As Wayne Selden’s struggles continue, is it time for Kansas to look elsewhere?

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CHICAGO — I had the interesting vantage point of sitting with fans a few rows behind the floor during the second half of Tuesday’s Champions Classic thriller between Kansas and Michigan State. Sometimes I enjoy sitting in these areas while covering games because you get a sense of how a fanbase feels about certain players or certain things their team likes to do.

Kansas fans hated Wayne Selden on Tuesday night — at least the fans sitting near me. They laid into him with a ferocity I haven’t seen out of fans with their own player in quite some time. I’d drop some quotes in here, but I’d get fired; most of what they said would make Joe Pesci blush.

Is the lingering disappointment of Selden’s career at Kansas turning into something worse?

Selden has been a polarizing figure among Kansas fans the last two seasons and they’ve been wondering since August which version of Wayne would pop up during his junior season.

Would we see the Selden that dominated stretches in South Korea and helped lead Kansas to a gold medal at the World University Games over the summer? Or would we see the disappointing Selden that regressed during his sophomore season and only shot 38 percent from the field?

Kansas fans saw sophomore season Selden during the loss to Michigan State as the 6-foot-5 junior struggled mightily in the second half to finish 3-for-12 from the field and 2-for-6 from 3-point range. He was thoroughly outplayed by Denzel Valentine. Selden finished with 12 points, one rebound and one assist for the game.

It’s no secret that if the Jayhawks want to be national title competitors this season that they need Selden to step up and play like the highly-touted McDonald’s All-American that came to Lawrence. Senior forward Perry Ellis is as steady as they come in terms of production and junior point guard Frank Mason emerged as the team’s most important player last season. Selden seems like the natural fit to be the third scorer on what appears to be a deep Kansas team filled with very good role players.

But maybe Selden is just not up to the task of being a go-to player?

The junior’s erratic play has made him a bit of a toxic figure among Kansas fans and their lingering disappointment was especially apparent during that second half at the United Center.

Fan disappointment aside, Selden just hasn’t produced up to expectations on the floor no matter how you cut it. He’s never averaged double-figures in scoring for a season. In 16 games against ranked opponents last season, Selden only scored in double-figures five times and it came against only two opponents (three times against Iowa State, twice versus Baylor). Against Wichita State in the NCAA tournament, Selden was scoreless in 23 minutes of a disappointing Round of 32 exit.

When Selden looked good in South Korea it was in-part because he was more athletic than his international counterparts and they didn’t have a chance to scout him in advance like a Big 12 team would. Now that he’s back on American soil, Selden’s lack of scoring moves is getting continually exposed against the best teams. Michigan State held Selden to 0-for-10 shooting last season and again limited him to an off-night on Tuesday. He just hasn’t added moves to his repertoire since high school and if his perimeter shot isn’t falling Selden’s offense could be in for a long night.

But if Selden is not the third scorer with this group, then who is?

Devonte’ Graham struggled to a 1-for-9 night from the field and Brannen Greene is hit-or-miss as a perimeter-shooting specialist. There doesn’t appear to be a Cheick Diallo decision on the horizon (and even if he played he’s more of an impact as a defender and rebounder) and we’ve seen enough out of Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson to know that they’re not going to be major, consistent factors in the scoring column.

Which leads me to this: Kansas needs to insert Carlton Bragg more into the lineup and use his unique offensive abilities whenever they need a boost. Also a former McDonald’s All-American, Bragg is the type of talented forward who can face-up and hit jumpers with range. If he can supplant Ellis for a few minutes and knock down some shots early in the season, it could build his confidence to be more of a go-to guy later in the season.

Multiple sources who have seen recent Kansas practices told NBCSports.com that Bragg looked outstanding and was one of the best players on the floor. Bragg only played 11 minutes against Michigan State and finished 2-for-2 with four points and no rebounds. Not exactly killing it.

But then again, Cliff Alexander wasn’t exactly killing it last season at Kansas, but he still made the Portland Trail Blazers roster as an undrafted rookie. Without Alexander and Kelly Oubre producing to high expectations, Kansas was gone by the first weekend last season. If Bragg is talented enough to be one of the best Kansas players in practice, hopefully with added minutes and confidence he can emerge as an off-the-bench scorer or additional late-game option that Kansas has been looking for.

We’ve watched Wayne Selden struggle in big games enough to be skeptical about his ability to be a main cog going forward, so why not see if a talented All-American can give a spark? It might not have worked out last season with Alexander and Oubre, but this is a deeper and more balanced Kansas team this season and Bragg could be that spark.

Bragg and Ellis might not be able to play alongside each other for significant stretches against bigger teams, but if both can knock down shots, it could make for an intriguing Kansas lineup that can spread the floor and make it tough to guard all five positions. Maybe this is the kind of end-of-game lineup that Kansas can look into, because whatever they tried against Michigan State wasn’t working.

If Kansas opts to say with Selden as a main option, I don’t see them being a national contender this season. They need someone else to step up besides Ellis and Mason. Bragg has the natural talent to potentially fill that void if Self allows him to play through some early mental lapses. It’ll be interesting to see how Self brings Bragg along this season, but if he’s been as good as advertised in practice then he needs to be on the floor because the Jayhawks can’t make a run with the way things currently stand.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

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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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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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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

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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.