Previewing your College Hoops weekend

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UPSET SPECIAL

Sat. 4:00 pm: UNLV @ No. 9 BYU: You want to get a feel for how good Jimmer Fredette has been this season? His past two games, he’s scored 32 points and 26 points against New Mexico and Wyoming, respectively, and people are talking about the fact that he has played poorly. Yes, he hasn’t been the Jimmer that we witnessed against San Diego State or in the first meeting with UNLV, but scoring 58 points over the course of two games is hardly playing poorly.

The key to beating BYU isn’t strictly shutting down Jimmer. Yes, when going against a player capable of scoring 40, keeping him in check is going to be one of the priorities of every game plan. But just as important will be keeping Jackson Emery and Brandon Davies in check. Emery is a lights out shooter and creates point with his ability to anticipate and jump a passing lane, but there isn’t much else to his game. Davies is one of the must underrated big men in the country. He’s got awkward looking post moves, but awkward-looking and ineffective are two completely different things.

In the first matchup, UNLV failed to do all of the above. Jimmer had 39 points, Emery had 22 and a number of big jumpers to keep put an end to the surges that UNLV made, and Brandon Davies went for 15 points and 10 boards, outplaying the Rebel’s big men. In the end, it lead to an 89-77 win for the Cougars. And that game was in Vegas.

This one is in the Marriott Center, where BYU is notoriously difficult to beat. But the Rebels come in hot, having won their last three games. Tre’Von Willis is back from injury, Chace Stanback looks like he is rounding back into form, and Quintrell Thomas is playing the best basketball of his career. UNLV needs this win badly.

UPSET ALERT

Sat. 1:00 pm: No. 24 Illinois @ Northwestern: I think I’ve picked Northwestern to be an upset in every game against a team at the top of the Big Ten. I’ve been wrong every time. No sense in stopping now. I know that the Illini won the first matchup by 25 points, but I still like how the Wildcats matchup with them. Neither team really has a big, burly post presence and both teams have a number of talented perimeter players. This game will come down to who is hitting their jumpers. When Northwestern is hot, they have a chance against anybody.

Sat. 1:30 pm: South Carolina @ No. 24 Vanderbilt: The Gamecocks are a pesky team. There isn’t a ton of talent on their roster, but freshman point guard Bruce Ellington and senior forward Sam Muldrow are both having solid seasons. Vanderbilt is a bit of a question mark as well. They have a nice ranking, but if you look at what they have actually accomplished this season, it really isn’t all that impressive. And that includes their overtime loss to South Carolina earlier this year, a game in which Muldrow had a triple double (16 points, 14 boards, 10 blocks) and Ellington had 22 points and caught fire late in the game.

Sat. 2:00 pm: Baylor @ No. 16 Texas A&M: I am not all that impressed with Texas A&M. They can’t score and they aren’t great defensively. They are a team that benefited from an easy early schedule and a couple of close, home wins. I’m not impressed with Baylor, either. They don’t have a point guard and their defense and rebounding is bad for a team with their size and athleticism. That said, the Bears really need this win if they are going to have any shot of making the NCAA Tournament. They have no wins of note and have just one road win, at Texas Tech. There is talent on that roster, however, and I think there is a chance the Bears can bounce back from their ugly loss to Oklahoma.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 2 Kansas @ Nebraska: The Cornhuskers, believe it or not, are quite competitive this season. They’ve won all three of their Big XII home games and they’ve been very competitive on the road, including a five point loss in the Phog in January. They do it with size, defense, and rebounding while controlling the pace. Against Kansas, they are going to have to control the Morrii. The Huskers did a solid job of it in their first meeting, holding the twins to a combined 23 points and 18 boards. The problem was that they shot 36.1% from the floor. If they get that same defensive effort and knock down a couple more shots, Nebraska could remain undefeated in the Big XII at home.

BEST MATCHUPS

Sat. 12:00 pm: West Virginia @ No. 12 Villanova: With everything that has gone on in the West Virginia program this season — a disintegrating freshmen class, the suspensions of Casey Mitchell, Danny Jennings leaving the bench during a game — would you be surprised if I were to tell you that the Mountaineers are tied for second in the Big East at 6-3? One of the three teams they are tied with is Villanova, which adds some importance to an already intriguing game. Villanova’s got a loaded back court, but their question marks are on the front line, which is where the ‘Eers excel.

Sat. 1:00 pm: St. John’s @ UCLA: Obviously, this game is interesting because of Steve Lavin’s return to LA, where he coached the Bruins for seven years. But this is more than just an interesting coaching storyline. Both the Johnnies and the Bruins have their sights set on an NCAA Tournament bid this season. There are two matchups that I will be intrigued to watch — Reeves Nelson vs. Justin Brownlee and DJ Kennedy vs. Tyler Honeycutt.

Sat. 2:00 pm: Old Dominion @ George Mason: This will end up being one of the most important games in the CAA this season. Mason, after a slow start to conference play, as won eight straight games to move into a first place tie in the league and to plant themselves firmly on the bubble. ODU, on the other hand, sits a game behind Mason and VCU in the standings. But they do own a win over the Patriots.

Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 11 Kentucky @ No. 23 Florida: This is the time for the Wildcats to prove themselves. Kentucky has struggled away from home all season long, including going 0-3 in SEC play. Their issue has been execution and leadership, especially down the stretch in close games. Florida, on the other hand, is currently leading the SEC East by a game in the loss column. With a win, the Wildcats close that gap. And not only do they add to their resume, they build up their confidence. UK has as much talent as just about anyone in the country, but that talent goes to waste when you can’t execute.

