The Tip-Off Marathon Awards

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So ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon happened yesterday, and like I’m sure many of you did, I stayed up for over 40 hours straight to watch the entire thing.

Yes, I’m tired today.

And yes, it was totally worth it.

Basketball at 4 am is, generally speaking, completely unnecessary. But the event is worth it for two reasons. For starters, ESPN completely dedicates their programming to college hoops at a time when the sport is not in the forefront of the national consciousness. Secondly, we got a look, in one night, at many of the teams that will be at or near the top of the national rankings.

Now, before I lose your attention (we all have fantasy football waiver wires to take a look at), we at Beyond the Arc present to you the Tip-Off Marathon Awards!

The Award for Best Game goes to: San Diego State and Gonzaga

It doesn’t get much better than two good teams going back and forth. Billy White (30 points, 9 boards) and Kawhi Leonard (18 points, 12 boards) led the Aztecs to a 79-76 win over the Zags. SDSU was in control for much of the first half, but Gonzaga used a 7-0 spurt to start the second half to take a 44-42 lead on an Elias Harris three-point play. SDSU threw a counter punch, however, as they took control of the offensive back boards. If the Aztecs missed, White and Leonard where there to clean up the mess as they built up a 66-59 lead. Steven Gray, who had 35 points, did his best to keep Gonzaga’s hopes alive, twice scoring to cut the Aztec lead to one point. The latter instance came with 23 seconds left, and after Leonard hit two free throws to make the lead 79-76, Gray lost the ball out of bounds with four seconds left. Chase Tapley missed the front end, but Gray’s half court heave was off the mark.

This was a huge win for San Diego State. The Aztecs have been a trendy pick by many to win the MWC, but picking up a win at The Kennel has thrust them into the conversation as the best team on the west coast.

The Award for Most Important Win goes to: Louisville

The Cardinals welcomed the reigning runners-up to the unveiling of their new arena, the KFC Yum! Center. They weren’t all that gracious as hosts, however, as they spent 40 minutes wiping the floor with the Bulldogs. Butler was simply not ready for the press that Louisville threw at them, turning the ball over 17 times and shooting a dismal 35% from the floor. The final score — 88-73 — doesn’t do justice to the whipping Butler took, as they were down by as much as 24 in the second and were able to maintain a level of respectability by fouling for the last 2:13.

Louisville looks like a team that was underrated coming into the season. They have a lineup that is deep and full of athletes and a back court that is chock full of lengthy defenders and knock-down shooters. Making the win all the more impressive is that Jared Swopshire missed the game as he is still recovering from a sports hernia and Peyton Siva played jut 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Raheem Buckles (17 points 11 boards) looks like a star waiting in the wings.

The Award for the Biggest Statement goes to: Ohio State

Florida was considered a potential title contender coming into the season, and Ohio State went into the O-Dome and universally changed that opinion. Down 41-38 at the half — thanks to the tremendous interior play of Vernon Macklin and the rest of the Gator front line — the Buckeyes dissected the Florida defense for the final 20 minutes, scoring 57 points and shooting 71% from the floor. Jared Sullinger had a coming out party, going for 26 points and 10 boards, while the combination of David Lighty, Jon Deibler, and William Buford completely outclassed Florida’s talented perimeter players. Perhaps the most important performance came from freshman point guard Aaron Craft, who had 7 points, 5 assists, and 3 turnovers in 29 minutes off the bench, proving capable of breaking a press and handling a raucous road arena.

The Award for the Biggest Loss goes to: Elias Harris

Losing to San Diego State is a loss Gonzaga can overcome. The Aztecs are criminally underrated (well, maybe not anymore) and got a career game out of one of their best players. The Zags still have plenty of opportunities to pick up enough quality wins to earn an at-large big. A loss they cannot overcome would be Elias Harris. Harris injured his shoulder a few weeks ago, so when he wasn’t on the floor at the end of the game, that was the reason that some suspected. It turns out that he suffered a potentially serious foot injury: “I think it’s my Achilles’ (tendon),” said Harris told The Spokesman Review. “I heard something pop. I couldn’t get up in the air and I couldn’t run any more.”

