College Basketball Talk’s Player of the Year Power Rankings

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source:
AP

1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: This is really all you need to know about McDermott: He averaged 27.5 points in wins at Marquette and over Seton Hall at home, and no one even batted an eye. How good do you have to be for 55 points over the course of two games in the Big East to barely move the needle?

2. Jabari Parker, Duke: Ironically enough, Parker found his three-point stroke against in Saturday’s win over Syracuse in the same game that he proved why he is so much more valuable than simply being a jump-shooter. In three games, he averaged 17.3 points and 11.7 boards last week, but he also committed 13 turnovers.

3. Shabazz Napier, UConn: Napier struggled the last two games, shooting 8-for-27 from the floor, 1-for-6 from three and committing nine turnovers in a closer-than-it-should’ve-been win over Temple and a loss to SMU at home. He’ll have a chance to get back on track at South Florida, who the Huskies play next.

4. Russ Smith, Louisville: The difference between Russ Smith today and Russ Smith of a year ago can be seen in two minutes of basketball at the end of Louisville’s win over Cincinnati. He erased a three-point Cincinnati lead with back-to-back assists to Montrezl Harrell, passes he wouldn’t have made last season. On the final possession, he hit the game-winner, but it came after he gave the ball up to Terry Rozier instead of forcing the shot on his initial touch:

5. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: Kilpatrick is still carrying a massive load offensively for a team that simply doesn’t have other scoring options. His offensive rating is 121.6, higher than anyone in the top ten not named Doug McDermott, and he’s doing in on a team that ranks 105th nationally in offensive efficiency with a usage rate of 28.9% and a shot percentage of 32.0%. For those that aren’t statistically-inclined, that means Kilpatrick is having a very efficient season despite playing a massive role offensively on a team that can’t score.

t-6. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, and Nick Johnson, Arizona: Everyone goes through lulls. Jabari Parker had his in December. Julius Randle struggled a bit in January. Shabazz Napier had a couple of bad games at the start of AAC play. It’s part of being an athlete. Not every day is going to be your best day.

Both Ennis and Johnson hit their lulls in the last two weeks. Ennis was 2-for-13 from the floor in the loss at Duke and struggled in the loss to BC and the win over Maryland. Johnson had a four-game stretch where he shot 25.0% (15-60) from the floor and 1-for-18 from three, or 5.6%, after Brandon Ashley got injured.

The question now becomes how they will bounce back. Ennis had 20 points, five boards, three assists and two steals in Monday’s win over Maryland. Johnson had 20 points, five boards and six assists in Saturday’s blowout win over Colorado.

7. Julius Randle, Kentucky: Randle had 25 points and 13 boards in a win over Ole Miss on Tuesday and followed that up with eight points and 15 boards, including the game-winning bucket, in the overtime win over LSU. He’s not trying to be liked, he’s trying to win a championship.

8. Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico: It’s time to ride for Bairstow. He needs more attention nationally, and here’s the latest example: that San Diego State front line that shutdown Joel Embiid and PErry Ellis in the Aztec win at Phog Allen Fieldhouse? Bairstow went for 26 points and nine boards on 11-for-18 shooting against them. BEAR-stow.

9. Xavier Thames, San Diego State: Thames is having a similar season to Kilpatrick in that he’s putting up ridiculous efficiency numbers for a Final Four contender that doesn’t score well. He’s dropped this week thanks to a couple of off-nights in a row and said rout at New Mexico.

10. Kyle Anderson, UCLA: Anderson struggled in UCLA’s loss at Stanford — the Bruins are generally awful in the second-game of their Pac-12 road weekends — but he’s still averaging 14.9 points, 8.6 boards and 6.9 assists while shooting 49.8% from the floor and 50.0% from three.

Others: Jordan Adams, Billy Baron, Jabari Brown, Bryce Cotton, Cleanthony Early, Joel Embiid, C.J. Fair, Marcus Foster, Aaron Gordon, Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Frank Kaminsky, Deandre Kane, Kevin Pangos, Lamar Patterson, Adreian Payne, Elfrid Payton, Marcus Smart, Juwan Staten, Nik Stauskas, Fred Van Vleet, T.J. Warren, Andrew Wiggins, Scottie Wilbekin, Chaz Williams

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.