Five Thoughts: Why Butler and Missouri aren’t as different as you think

2 Comments

How come there aren’t more people questioning Butler?: Butler lost to St. Louis in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday night. It was the second time that they have lost to the Billikens this season (the first was a blowout that came at Chaifetz Arena) and the second time in the span of nine days that they lost at home in league play. As we continue to watch Butler play less-than-dominating basketball throughout A-10 play, it raises the question: Just how good are the Bulldogs?

I’ve had no issue questioning whether or not Arizona is truly as good as their rankings indicates, and I’m certainly not the only one to do so. They’ve won a couple close games they probably didn’t deserve to win against some of the best competition in the country, and as a result, the Wildcats has seen their ranking get inflated. Couldn’t it be argued the same thing has happened with Butler?

Their three biggest wins of the season have all come on fluky — fascinating, thrilling and the epitome of “Butler Magic”, but fluky nonetheless — finishes. There was Rotnei Clarke’s running 25-footer to beat Marquette; There was Alex Barlow’s runner in the lane in overtime to beat Indiana; There was Roosevelt Jones’ steal and floater to beat Gonzaga.

If those three shots don’t go down, is Butler a bubble team? Should we be concerned about the fact that Butler’s Kenpom ranking is 52nd? Just how much stock can we put in “Butler Magic”? And yes, I do know that they’ve dealt with injuries to two key players during the season.

You bet against Brad Stevens at your own risk, but if this may be the year where betting on Butler losing early in the tournament could pay off.

Missouri’s Pressey-ing problem: There may not be five players in the country that are as important to their team’s success as Phil Pressey is to Missouri’s. With a roster that’s devoid of players capable of creating for themselves, Frank Haith has been forced into a situation where he has to rely on his star point guard to shoulder a massive burden as a creator.

The problem is Flip’s decision-making, especially late in games on the road. Missouri has five true road losses this season that came down to the final possession (I’m including their seven-point overtime loss to Kentucky on Saturday night in this conversation), and all five of those losses have one thing in common: a bad decision by Pressey costing the Tigers down the stretch.

Now think about that in context with what we just discussed regarding Butler. How much differently would we view them if three of those final possessions ended with a bucket instead of a turnover or a missed shot? Winning and executing in the clutch is a skill, so it’s not to be glossed over, but it is something worth thinking about.

Marshall Henderson, sixth-man?: Coming off of a loss at South Carolina, Ole Miss needed a change, and it looks like Andy Kennedy found exactly what he needed: a new sixth-man. Kennedy brought Henderson off the bench on Saturday, and it worked, as Henderson his eight threes and scored 28 points for the Rebels. Granted, that performance came in a blowout win over Auburn, but it was a much-needed hot-shooting night for the slumping sharpshooter.

Weirdest ending of the season: You missed it because CBS cut away from the ending of the South Carolina-Georgia game to air the start of Georgetown-Syracuse, but we saw our first do-over in college hoops in … well, ever? Here’s what happened:

There were 8.9 seconds left on the clock after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drained a 3 to tie the game at 54. That’s when it got crazy: The clock ran before South Carolina inbounded the ball, which officials didn’t notice until after South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington missed a 3 at the buzzer.

The officials then went to the video review, as both teams huddled up, figuring there would be overtime. After a lengthy review, the officials decided to put 4.5 seconds back on the clock, and give South Carolina the ball on its own baseline – 94 feet away from the basket it needed to score at.

South Carolina couldn’t score on the second try and ended up losing in overtime, but man, what a wacky way to end regulation.

Oh, Sam Thompson:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxBbnn2_wXc]

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
2 Comments

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

tennessee basketball
Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

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

michigan state basketball
Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
3 Comments

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

virginia tech basketball
Erica Denhoff/Getty Images
2 Comments

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
0 Comments

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.