Recapping your college hoops Saturday

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Winners

Kansas State: It seems like decades ago at this point, but back when the sun was still shining on Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats landed the biggest win of the day by going into Waco and knocking off No. 9 Baylor 57-56. Coming in, the Wildcats had lost four of their last six games and found themselves sitting squarely on the bubble. With a trip to Missouri and a date with Iowa State still to come on their Big 12 schedule, a loss here could have been a step towards a losing record in league play. Instead, Frank Martin’s team picked up their second win of the year over a top ten team.

Washington: Terrence Ross had 25 points and Tony Wroten went for 22 as the Huskies picked up a 79-70 win over Arizona at home on Saturday. With the loss, Arizona drops two games behind UW and Cal — who beat Oregon State this afternoon — and essentially finds themselves in a position where they are going to have to win the Pac-12’s automatic bid to go dancing. This certainly isn’t the kind of win that will lock up a bid for the Huskies, but its another step in the right direction. We are starting to see some separation in the league standings — if Cal can beat Colorado, the Huskies and the Bears will own a two-game lead on the field — which is likely what will need to happen for this to become a two-bid league.

Xavier: The Musketeers picked up a thrilling, 86-83 overtime win over Dayton thanks to 31 points, five boards and five assists from Tu Holloway, who once again came through with the heroics. Xavier remains in third place in the Atlantic 10 standings — Dayton falls to eighth — with enough juice on their resume to keep them feeling pretty good about their bubble standing. If Xavier wants to cement a bid, they have to win at St. Louis and at UMass.

Butler: You simply can never count out the Bulldogs. Ever. After trudging their way through the first three months of the season, Butler had the country writing them off. Then they went into Youngstown State and won. A win at Cleveland State followed. After beating Loyola (IL), Butler blasted Indiana State 75-54 in their BracketBusters matchup. They are currently tied for this in the Horizon League standings. Is anyone going to bet against this team in March? Anyone?

Murray State: I knew the Racers were for real. I didn’t need to see anymore evidence. And after the No. 16 Racers beat the pants off of No. 21 St. Mary’s 65-61, you shouldn’t need to see anymore, either. Murray State has two tough road games left and still has to play in the OVC Tournament. All this team needs to do to ensure a trip to the Big Dance is to avoid losing three games the rest of the season.

Northwestern: John Shurna set Northwestern’s career scoring record as he led the Wildcats to a 64-53 win over Minnesota in a game that some had termed an elimination game. Now sitting at 6-8 in the Big Ten, Northwestern will likely need to go 3-1 down the stretch to have a real shot. In that mix are home games with Michigan and Ohio State. They need to win one of them.

The CAA: In a normal bubble year, no one in the CAA would be deserving of at-large consideration at this point. That said, this isn’t a normal bubble year, which means that the strength of the top four in the league could, theoretically, push someone into an at-large bid, most likely Drexel. The league helped their cause on Saturday, as the Dragons beat Cleveland State 69-49, George Mason beat Lamar 75-71 and Old Dominion won at Missouri State 73-67. Throw in VCU’s win on Friday night, and its wonder this group is surging.

Notre Dame: The No. 23 Irish aren’t really a winner as much as they are the practitioners of one of the best comebacks of the season. Down by 20 in the second half, the Irish woke up and made a late run to force overtime. In the extra frame, Patrick Connaughton hit a pair of threes as Notre Dame took control. The final score was 74-70. Connaughton had seven threes on the afternoon.

Losers

Mississippi State: I’m done with the Bulldogs. Until they prove something, until they beat someone of consequence, I’m ignoring them. Well, maybe I termed that wrong. When they don’t lose to one of the bad teams in the SEC, I’ll start paying attention again. The Bulldogs lost to Auburn 65-55 on Saturday, which followed up losses to Georgia and LSU. As of now, Mississippi State is getting very, very close to the bubble’s cut line.

