2013-2014 Patriot League Preview: A new face at the top

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click hereTo see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Bucknell and Lehigh have owned the Patriot League for the past four seasons each claiming the league crown twice, but that figures to change as both graduated several impact players — specifically Bucknell’s Mike Muscala and Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum. Boston University, who was ineligible to win the league championship in their final season as a member of the America East last year, is the prohibitive favorite to win the Patriot League. Joe Jones’ squad returns four players who earned America East honors from a season ago — D.J. Irving (First Team), Dom Morris (Third Team), Maurice Watson (Third Team and All-Rookie Team), and John Papale (All-Rookie Team).

Irving and Watson make for the league’s top backcourt, and Morris is an immovable, yet skilled body in the middle. In a league that does not feature a bevy of proven forwards of the 6-foot-9 and taller variety, especially with graduation claiming Muscala, Stephen Lumpkins, and Gabe Knutson, Boston University will be able to mask their dearth of big bodies in the frontcourt.

Speaking of guard play, Lafayette graduated the always steady Tony Johnson, but returns their top scorer from a year ago in Seth Hinrichs, along with versatile big man Dan Trist. While much easier said than done, if Fran O’Hanlon is able to find a suitable replacement for Johnson — most likely either sophomore Bryce Scott or freshman Nick Lindner — the Leopards have the offensive firepower to challenge Boston University.

One of the best stories of last season was Army posting a 16-15 record and 8-6 mark in league play — the above .500 record in league play was the first time in the 20+ year history of the league that the Black Knights finished above this mark. With Kyle Wilson, last year’s Rookie of the Year, returning along with Dylan Cox, Army figures to be in the mix in the upper half of the league again.

Both Bucknell and Lehigh figure to regress after graduating two of the best senior classes ever to come through the Patriot League. Don’t be surprised if Navy, a team that has a combined record of 2-28 in the league over the last two seasons, makes a big jump forward in year three of the Ed DeChellis era. Tilman Dunbar and Worth Smith make for a very nice inside — outside combo. Loyola (Maryland) saw Jimmy Patsos take some highly touted incoming recruits with him to Siena, first year coach G.G. Smith will be in minor rebuilding mode, but has Dylon Cormier back to run the point.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: Boston University, Loyola (Maryland)
Out: None

PRESEASON AMERICA EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: D.J. Irving, Boston University

Irving (14.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.4 spg) has been a fixture in the Terriers’ starting lineup starting all but five games in his career. As a freshman, Irving went to the NCAA Tournament with current Penn State coach Pat Chambers coaching Boston University; he will look to lead the Terriers back there in this Joe Jones’ third season.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • Dave Dudzinski, Holy Cross: One of the league’s best inside players, Dudzinski runs the floor like a small forward but finishes well among the trees.
  • Cameron Ayers, Bucknell: For Bucknell to have success, Ayers will have to develop a scoring mentality, something he hasn’t had to do in his first three years.
  • Murphy Burnatowski, Colgate: Perhaps the league’s top scorer, the transfer from Maine, now in his second season with Colgate, can score anywhere in the halfcourt.
  • Dylon Cormier, Loyola (Maryland): An All-MAAC First Teamer last season, Cormier will be a force in the Patriot League for his lone season.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @HoopTime

PREDICTED FINISH

1) Boston University
2) Lafayette
3) Army
4) Bucknell
5) Lehigh
6) Loyola (Maryland)
7) Navy
8) Colgate
9) Holy Cross
10) American

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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Erica Denhoff/Getty Images
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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.