Sun. 1:00 pm: Michigan State @ No. 18 Wisconsin: Its awkward to still put Michigan State into a list regarding the best matchups, but until the Spartans are dead in the water — and not just in the midst of drowning — they deserve that much respect. The only reason that Michigan State isn’t dead are the three, overtime wins they picked up in the past few weeks. One of those wins came against Wisconsin in East Lansing. I’m just saying.

Sun. 2:00 pm: No. 1 Ohio State @ No. 20 Minnesota: If Al Nolen wasn’t injured, I would say that I really like this matchup for the Golden Gophers. They have the size and physicality to matchup with Sullinger inside. Trevor Mbakwe is a beast while Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson are both capable Big Ten big men. But I have trouble seeing Minnesota being able to score on a very good Ohio State defense without Nolen.

Sun. 2:00 pm: Florida State @ North Carolina: So here we have it folks. The battle for second place in the SEC. As you should be well aware of, the Seminoles are easily one of the best defensive teams in the country. They have size, they are strong and they are physical. UNC’s defense isn’t too poor, either, and with their offense starting to click, the Heels all of a sudden have a reminiscent look about them. UNC is tied for first in the ACC at 6-1, while FSU is a game back in the loss column.

BEST STORYLINES

Friday

  • 7:00 pm: Harvard @ Princeton: Both the Crimson and the Tigers head into this game undefeated in league play.
  • 9:00 pm: Iona @ Fairfield: The best team in the MAAC (Fairfield) takes on the MAAC’s best player (Mike Glover).

Saturday

  • 11:00 am: St. Louis @ Xavier: The Musketeers are coming off of their first loss in Atlantic 10 play … at Charlotte?
  • 12:00 pm: Providence @ No. 15 Georgetown: The Hoyas have bounced back nicely from their 1-4 start in Big East play. They should be able to keep their five game winning streak alive against Providence.
  • 12:00 pm: VCU @ James Madison: Both of these teams are coming off of bad losses in conference play. The Rams lost to Northeastern, while the Dukes fell to William & Mary at home.
  • 12:00 pm: Butler @ Cleveland State: This game would be a lot more intriguing if Butler wasn’t, you know, bad this year.
  • 1:00 pm: Wake Forest @ Maryland; Clemson @ Georgia Tech; Virginia Tech @ Boston College: I mean, someone has to emerge from the middle of the ACC, right? Anyone?
  • 1:00 pm: Northern Iowa @ Drake: The Panthers are streaking right now, but it will be interesting to see what happens to this team without Lucas O’Rear.
  • 1:00 pm: Richmond @ Fordham: The matchup between Justin Harper and Chris
    Gaston will be a fun one to watch, especially for NBA scouts.
  • 2:00 pm: No. 17 Syracuse @ South Florida: The Orange bounced back from their four game losing streak with a nice win at UConn. Can they keep this new streak alive?
  • 2:00 pm: Rhode Island @ Temple: Talk about a contrast of styles — Temple plays fundamental, half court defense. URI presses and shoots a ton of threes.
  • 3:05 pm: Indiana State @ Missouri State: Both the Bears and the Sycamores have been slumping a bit the past two weeks.
  • 4:00 pm: No. 19 Washington @ Oregon: The Huskies lost at Oregon State on Thursday. Washington State was blown out at Oregon the same night. Please, someone from the state of Washington salvage that trip.
  • 4:00 pm: Memphis @ Gonzaga: Two of the country’s best non-BCS programs. Also two of the country’s most disappointing teams this season.
  • 4:00 pm: Furman @ Charleston: The Cougars thumped Wofford on Thursday night. Can they turn around and beat the third contender in the SoCon’s south division?
  • 4:30 pm: Quinnipiac @ Long Island: These two teams could very well be the best two teams in the NEC.
  • 5:00 pm: Alabama @ Tennessee: The Vols have rebounded nicely from their midseason slump. Lets see how the handle the SEC leader. That’s right, Alabama leads the SEC in February. Who saw that coming?
  • 6:00 pm: Cincinnati @ No. 4 Pitt: The Bearcats matchup pretty well with Pitt personnel-wise. But in terms of talent, discipline, and execution, its no contest.
  • 6:00 pm: NC State @ No. 5 Duke: NC State beat Duke a little more than a year ago. Duke’s lost three ACC games since then. NC State has won only eight.
  • No. 7 UConn @ Seton Hall: Kemba Walker is struggling right now. He hasn’t shot well in the last five games, and during UConn’s losing streak he is shooting 10-37 from the floor, 3-16 from three, and is averaging only 14.0 ppg.
  • 7:30 pm: Colorado @ No. 15 Missouri: The Buffaloes beat Missouri in their first meeting. That one was in Colorado. Can Mizzou return the favor? The Tigers really could use the win.
  • 8:00 pm: DePaul @ No. 13 Louisville: The Cardinals will be without Preston Knowles on Saturday. This team has been as beat-up as anyone this season.
  • 8:00 pm: No. 22 Arizona @ Cal: Congratulations, Wildcats. You are now all alone in first place in the Pac-10.
  • 9:00 pm: Texas Tech @ No. 2 Texas: The Red Raiders had won three in a row … before getting obliterated by Kansas.
  • 9:00 pm: Boise State @ No. 21 Utah State: What will Wild Bill be wearing on Saturday?
  • 9:00 pm: Murray State @ Austin Peay; Morehead State @ Tennessee Tech; UT-Martin @ Tennessee State: All five of the OVC’s contenders will be playing in the same time slot on Saturday. That’s pretty cool.
  • 10:30 pm: TCU @ No. 6 SDSU: The Aztecs get an MWC bottom-feeder at home? That’s a must-win. Or a can’t-lose.

Sunday

  • 12:00 pm: Michigan @ Penn State: The battle of the spoilers or the battle of the not-so-good-at-football football schools.

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

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.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.