2/28 – College Hoops Week in Review: The Pac-10 race just got crazy

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Games of the Week: Wisconsin 53, Michigan 52

The Wolverines were so close to finally picking up a marquee win. With 30 seconds left and the score 52-50, Michigan’s Darius Morris headed to the free throw line. He missed the front end of a one-and-one (one of six straight free throws Michigan missed down the stretch), but the Wolverines still had four fouls to give. So they worked the clock down to 5.4 seconds left, setting up this final play:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Hh_UB-F2WA]

The loss was all the more crushing for Michigan as they continue to chase an NCAA Tournament bid. They are currently sitting right on the cut line with, at best, a shot at a .500 league record. You don’t think a win over the No. 12 team in the country could help?

UNC Asheville 61, Coastal Carolina 58: At first, I felt bad for Coastal Carolina. Their season has gone up in flames. Two of their best players have been suspended. Their starting point guard is done for the season with a knee injury. What seemed like a year with the potential to win a game in the NCAA Tournament has become a disaster. But then I read this. Maybe Matt Dickey was just playing the role of karma:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXNxVFhCJKs]

Player of the Week: Nikola Vucevic, USC

Vucevic is one of the best big men in the country, but I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen him play. Its not necessarily your fault. The Pac-10 has a garbage TV deal that makes it extremely difficult to see any Pac-10 game, let alone ones with a team that was expected to be one of the worst high-majors in the country.

But USC has had a bit of a resurgence of late. They’ve now won four straight games, including a sweep of the Arizona schools this past weekend, and Vucevic has been the best player on the floor. He has six straight double-doubles, including the 25 points and 12 boards he had in the Trojan’s upset of Arizona on Thursday. Making that performance all the more impressive was the eight points that Derrick Williams finished with. All told, Vucevic averaged 22.5 ppg and 11.0 rpg.

All of a sudden, USC looks like a team that could end up stealing a bid. They’ve got wins over Texas, Tennessee, UCLA, and Arizona. Their bad losses came early in the season, before Jio Fontan was on the roster. If they sweep Washington and Washington State on the road to close out the season, they will be tied from third in the Pac-10. That’s stronger than some of the profiles currently on the bubble.

The All-they-were-good-too team:

  • G: Jacob Pullen, Kansas State: Pullen averaged 25.5 ppg for the Wildcats in a 2-0 week as they all but locked up a tournament bid with a win against Missouri on Saturday. All told, in the last four games, Pullen is averaging 29.0 ppg, shooting 48.4% from the floor, 15-23 (65.2%) from three, and 41-47 from the foul line.
  • G: Dwight Hardy, St. John’s: Hardy averaged 27.5 ppg this week, including a career-high 34 point performance in the Johnnie’s win at Villanova. In the past seven games, Hardy has set his career high three times.
  • F: Reeves Nelson, UCLA: The Bruins moved into a first place tie in the Pac-10 this weekend with a 71-49 win over Arizona. Nelson outplayed Derrick Williams, a potential top ten pick, to the tune of 27 points and 16 boards. He also had 12 points and 10 boards in a win over Arizona State.
  • F: John Henson, UNC: Henson has a long way to go before he becomes a legitimate offensive threat, but his performance on the defensive end of the floor and on the glass is a huge reason for the Tar Heel’s resurgence. This week, he had 30 rebounds (nine offensive) and 13 blocks in two wins.
  • C: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: Johnson had 20 points and nine boards in a win at Indiana, and followed that up with an impressive 20-point, 17-rebound, 7-block performance at Michigan State.
  • Bench: Tu Holloway, Xavier (12 points, 15 assists, nine boards vs. La Salle, 26 points, 6 boards, 5 assists at Dayton); BJ Jenkins, Murray State (21.5 ppg as Racers clinched OVC title); Marshon Brooks, Providence (52 points in loss to Notre Dame); Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame (25.0 ppg, had scored 20 just once in 2011)

Team of the Week: Virginia Tech Hokies

It was really difficult this week to pick a team of the week given the number of quality options there were. I had to go with the Hokies, though. With their win over Duke on Saturday night, Virginia Tech has all but clinched an NCAA Tournament bid barring a collapse down the stretch.

