be returning to school. 

Hunter's decision is so important, it could wind up leading to another ACC title for Tony Bennett's program. Hunter is that good, and that valuable, to Virginia's suffocating defense. At 6-foot-7, Hunter (9.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg) is a physical force on both ends but in particular makes Virginia a nightmare to face because of his footwork, wingspan and face-up defense. 

Hunter broke the news with a simple tweet. 

Hunter's choice to stay is not a knock-you-off-your-seat surprising one, but it is nonetheless a reassuring move for a Cavaliers team that is coming off unprecedented humiliation. Virginia's 74-54 defeat at the hands of UMBC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament was the first time a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed. 

Hunter, who was projected by some as a 2018 first-round talent, did not play in the UMBC game. 

He broke his left wrist in the ACC tournament. That wrist injury, of course, was a big factor in Hunter not even testing the waters. At the time of his injury, Virginia announced that recovery would take approximately three months, which means Hunter is not even halfway through that process now, so he could not have effectively participated in the NBA Draft Combine or individual workouts. 

With Hunter returning, Virginia will lose only Devon Hall, Isaiah Wilkins and Nigel Johnson. There's enough coming back to warrant putting UVA in the preseason top five, especially considering the Wahoos won 31 games last season. 

If you're looking for a player comparison for Hunter, he might wind up being the next Mikal Bridges. Villanova's stretch wing could have left college a year ago, when he was considered a probable first-round pick. But he came back to a preseason top-10 team and in doing so likely assured himself of being a lottery pick. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Hunter winds up having a similar go of it as Bridges in the next 12 months. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his eighth season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics,... Full Bio

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