The WCC: Believe it or not, the 65-51 loss that No. 21 St. Mary’s suffered at No. 16 Murray State may not turn out to be as bad as we thought it would be. Why? Because the loss vaulted the Gaels back into first place in the conference standings thanks to No. 24 Gonzaga’s 66-65 loss at San Francisco. The Gaels currently sit a game up with two games left — both are on the road for St. Mary’s — which could end up being just the spark the Gaels need to turn this season around.

San Diego State: The No. 13 Aztecs simply had no answer for Michael Lyons, who went for 27 points, in a 58-56 win for Air Force. The loss is the third in a row for SDSU, which — thanks to UNLV’s loss at New Mexico — pushes them into a tie for second place in the standings, two games off the pace set by UNM. Of note: Jamaal Franklin’s ankle is bad enough that he didn’t play.

Conference USA: CUSA is definitely starting to feel the crunch of the bubble bursting. On Saturday, Memphis blew a 13 point lead at home before losing to UTEP 60-58. The Miners are not a quality team this season, which is what makes this loss so problematic. Memphis doesn’t have enough good wins to weigh it out. Southern Miss also lost on Saturday, this one coming at Houston 73-71. While the two teams are now still tied for first in the conference, they are now both facing some potential bubble issues heading into the Selection Sunday.

Mercer: The Bears suffered a devastating, 81-75 loss to Jacksonville on Saturday, who sits at just 5-11 in Atlantic Sun play. The Bears? They were 12-2, the same as Belmont coming in. The Bruins won handily. The real loser is us, however. Belmont and Mercer play on the last day of the season. I was hoping the game would take place when the two teams were tied for his.

Illinois: This team is just an embarrassment now. They are getting picked on enough, so I’ll leave Illinois alone for now. But I will say this: the game after your coach says that his career in Champaign is just about done you need to do more than lose to Nebraska 80-57. That’s bad.

Bucknell: Holy Cross jumped out to a 20-4 lead and led 28-10 at halftime, a deficit that was too big for Bucknell to overcome. Combine that with wins by Lehigh and American, and all of a sudden the Bison are sitting just a game up in the Patriot League standings.

Five-star forward King picks Oregon

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Oregon has nabbed one of the top players in the 2018 class.

Louis King, a top-20 forward, committed to Dana Altman and the Ducks on Thursday via a video on social media.

“It’s been a tough, strenuous process,” King said, “but today makes all of that worth it. I’ve been blessed with great opportunities.”

The 6-foot-8 New Jersey native selected Oregon over other finalists Seton Hall, NC State, Purdue and Kansas.

“I would like to thank each of them for all the time and effort they put into my recruitment,” King said. “I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates that have pushed me and helped get me to this point in my career. My friends for all their love and support, but most of all I would like to thank my family, who has been by my side through it all.”

King is Altman’s second commit in 2018, joining four-star big man Miles Norris, a top-75 recruit in the class. It’s the beginning of what could be an absolutely dynamic class for Oregon, which still has two scholarships remaining.

“Out of all of my schools I felt like it was best for me and my family,” King said to MADE Hoops. “Coach Altman said that I would have the ball in my hands throughout the season. When I get there, it will be an easy adjustment for me with how I handle rock and get my teammates open. Our goal is to win a national championship next year.”

 

Four-star forward Miller Kopp commits to Northwestern

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Northwestern has a second four-star recruit in its 2018 class.

The Wildcats received a commitment from Miller Kopp, a 6-foot-6 forward, on Thursday, he announced via social media.

“I built a really strong relationship with (coach) Chris Collins and I fell in love with the campus,” Kopp told Scout. “I knew it would be a nice campus and have that stuff, but I think me and him are wired the same way. II think that his personality fits mine and I think we complement each other. I’m definitely excited to be able to go to a program on the rise and be able to make some history.”

Kopp picked the Wildcats over offers from Georgetown, Butler, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The Houston native is ranked in the top-100 of his class by most recruiting services.

He gives Collins and the Wildcats an exceedingly strong 2018 class, which already featured four-star guard Pete Nance of Ohio along with three-star recruits Jordan Lathon and Ryan Young. It represents a major leap forward for Northwestern. It would appear that the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance last March has brought momentum to the recruiting trail.

