Final Four Preview: Drawing sweeping conclusions about one and dones based on this tournament is foolish

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BOSTON — After two weeks of insanity — from buzzer-beaters to historic upsets to wild comebacks to Sister Jean — we’ve finally whittled down the Field of 68 teams to the four that will play for the national title next weekend.

On one side of the bracket, we have No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago squares off with No. 3-seed Michigan.

On the other, we have No. 1-seed Villanova and No. 1-seed Kansas.

And for those of use without a rooting interest in this event, the way this played out could not have been better given what the Elite Eight gave us.

We have one of college basketball’s best programs in Villanova, the best team in the country and a team looking to win their second national title in three years. We have one of college basketball’s blue-bloods in Kansas that is close enough to San Antonio that we can be assured of a packed house for at least one round of games. We have a massive national brand in Michigan that will surely send a big crowd to Texas. And we have the best story of the tournament in Loyola, just the fourth No. 11-seed to get to the Final Four.

But here’s what we don’t have: one-and-done freshmen and an abundance of first round NBA Draft talent.

Let’s start with the latter: The only player that is a lock to go in the first round of the NBA Draft is Mikal Bridges, a lottery pick wing from Villanova whenever he decides to head to the next level. He’s not the only guy that is going to play in the NBA — I’d guess at least three of his teammates, two or three Jayhawks and Moe Wagner from Michigan will join Bridges at the highest-level of the sport — but he is the only guy that I’d feel comfortable betting any kind of money on to get picked in the first 30 picks.

The one-and-done freshmen are also no longer around.

Villanova isn’t going to lose Jermaine Samuels or Collin Gillispie to the NBA. Marcus Garrett is the only freshman on the Kansas roster that has played the entire season — Silvio De Sousa joined in December — as Bill Self has decided to go the transfer route this year, and neither of them are ready to bounce to the NBA. Michigan, like Villanova, is a program that is predicated on continued development year over year. Loyola is Loyola.

All the narratives will no commence to come flooding out.

And rest assured, they are always going to be stupid. The stats show us it’s a good thing to have first round picks, and those first round picks tend to be one-and-done freshmen. Duke won a national title in 2015 when their three best players were Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, a trio of one-and-done first round picks. Kentucky did it in 2012 with a team that had Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — the two-best players on the roster and the top two picks in the draft — on their team, along with a third one-and-done first rounder in Marquis Teague.

So, generally speaking, get out of my face with that nonsense.

But, more specifically, it’s especially dumb to fire up those takes this year.

Because essentially what you are saying is that Duke having a roster full of one-and-done first round picks is why this shot from Grayson Allen — which would have been one of the most memorable game-winners in the history of the NCAA tournament — happened to fall off the rim one way instead of the other way:


That shot not going down is why people that I generally think are very smart can unload their “evidence” that becoming a one-and-done factory does not lead to success in college hoops.

The fact of the matter is that using the results of the NCAA tournament to prove any kind of point just does not work. You’re basing your take on what happens in 40 minutes of basketball. The NCAA Tournament is madness because it is unpredictable. Literally anything can happen. It’s why this event is the absolute best way to determine a champion and a farce if you think that it’s going to determine who the best team in the sport is.

Anyone can beat anyone on any given night in college hoops, whether you’re a one-and-done factory facing off with Kansas in the Elite 8 or the nation’s No. 1 overall seed that rarely, if ever, loses an underclassmen to the draft getting bumped by No. 16-seed UMBC in the first round of the tournament.

Drawing sweeping conclusions beyond “it’s March, sh*t happens” is dumb.

The way to win the NCAA tournament is to make your team as good as you can possibly make it, hope that you get a good draw when the bracket is released and then pray that the bounces go your way.

For Duke, if one shot happens to fall through the net during the two seconds that it hangs on the rim, then all of those columns feigning outrage over one-and-done players would be feigning outrage over Bill Self’s inability to capitalize on one-and-done players and why his decision to try and build through the transfer market cost his team a shot at a national title.

There is more than one way to win a title.

Two of the last six champions did it with freshmen.

Two of the last seven, both UConn titles, did it with an all-american point guard that went into God mode for an entire month.

And maybe this year, Loyola will take home the title.

Then maybe everyone will try to find a 98-year old nun to attach to their program.

Because that would become the only way to win, right?

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).”


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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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.