10 Takeaways: Who’s No. 1, Jimmer gets angry and a Blake Griffin moment

0 Comments

No. 1 lost, another pair of ranked showdowns went down and a Cleveland State player did something no college player’s done the last 15 years besides Blake Griffin.

Yeah, I’d call that a pretty good little Saturday.

So take a stroll through the top stories of the day in our 10 Takeaways.

Who’s the 1? Despite Ohio State suffering just its first loss of the season –at No. 13 Wisconsin, a place where the Badgers win 93 percent of the time – conventional wisdom holds that there’ll be a new No. 1 team when Monday’s rankings are released. So who will it be?

If you ask players for No. 2 Kansas, they’re the ones.

“I want to be No. 1,” junior forward Marcus Morris said after throttling Iowa State, 89-66. “I want to have that chip on our shoulder every time we go out. I want to be the one that gets everybody’s best shot because I believe we can take it.”

The Jayhawks were atop the polls for 14 weeks last season and say their desire to be No. 1 comes from taking it for granted. They have something to prove. Odd thing is, the team that handed Kansas (24-1, 9-1 in Big 12 play) its only loss – and at Allen Fieldhouse, no less – says it doesn’t want those honors.

“I don’t want to be No. 1,” freshman Tristan Thompson said after holding off Baylor at home, 69-60. “Enjoy No. 3 and keep climbing that mountain.”

Teammates Jordan Hamilton echoed that statement, which is probably a good thing for the ‘Horns (22-3, 10-0 in big 12 play). They started off last season 17-0 and hit the top spot, only to fall into an epic freefall and nearly miss the NCAA tournament.

So who’s that leave? No. 4 Pitt managed a win at No. 9 Villanova without leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, who’s out a few weeks due to a knee injury. At 23-2 and 11-1 in the Big East, the Panthers’ résumé is fairly impressive. Same with No. 5 Duke (22-2, 9-1), which plays Sunday at Miami. But you know who’s record is the most impressive?

Ohio State’s. A road loss at the nation’s No. 13 team? Pssh. Kansas and Pitt may have beefs, but nobody’s been better thus far than the Buckeyes (I’m not alone in this view, either). Keep them atop the polls.

(It’s all just posturing until the NCAA tournament anyway, right?)

About those Buckeyes: Ohio State football was also No. 1 when Wisconsin’s stunned it earlier this academic year. It’s the second time the Buckeyes’ basketball and football teams have lost to the same school in the same timeframe (Florida did in 2006-07). That trivia nugget aside, Ohio State isn’t sweating this right now.

Yes, it lost to a team that overcame a 15-0 second-half deficit, but coach Thad Matta says there wasn’t much his team could’ve done. Sometimes, the other team just has your number.

“They had to play, for that stretch, darned near perfect to get us and they did,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I don’t know what exactly we could have done differently.”

Mostly, it’ll reinforce the notion that there are no dominant teams this season, which is fine. Should make for a lively NCAA tournament.

Nation, meet Jordan Taylor: Allow me one more on the day’s big game. Can’t ignore Jordan Taylor. The Naismith and Cousy Awards might, but those are simply examples of how they ignored one of the nation’s top players. As Rob Dauster wrote earlier, Taylor could do no wrong in Wisconsin’s win, scoring 27 points (he missed just six of 13 shots) and dishing seven assists in 39 minutes of action. How’d he get this good? Read this fantastic piece by Luke Winn.

Kentucky’s road woes: The Wildcats’ 81-77 loss at Vanderbilt brought about one of the day’s big questions: If Kentucky can’t win an SEC road game (it’s now 1-5), what happens during the NCAA tournament? A win at Louisville on Dec. 31 seems ages ago. Big Blue Nation can console itself with the fact that the ‘Cats only have two road games remaining on the schedule, and one’s at Arkansas. But coach John Calipari wonders if his team is “mentally” tough enough to win a dogfight.

Jimmer gets angry! The nation’s leading scorer had 23 in a win vs. Utah, but needed 19 shots to do it and even had some harsh words for referee Mike Reed after a late foul. Reed told the BYU bench to get Fredette out of the game because “he’s losing control,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune. No word if it’s because he saw Michelle Peralta at the game.

How good is that Valley? Good enough to get two teams into the NCAA tournament. Wichita State and Missouri State both logged solid road wins on Saturday, keeping them knotted atop the conference standings. The Shockers (21-5, 12-3) held on at Northern Iowa, while the Bears (20-6, 12-3) kept pace by beating Illinois State.

Streaking: Coastal Carolina now has the nation’s longest win streak (22) after beating Winthrop 61-56. George Mason won its 11th straight, 82-68 over rival James Madison. Murray State got its eighth W in a row and 10th in its last 11 by beating Jacksonville State. Meanwhile, Centenary remained the only winless team on the season, dropping to 0-27 with a 91-58 loss at UMKC.

Slumping: Maryland dropped to 16-9 overall and 5-4 in the ACC with a loss at BC. It gets worse when you consider the Terps’ lone wins since Jan. 1 are Wake Forest (twice), Georgia Tech, Virginia, Clemson and Longwood. Of those, only Clemson has a winning record. K-State (16-9, 4-6) lost at Colorado. Its lone impressive Big 12 win (Jan. 24 vs. Baylor) is looking more and more like an anomaly. Both the ‘Cats and Terps will be hard pressed to reach the Big Dance.

Where’d they come from? UCLA got 19 from Malcolm Lee in a 69-61 win vs. Oregon State for its fifth straight win and ninth in last 10 games. The Bruins are now 18-7 overall and 9-3 in the Pac-10. Memphis (19-6, 7-3) rallied past Southern Miss and is within half a game of the C-USA lead. The Tigers play UAB on Wednesday. Both had rough starts to the season, but could be darkhorses to watch in March.

Blake Griffin? Really? Yes, really. Cleveland State guard Norris Cole throws up stellar numbers – 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game – but Saturday he hit a different level. He put up 41 points, 20 rebounds, nine asissts and three steals in a win over Youngstown State. Nobody’s posted a 40-20 game in college the last three years except Griffin, the 2009 Player of the Year at Oklahoma. Take a bow, Norris.

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

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

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.