2016 NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET BREAKDOWN: The five teams that won’t win a national title

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There will be 67 teams ending their season with an NCAA tournament loss, so it’s not exactly a difficult math problem to find five that will avoid that fate, but there are a number of top seed that have critical flaws that allows us to take them out of consideration while filling out brackets.

Here are those five:

No. 1 Virginia (Midwest): The Cavaliers may have gotten a top seed, but I’m not so sure the committee did them any favors. Assuming Virginia avoids the first-ever upset to a No. 16 and then gets past either Texas Tech and Butler, both of which have big wins on their resume, then it’s off to Chicago. There they’ll face what will likely feel like road games. If it’s Iowa State in the Sweet 16, the Cavaliers will be tasked with one of the midwest’s best traveling fanbases who are just a very drivable five hours away. Plus, there’s a healthy ISU alumni base in Chicago. That alumni base, however, pales in comparison to what either Purdue or Michigan State (the likely Elite Eight opponent) can boast in the Windy City, the biggest Big Ten hub there is. As good as Virginia is, winning virtual back-to-back road games against that level of competition is a tall order.

No. 2 Oklahoma (West): A truly elite 3-point shooting team, the Sooners are converting 42.6 percent of their shots from distance. Three-point shooting, however, is a notoriously fickle thing. The old adage of “Live by the three, die by the three,” is probably over-simplifying an over-reliance on 3-point shooting, especially in a post-Golden State world, but the issue for the Sooners is diversification. Nearly 40 percent of their points come from beyond the arc, which ranks as the 12th-most in the country. The problem is that the Sooners aren’t very good on 2-point shots, converting a paltry 48.1 percent of those attempts, ranking outside the top-200. Those revolutionary Warriors in the NBA? They ranked second during their championship season in 2-point percentage (51.1) and are even better this year (52.8). The Sooners are great 3-point shooters, but if that fails, there isn’t much of a backup plan.

[   BRACKET BREAKDOWNS: East | South | Midwest | West   ]

No. 2 Xavier (East): In two recent losses to Seton Hall, Xavier showed a weakness against teams with exceptional guard play who can force turnovers. Well, in the Sweet 16 the Musketeers are certainly going to be faced with that in a major way if West Virginia makes it to the second week. Jaysean Paige is extremely difficult to deal with off the bounce while Tarik Phillip, Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles can be problems of their own. And that’s to say nothing of the Mountaineers’ unpredictable full-court trapping defense that creates live-ball turnovers and easy opportunities the other way by the boatload. If it’s Notre Dame Xavier meets, the Irish are going to present a challenge with their ultra-slow yet ultra-efficient offense. Notre Dame could struggle to get stops, but they could control the tempo enough to take Xavier out of rhythm.

[ CBT Podcast | Who can win it all | Dummy’s Guide for filling a bracket  ]

No. 2 Villanova (South): Are we sure we know how good Villanova is? The Wildcats have no doubt had a fantastic year, but it wasn’t exactly a banner season for the Big East. In fact, Villanova hasn’t defeated a top-25 KenPom team since 2015, when it downed Xavier on New Year’s Eve. The weight of recent history also isn’t in the Wildcats’ favor as they haven’t made it out of the first weekend since the 2009 Final Four trip. The draw doesn’t help their cause either as they have a potential tricky second-round matchup against Iowa, a one-time top-five team who has fallen on hard times, not to mention Kansas, the No. 1 overall seed, would potentially be blocking their path in the Elite Eight.

No. 4 Duke (West): We all know about the Blue Devils’ depth. Yes, Duke won a title last season with a thin bench, but this year’s group is thinner and doesn’t quite have the star power that powered them past Wisconsin in last year’s title game. UNC-Wilmington is emerging as a trendy first-round upset pick, but it’s Baylor in Round 2 that will truly present a challenge with all their length and an amoeba-like zone on just a one-day turnaround. And that’s to say nothing about the West’s No. 1 seed Oregon or a bottom half of the region with plenty of firepower. The road is just going to be too tough this year for Duke.

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 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.