Previewing your college hoops weekend

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UPSET SPECIAL

Sun. 2:00 pm: No. 12 Villanova @ La Salle: No city in the country does rivalries quite like Philly. Known as the Big 5, Villanova, Temple, La Salle, Penn, and St. Joseph’s play a yearly round robin, with the winner getting city bragging rights for the whole year. While the tradition and the rivalry today may not be what it was in its heyday, these games are still intense and hold much more meaning than your average non-conference game.

Villanova has not looked as good as many people expected them to be this season, and a huge reason for that has been the struggles of the Wildcat’s two best perimeter players. Corey Fisher has not become the leader everyone expected him to be this season. He’s been ice cold shooting the ball (32.7% from the field, 21.1% from three) and was even benched for the beginning of Villanova’s game against Penn on Wednesday because he talked back to Jay Wright at practice. Maalik Wayns hasn’t been much better. He came into the season being hyped as a potential first round pick, but he’s shot worse from three than Fisher (15.6%) and has lost his scoring touch since Villanova’s win over UCLA. Throw in JayVaughn Pinkston’s suspension and injuries to Maurice Sutton and Isaiah Armwood, and the Wildcats are playing at far from 100%.

La Salle, on the other hand, has been impressive this year. They are 6-3 on the season, and all three losses have been in close games to major conference opponents. Aaric Murray has been terrific, averaging 16.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, and 3.1 bpg, while Reuben Guillandeaux has become a capable secondary option, scoring 15.9 ppg and hitting 46.9% from three. Villanova needed a 34 point effort from Corey Stokes to beat Penn by 12. If the Wildcats play like that on Sunday, they will take a loss.

UPSET ALERT

Sat. 12:30 pm: No. 8 Michigan State vs. Oakland: Michigan State has been struggling this season, especially in the paint, where the Spartans are usually rock solid. The best big man on the floor in this one will be Oakland center Keith Benson, a 6’11” center putting up 18.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg, and 3.3 bpg early this season. How will the Spartans bounce back from the whooping that Syracuse put on them?

Sat. 6:30 pm: Colorado State vs. No. 4 Kansas: I hate to use the term, but its fits perfectly here. The Rams are the quintessential trap game for the Jayhawks. Kansas is coming off of a big, nationally televised win over Memphis and the Jayhawks are one game away from getting Josh Selby back in the lineup. Colorado State is the team everyone forgets about in the MWC, but they were the consensus sleeper in the conference coming into the season. Travis Franklin and Andy Ogide are quality forwards and could give the Morrii some trouble. Another potential issue — will there be players gunning to try and prove themselves worthy of minutes when Selby gets thrown into the mix?

Sat. 7:00 pm: Wofford @ South Carolina: Bruce Ellington has turned out to be the real deal for South Carolina as a freshman, leading the Gamecocks to a 6-1 start to the season. Wofford, however, is a tough defensive team that really needs a win. The Terriers were picked to win their conference — the SoCon — in the preseason.

BEST MATCHUPS

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 19 UNLV @ Louisville: Louisville gets their biggest test of the season as the Runnin’ Rebels come to town. UNLV has looked very good early in the season, as they like to press, play an uptempo game, and spread the floor, allowing their talented perimeter players room to operate and create. Replace UNLV with Louisville at the start of the last sentence, and the same thing is true. This one should be a lot of fun for those that get to watch it. There are few teams in the country that consistently get better shots that UNLV. Will they be able to do it against Louisville’s press?

Sat. 2:30 pm: Wisconsin @ Marquette: Let’s put aside the fact that Marquette is in Wisconsin. Let’s also put aside the fact that these two teams are natural born enemies. Think Louisville-Kentucky, only with cheese, not bourbon. Finally, let’s put aside seeing whether Marquette can slow down Badger big man Jon Leuer or Wisconsin has the perimeter quickness to handle Marquette’s back court. The most interesting part of this game is that Vander Blue, a Madison native, originally committed to Wisconsin when he was 15, but backed off of that commitment later on in the process. Wisconsin fans let him have it online. Blue didn’t like that, and eventually committed to Marquette. Too bad this game isn’t in the Kohl Center. That would have been interesting.

