Pregame Shootaround: Eight more games NCAA Tournament games will decide the Sweet 16

source: AP

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Northern Iowa vs. No. 4 Louisville, 9:40 p.m. (TBS)

Just your standard Missouri Valley vs. ACC, 4-5 rivalry game to get into the Sweet 16. All joking aside, it’s always fun to see a quality “mid-major” program like 31- win Northern Iowa battle a power conference juggernaut like Louisville. Now we can finally see how the Panthers and MVC Player of the Year Seth Tuttle stack up against a team from a league that is currently doing very well in the NCAA Tournament. Louisville needs to hit shots from the perimeter and make sure Montrezl Harrell is doing enough on the interior to potentially get guys like Tuttle in foul trouble. Ben Jacobsen’s team won’t be fazed by the big-game setting. It may be five years ago, but Northern Iowa beating No. 1 seed Kansas in the Round of 32 is a blueprint for tournament success against a classic basketball powerhouse.

UPSET WATCH: No. 8 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Duke, 2:40 p.m. (CBS)

This has became a trendy upset pick since last weekend because the Aztecs match up with Duke about as well as anyone in the NCAA Tournament. Two of CBT’s staffers made this very upset pick in their brackets and if San Diego State gets even a hint of the perimeter shooting they had in the Round of 64 win over St. John’s then they’re way above the No. 8 seed they sit at. Duke closed out No. 16 seed Robert Morris in impressive fashion as well on Friday night. I know it’s a 1-16 game, and the Blue Devils are supposed to win with ease, but 32 field goals on 28 assists like Duke had on Friday is impressive against any Division I team. If San Diego State can double Jahlil Okafor and make things difficult, they could easily upset the Blue Devils. Remember when the Aztecs went into Lawrence, slowed down Joel Embiid and shocked a fully-healthy Jayhawk team? That same thing could happen here if Okafor is contained and San Diego State gets enough offense.


1) Wisconsin seems to be running into the same path as last season’s trip to the Final Four. While much has been made of the No. 1 seeded Badgers having to potentially play Arizona again in the West Regional final, Wisconsin also plays Oregon in the Round of 32 for the second consecutive year. Joseph Young is back for Oregon, but this Ducks team isn’t nearly as menacing as last year’s group — that still lost to Wisconsin.

2) People in the state of Kansas have wanted a Wichita State/Kansas game for the last two years with the recent national rise of the Shockers. They finally get to see it happen for a spot in the Sweet 16. The matchup at point guard between Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet and Kansas’ Frank Mason is key here.

3) Much has been made of No. 11 seed Dayton’s run of “home” games in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. They get a final game in nearby Columbus, but do they have enough gas in the tank to face No. 3 seed Oklahoma? Remember, this is the Flyers’ third tournament game this week and they only have six scholarship players — none of them above 6-foot-6. If the Sooners can get their interior of TaShawn Thomas and Ryan Spangler going, it could be the end for Dayton.

4) An intriguing Round of 32 matchup as Tom Izzo’s surging Spartans battle No. 2 seed Virginia. Some believe Michigan State will advance past the Cavaliers, but it’s a strong sign for Virginia that Justin Anderson showed some signs of life in the opening-round win over Belmont. Anderson’s productivity could have a big impact on the outcome in this one.

5) Can Gonzaga make the Sweet 16? Mark Few has never made it past the Sweet 16 during his tenure and the Bulldogs would be one step closer to achieving that goal with a win over Iowa.


No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Virginia, 12:10 p.m (CBS)

No. 8 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Duke, 2:40 p.m. (CBS)

No. 7 Wichita State vs. No. 2 Kansas, 5:15 p.m. (CBS)

No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 3 Oklahoma, 6:10 p.m. (TNT)

No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 2 Gonzaga, 7:10 p.m. (TBS)

No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 1 Wisconsin, 7:45 p.m. (truTV)

No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 4 Maryland, 8:40 p.m. (TNT)

No. 5 Northern Iowa vs. No. 4 Louisville, 9:40 p.m. (TBS)

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK

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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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).”


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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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.