 

NEXT ONE? Hoops phenom at 13 has college offer, NBA height

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Emoni Bates walks out a front door of Clague Middle School with just inches to spare.

A wide smile tops his 6-foot-7, extra-lean frame. He’s holding a seventh-grade honor society certificate in his right hand. His braces gleam in the afternoon sun.

Meet the best 13-year-old basketball player in America, according to some recruiting services. One of his highlight reels on YouTube has been viewed about 1 million times.

“I don’t really pay attention to it,” Emoni insists in a voice just louder than a whisper, “because if I pay attention to it, it’s just going to get to my head.

“And I don’t want it to get to my head. I just want to play basketball.”

He’s got the pedigree.

Emoni’s father, E.J. Bates, has been around the game most of his life. He picked greens and baled hay as a kid in nearby Milan, Michigan, then developed into a smooth-shooting guard. But he didn’t take school seriously until it was too late. Instead of playing for a basketball power like Kansas and maybe even in the NBA, E.J. wound up going to Kentucky Wesleyan and settling for pro hoops in Switzerland.

E.J. is determined to make sure his son doesn’t make the same mistake. The academics are a sign of that. House rules bar Emoni from picking up a basketball until his homework is done.

Yet E.J. knows when kids are this good this early, distractions roll in like waves. Already, it seems, lots of people want a piece of Emoni. Prep, private and public high school coaches are lining up. Colleges have him on their radar. DePaul took it a step further, offering Emoni a scholarship in late August. Two other much-touted players in the Class of 2022 — Amari Bailey of Illinois and Skyy Clark of California — also have offers from DePaul.

E.J. knows the shoe company bird dogs and other hustlers looking to buy favors are lurking, too. So he and wife Edith, who works for the Red Cross, keep their inner circle very tight.

“I’m his coach to keep the snakes away,” Bates says, sitting on one of Clague’s concrete benches. “We’re not for sale.”

The Bates family has agreed to provide The Associated Press with a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the life of one of the most coveted basketball prospects in the country for at least the next five years. The periodic series will include video, photos, audio and text updates to track his progress.

Will Emoni stay near his current home to attend a public high school? Or will he take his next step at a private school like Detroit Country Day, like Michigan native Chris Webber?

Will he follow the footsteps of Marvin Bagley III and other five-star prospects, reclassifying to finish high school in three years? Bagley did to play college ball at Duke this coming season — and potentially to get a jump on a pro future.

Will E.J. and Emoni emulate the father-son team of LaVar and Lonzo Ball, grabbing headlines while hawking their own brand at every turn?

No one knows.

E.J. says all options are on the table. But he won’t be loud, unlike LaVar Ball in the lead-up to his son Lonzo being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I don’t have to brag about what we’re doing,” E.J. says. “I let other people do all the talking about how good Emoni is because word of mouth is the best advertising there is.”

A POTENTIAL STAR IS BORN

Emoni James-Wayne Bates was born Jan. 28, 2004, at the University of Michigan hospital. He was on the light side — 6 pounds, 7 ounces — and a little long at 21 inches. Just over a year later, Emoni slept with his head cradled in his left arm and his right wrapped around a black and red basketball. A cherished photo was made.

“He would always sleep with the ball,” his father recalls, holding a framed picture in his Ypsilanti, Michigan, home. “If the ball wasn’t around, he would cry about the ball. Even to this day, he has a mini-ball he keeps with him, which is crazy to me.”

There were more hints. During a second visit to the doctor, E.J., who is 6-foot-4, and Edith, 5-9, asked how tall their son might grow.

“He was off the charts,” E.J. laughs, “so they couldn’t tell us.”

Emoni has shot up 7 inches in the last two years. He’s tall enough right now to play shooting guard at any level. He handles the ball like a point guard and launches 3-pointers like a savvy veteran. He can create his own shot like a wing or drive the lane and dish off to a teammate like another rail-thin former prodigy, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant.