If that’s the case, then Harris will miss the rest of the season. He’s getting an MRI today. It would be a huge blow to the Zags, as he was the favorite to win the WCC Player of the Year award in the preseason. You can’t replace a talent like Harris — he’s going to be a lottery pick whenever he turns pro — but Gonzaga does have some pieces to make up for the loss. Kelly Olynyk and Sam Dower have been good early in the season, and Steven Gray is playing the best basketball of his career right now. This team is still good enough to win the WCC. But with the injury to Harris, their Final Four aspirations may be headed out the window.

UPDATE: Good thing we just did a post on this…

According the Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com, Elias Harris did NOT tear his achilles. He’ll miss about a week. Now, the question is whether or not he will be available for the CBE Classic. Gonzaga gets Kansas State on Monday, and could face Duke or Marquette on Tuesday depending Monday’s results.

The Award for the Biggest Disappointment goes to: Virginia Tech

Kansas State played essentially played the first half without Jacob Pullen due to foul trouble and played the entire game without Curtis Kelly, who was suspended by Frank Martin. The Hokies still trailed at the break, 30-29. In the second half, K-State’s supporting cast woke up, as the Wildcats slowly built their lead. Malcolm Delaney, Tech’s star guard, tried over and over again to answer, but with every ill-advised shot and turnover (he had 22 points on 6-18 shooting with 9 turnovers) he dug his team into a bigger hole.

Delaney seemed to lose confidence in his teammates, and he wasn’t necessarily wrong to do so. They weren’t finishing the sots he created for them, and second leading scorer Dorenzo Hudson was off throughout the game. This was a game called extremely tight by the referees, and it looked like the Hokies got frustrated. I’ll chalk the loss up to that, because there is no way this team is as bad as they played yesterday.

The Coming Out Party Award goes to: Quincy Acy

The Baylor forward has always been known as a dunker. Acy is just 6’6″, but his awesome athleticism and his wingspan that rivals taller teammates Perry and Anthony Jones has made him reknowned for his ability to rebound the ball and finish above the rim. But against La Salle, Acy had 25 points. He got those 25 points not on dunks and free throws, but with a variety of mid-range jumpers and even a post move or two. As Draft Express says:

Real story here is Quincy Acy. What a game for him. Seems to have improved significantly. Quincy Acy’s energy, toughness, athleticism is all where you want it to be, but now he’s scoring, making mid-range jumpers. Very interesting.

The Chris Webber Award for Boneheadedness goes to: Southern Illinois

Apparently they are too young to have learned a lesson from C-Webb, as they lost on a free throw from a technical foul that was assessed for using too many timeouts. Actually, I put this on head coach Chris Lowery. Its a a coach’s responsibility to make sure his players are aware of how many timeouts they have.

The Tip-Off Marathon MVP goes to: Scoop Jardine

Syracuse looked bad yesterday, like they have all season long. For a team that was predicted to be in the top ten and a potential Final Four contender, the Orange have been a conundrum thus far. They aren’t getting the perimeter shooting they need, Kris Joseph and Fab Melo have fallen well short of expectations, and they’ve come out of the gates sluggish in all three game. Last night was no exception, as they were down for the majority of the first half to Detroit, and if it wasn’t for Scoop Jardine’s performance, the Orange would have lost. Scoop had 27 points, 8 assists, and 5 steals. He was 11-18 from the floor. The rest of the team was 13-46. And he assisted on eight of those field goals.

The All-Tip-Off-Marathon Team:

* G: Steven Gray, Gonzaga: 35 points, 5 assists
* G: Clint Steindl, St. Mary’s: 22 points, 7-10 3’s
* F: Justin Greene, Kent State: 20 points, 12 boards
* F: Quincy Acy, Baylor: 25 points, 11 boards, 2 blocks
* F: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: 26 points, 10 boards
* Honorable Mention: David Lighty, Ohio State (26 points), Draymond Green, Michigan State (18 points, 12 boards, 6 steals, 4 blocks), Billy White, San Diego State (30 points, 9 boards)

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.