Monday’s Things To Know: Texas Tech, K-State on track to beat The Streak, Virginia goes 3-crazy and the postseason begins

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It was a night light on games, but not on significance as the Big 12 race heated up, Virginia was red-hot and March Madness got its start. Here’s everything you need to know from Monday:

TEXAS TECH AND KANSAS STATE ARE A GAME AWAY FROM ENDING THE STREAK

It might actually happen.

The seemingly unstoppable, infallible and inevitable streak of Big 12 regular season titles for Kansas could come to an end this week as both Texas Tech and Kansas State guaranteed themselves a cushion of at least one game heading into their regular season finales Saturday by beating Texas and TCU, respectively, on Monday evening.

If Kansas loses tomorrow at Oklahoma, it’s over. If the Jayhawks lose Saturday to Baylor, it’s over. If Texas Tech beats Iowa State on the road and/or Kansas State wins at home against Baylor, it’s over.

Despite all the close calls, the obituaries written and dire situations over the last 14 years, the Jayhawks’ amazing streak looks like it has finally found a corner from which it won’t escape. It’s been a truly remarkable run.

Kansas State would have been one of the contenders everyone picked to be a threat to end Kansas’ streak this year after the Wildcats went to the Elite Eight a year ago, but the doubts about just how talented they were got pretty loud after they opened the Big 12 0-2 and then trailed West Virginia by 21 before rallying to avoid 0-3. Since then, they’ve won 13 of 15 Big 12 games.

Texas Tech’s move to the top is more surprising. Jarrett Culver went from third-option behind Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith to a likely lottery pick, which has helped the Red Raiders overcome huge roster losses from last year’s Elite Eight squad. All of a sudden combining red-hot 3-point shooting with the nation’s top defense also goes a long way.

Their fortuitous turns have coincided with what seems like disaster at every turn for Bill Self and Kansas. The Jayhawks lost Udoka Azubuike to an injury, which completely changed the dynamics of the team. Then Silvio De Sousa was ruled ineligible (though not surprisingly) by the NCAA, and that was followed by Lagerald Vick’s departure from the team, with no definitive word on if he’ll return. It didn’t help that Marcus Garrett turned his ankle and missed time, too.

It took all that to end the streak. Well, at least it looks like that’ll be enough to finally put an end to it, anyway.

And while it’s the end of an astounding streak for Kansas, a streak that underscores its excellence and consistency as a program under Self, it’s the end of what has to be, or at least should be, an embarrassing year-after-year result for the league. Yes, Kansas has shared a couple titles during the streak and they have a rich tradition and spend millions (insert joke here, if you so choose) in its upkeep, but in a league with programs of the resources of Texas and Oklahoma, with the proud basketball traditions at places like Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, somebody should have stepped up and ended this thing at some point – and probably more than once – over the last decade-and-a-half.

Yes, these 14 years have been a triumph for Kansas, but they’ve been a failure for the rest of the conference, too.

Maybe now, that’s over.

Or Texas Tech and Kansas State will bumble this away Saturday and the Jayhawks streak will continue to live on in perpetuity until the sun engulfs us all.

TEXAS AND TCU MISS BIG CHANCES

While Texas Tech and Kansas State’s pursuit of the End of The Streak gets top billing in the Big 12, the league’s quest to get eight of its 10 teams into the NCAA tournament is an interesting subplot, one which got dinged by the furtherance of the Red Raiders’ and Wildcats’ quest Monday.

TCU and Texas both missed big chances to bolster their NCAA tournament prospects, with the Horned Frogs losing at home to K-State and the Longhorns losing in Lubbock to the Red Raiders.

In our Monday-morning bracketology, we had Texas as a No. 11 and TCU as a No. 10 seed. While neither team suffered anything close to what would be considered a bad loss Monday, both missed out on wins that could have really gone a long way in solidifying their shaky position.

One of them will be in better position come Saturday night, however, as they face each other in the regular season finale. That’s bad news for the loser, though.

VIRGINIA GOES BONKERS FROM DEEP

I’ve written before that the failures of previous Virginia teams shouldn’t be held against this current version. I’ve written how good these Cavs are and how they’re different from their predecessors. Mostly in their willingness to shoot more 3s.

That was on display in a major way in their 79-53 second-half dismantling of Syracuse.

The Cavs hit a school-record 18 triples, with Kyle Guy connecting on eight and both Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter on five apiece.

We all know how good Virginia’s defense is. It’s been nearly invulnerable for years, and it’s very much so again this season. Pair that with a team that can shoot it like this one – capable of piling up points in a low possession game – and look out.

That’s a pretty good recipe for a national title contender, if you ask me.

CONFERENCE TOURNEY SEASON IS UPON US

The Power 5 games Monday will get all the attention, but it’s worth marking the unofficial start of March Madness with the Atlantic Sun’s conference tournament tipping off.

North Florida, Liberty, Florida Gulf Coast and Lipscomb were all first-day winners, for those keeping track at home.

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.