The Hokies had a nice record coming into the game, but they didn’t have the power at the top that you need to make the NCAA Tournament. With how weak the bubble is this year, snagging a win over the No. 1 team in the country is almost enough to carry you from the wrong side of the bubble to the right side. Tech still has some work to do — they play both Boston College and Clemson, two other ACC bubble teams, down the stretch — but as long as they can avoid being swept, Seth Greenberg should finally be taking his team to the NCAA Tournament.

Teams deserving a shout out:

Marquette: Have the Golden Eagles finally made their patented late season run? Needing a win on Thursday to keep their tournament hopes alive, Marquette went into Hartford and knocked off the UConn Huskies in overtime. They followed it up with a win over Providence. With two games (Cincinnati, at Seton Hall) left, Marquette should feel like they are in solid position to earn a bid.

Louisville: The Cardinals also picked up two big wins this week, winning at Rutgers before taking care of Pitt at home. With the win over Pitt, Louisville moved into a third place tie with St. John’s in the Big East standings. If they win out, the Cardinals will receive one of the double byes in the conference tournament.

UCLA: UCLA wiped the floor with both Arizona State and Arizona in Pauley Pavilion this weekend, the latter thanks to Reeves Nelson’s 27 points and 16 boards. The Bruins have now moved into a first place tie in the Pac-10 with the Wildcats. They’ll have their work cut out for them this weekend, having to travel to the Washington schools, but a sweep would give the Bruins a share of the Pac-10 title. Who saw that coming?

Kansas State: Is there a team in the country playing better basketball than the Wildcats right now? Jacob Pullen has been on fire, his supporting cast has been playing with purpose and passion, and K-State earned their fourth straight win against Missouri on Saturday, which should be enough to get the Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament so long as they avoid a late season collapse.

Colorado: All of a sudden, the Buffaloes look like they may actually be capable of earning themselves an NCAA Tournament bid after they won at Texas Tech and then came from 22 points down to knock off Texas. They’ll have their work cut out for them — winning out in league play may not be enough — but its possible.

Syracuse: The Orange continued to prove that they are a better team away from home this season, going into Philly and Washington DC and coming away with hard-fought wins over Villanova and Georgetown. There is a silver lining, however. Villanova has struggled mightily down the stretch in Big East play, while the Hoyas were playing without Chris Wright.

USC: As we detailed earlier, the Trojans are now in a position that they can make a claim for deserving an at-large bid. They knocked off Arizona and Arizona State this week, they have four quality wins, and their bad losses all came before Jio Fontan was eligible to play. If they win out at the Washington schools this week, USC will be an interesting case on Selection Sunday.

Gonzaga: The Zags knocked off St. Mary’s on the road in overtime on Thursday, meaning that their win over San Diego on Saturday night gave them a share of the WCC regular season title. They also managed to get themselves back into the thick of the bubble conversation, although they’ve lost enough games that anything short of an automatic bid will leave them sweating when the brackets are announced.

MATCHUPS OF THE WEEK

  • 2/28 – 7:00 pm: Villanova @ Notre Dame
  • 2/28 – 9:00 pm: Kansas State @ Texas
  • 3/1 – 7:00 pm: Illinois @ Purdue
  • 3/1 – 7:00 pm: Alabama @ Florida
  • 3/1 – 9:00 pm: Vanderbilt @ Kentucky
  • 3/1 – 9:00 pm: Boston College @ Virginia Tech
  • 3/2 – 8:00 pm: Cincinnati @ Marquette
  • 3/2 – 9:00 pm: UCLA @ Washington
  • 3/2 – 9:00 pm: Texas A&M @ Kansas State
  • 3/4 – 12:00 pm: Kansas @ Missouri
  • 3/4 – 2:00 pm: Notre Dame @ UConn
  • 3/4 – 4:00 pm: Villanova @ Pitt
  • 3/4 – 6:00 pm: Florida @ Vanderbilt
  • 3/4 – 8:00 pm: Duke @ UNC
  • 3/4 – 9:00 pm: Texas @ Baylor
  • 3/5 – 12:00 pm: Wisconsin @ Ohio State
  • 3/5 – 4:00 pm: Kentucky @ Tennessee

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.