But adding weight and muscle is an ongoing challenge. He weighs just 155 pounds — not heavy or strong enough to play a dominating inside game that would complement his fluid perimeter skills.

“We try to stuff him full of food at night and hope it sticks,” E.J. sighs.

TEEN CELEBRITY

The Adidas Invitational in Fishers, Indiana, attracts some of the Midwest’s top seventh-grade AAU teams. Inside Best Choice Fieldhouse, talk centers on whether the Bates Fundamentals squad starring Emoni and coached by E.J. can live up to the hype.

“They’ve been hearing a lot about him,” says Bernetta Kelly, watching her son’s Peoria Area Elite team take its shot.

Bates Fundamentals wins 95-44 and Kelly understands why. She approaches Emoni and asks for a photo with her son and his team.

“I’ve seen the best players from Pittsburgh to Vegas the last four years, and he’s been the best in his class,” Peoria coach Zach Martin says. “I told the guys, ‘There are not many times you will be able to say you played an NBA player, but you just did.'”

After another lopsided victory in the two-day tournament won easily by Bates Fundamentals, Emoni walks off the court. A younger competitor darts out of his team’s pregame layup line to slap his hand. Moments later, the excitement follows Emoni out the door.

“Hey, that’s him,” a young boy entering the facility says to teammates.

How does a 10-year-old from Fort Wayne, Indiana, know who Bates is?

“YouTube,” he says.

Duh.

The highlight reel posted last summer had nearly 1 million views before Emoni walked into the doors at Clague for the first time as an eighth-grader. Several other videos have racked up 500,000-plus views in less than one year.

By the spring of 2018, the suspense about where he plans to attend high school may be its own mini-drama. Then a few years later: Which college?

E.J. and Edith hardly need reminding that’s still a long way off. As good as the recruiting services have become at projecting stars, it’s easy to forget the object of all that attention is still just 13. At times, the recruiting experts simply miss.

“It’s always a crap shoot,” E.J. says. “You don’t know what life will deal you. You never know what can happen with injuries, the loss of motivation or pressure getting to be too much.”

Yet fans of two college basketball powers with the inside track can already start thinking about the fall of 2021, when Bates can officially sign a scholarship offer. In quiet moments, Emoni sometimes does, too.

Asked about his favorite programs, the soft-spoken kid doesn’t hesitate to name the early front-runners.

“Michigan State and Kentucky,” Emoni says.

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Follow the series: https://www.apnews.com/tag/TheKid

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Follow Larry Lage at http://twitter.com/larrylage

NCAA punishes Pacific men’s basketball for violations

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STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — The men’s basketball team at Pacific has been punished by the NCAA for academic and recruiting violations under former coach Ron Verlin.

The NCAA said Wednesday that Verlin failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance when he violated academic misconduct and recruiting rules to get prospects eligible. He also failed to monitor his coaches and violated NCAA ethics rules when he encouraged others to give false information during the investigation.

The baseball program was also cited because former coach Ed Sprague impermissibly provided an athletic training student with a $16,000 scholarship to help with the housing costs of two baseball student-athletes, including her brother.

Penalties for the school include two years of probation, recruiting and scholarship reductions, a $5,000 fine and a vacation of all games in which ineligible athletes participated.

Memphis lands commitment from 2018 center Connor Vanover

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Memphis picked up its first commitment in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night as unique center prospect Connor Vanover announced his decision on Twitter.

At 7-foot-2, Vanover brings elite size to the interior for the Tigers and he’s also skilled enough that he was a 43 percent three-point shooter during his stint playing with Pro Skills in the Nike EYBL this spring. Although Vanover needs to add strength and athleticism to adapt to the college level, he simply has size that you can’t teach. Pair that size with an intriguing perimeter jumper and it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Tubby Smith is able to develop Vanover the next few years.

A three-star prospect according to Rivals, Vanover averaged 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game during the spring. Originally from Arkansas, Vanover is spending his senior season of high school ball at prep school powerhouse Findlay Prep.