Sat. 3:15 pm: No. 13 Tennessee @ No. 3 Pitt
: The Panthers are a physical defensive team that have been absolute monsters on the offensive glass. As a team, they lead the country by grabbing 48.5% of the available offensive rebounds, which is a ridiculous number. More impressive, however, is that every one of their front court players has a offensive rebound percentage over 10, meaning that every player in Pitt’s front court gets at least 10% of the available offensive rebounds when they are on the floor, led by Dante Taylor, whose 25.4 OR% is out of this world. The Vol’s bread and butter this season is tough perimeter defense. Guys like Melvin Goins, Cameron Tatum, and Scotty Hopson are all excellent defenders that will have their work cut out for them with Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker.

Sat. 4:30 pm: No. 22 Washington @ Texas A&M: You will struggle to find a better contrast of styles than Washington and Texas A&M. The Huskies love to get out and run the floor, allowing their talented guards and athletes to create in the open floor. Texas A&M is a grind it out team, relying on their toughness on the defensive end to keep them close. Which style wins out?

Sat. 6:00 pm: Arizona @ No. 21 BYU: Last year, Jimmer Fredette went into Tucson and set a McKale Center record by putting 49 points (and 9 assists and 7 boards) on the Wildcats. This year, the Wildcats appear to be much improved, however, and boast one of the best big men in the country in sophomore Derrick Williams. How good is Williams? Kenpom ranks him as No. 1 in the country in terms of offensive rating. Fredette is 9th. It is possible the best big man and the best guard in the country will be sharing a court?

Sat. 7:00 pm: VCU @ Richmond: We talked about intra-city rivalries with Villanova and La Salle. This is an intense intra-city rivalry as well, as VCU is also located in Richmond. Making things even better is that these two teams are both expected to be in the running for a tournament spot come March. Two key matchups are going to be between Joey Rodriguez (VCU) and Kevin Anderson (Richmond), and Jamie Skeen (VCU) and Justin Harper (Richmond). I have a feeling this result will be relevant again when the bracket gets released.

Sat. 8:30 pm: Gonzaga @ No. 23 Notre Dame: The Zags really need to get a win, and it just so happens that they matchup pretty well with the Irish. In terms of roster makeup, the Zags are fairly similar to Kentucky. They have a big goof at center, a talented and athletic power forward, and a guard that can really fill it up. That said, Gonzaga has defended anyone this season, especially three point shooters. Notre Dame just so happens to have a number of very good three point shooters, led by Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis.

BEST STORYLINES

FRIDAY

  • 8:30 pm: Iowa State @ Iowa: Is there a major conference, in-state rivalry with as little fanfare on a national level as a battle of the Iowas?

SATURDAY

  • 12:00 pm: St. Louis @ No. 1 Duke: Duke continues to play with Kyrie Irving’s status up in the air. Will Mike Krzyzewski drop anymore hints in the post game about his point guard’s status?
  • 12:30 pm: Auburn vs. Rutgers: I thoroughly disagree with you there, Coach Rice.
  • 4:00 pm: No. 4 Kansas State @ Loyola (IL): Jacob Pullen gets a home game back in Chicago. Also of note — only one team in the country shoots free throws worse than Kansas State at 54%.
  • 4:00 pm: Florida Atlantic @ Hofstra: FAU is coming off of wins over Mississippi State and South Florida. Can Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins change that path?
  • 4:30 pm: Cleveland State @ Sam Houston State: Cleveland State is still undefeated.
  • 5:00 pm: San Diego @ No. 15 San Diego State: Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Dee-ah-go
  • 5:15 pm: Indiana at No. 16 Kentucky: This is one of the more underrated rivalries in college hoops. Christian Watford going up against Terrence Jones will be fun.
  • 7:00 pm: Dayton @ Old Dominion: Dayton’s been downright bad this season, while ODU has taken a bit of a step back in the last week. Both of these teams are big and athletic.
  • 8:15 pm: Morehead State @ Northern Iowa: If you haven’t see Kenneth Faried play yet, you need to.
  • 9:00 pm: New Mexico State @ New Mexico: The Lobos host the second leg of this rivalry.

SUNDAY

  • 1:00 pm: Penn State @ Virginia Tech: Two of the best back court players in the country square off. Both could end up with 40+ the way they defend.
  • 4:00 pm: Boston College @ Maryland: ACC play is starting.
  • 5:00 pm: Southern Miss @ Cal: USM desperately needs this win with their weak non-conference schedule.
  • 6:15 pm: Clemson @ Florida State: Florida State is the nation’s best defensive team, but rank 165th in the nation in offensive efficiency. That has to be the biggest gap in the country.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.