Saturday’s bubble winners and losers

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Winners

Virginia Tech: The Hokies had to beat Duke. And they did, 64-60, despite an off night from Malcolm Delaney. Once again, Seth Greenberg’s team has taken up residency on the bubble. They have a decent resume, but it lacks the marquee victories at top. I think it is safe to say that the No. 1 team in the country qualifies as a quality victory. If the Hokies don’t collapse, Delaney will be playing in his first NCAA Tournament.

Kansas State: The Wildcats all but cemented their NCAA Tournament bid this afternoon with an 80-70 win over Missouri. Its not just the last four wins that have done it. Kansas State finally looks like the team we all expected this season. They are focused, they are out working their opponents, and they have a star in Jacob Pullen playing like an all-american.

Colorado: The Buffaloes still have plenty of work left to do. In fact, I don’t think its a stretch to say that Colorado would still have work to do in the Big 12 Tournament should they knock off both Nebraska and Iowa State next week. But they would be done if they didn’t knock off No. 5 Texas 91-89 today, coming back from being down by as much as 22 points.

Baylor: The Bears are in the same boat as Colorado. This 58-51 win over Texas A&M puts them back into the conversation, but they still have some work to do. They did nothing in the non-conference portion of their schedule and they’ve lost to Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech in league play. The Bears need to win out to finish above .500 in conference play, which would include Texas in the season finale. Of note — Baylor has no top 25 RPI wins, and two top 50 wins, both Texas A&M.

Florida State: I know it was only Miami, and I know the final score says 65-59, but the Seminoles absolutely beat down the Hurricanes. This was a 20 point game at the half. Florida State was up by double digits until a flurry of points from Miami when the game was no longer in doubt. After getting smacked by 18 at Maryland on Wednesday, FSU needed to prove that they could play without Chris Singleton. And they did.

Losers

Alabama: The Crimson Tide suffered a crushing, 68-63 loss to Ole Miss on the road. The Crimson Tide were atrocious during the non-conference portion of their schedule, leaving them very little room down the stretch of the SEC schedule. With games at Florida and against Georgia at home down the stretch, Alabama has opportunities. They may need to cash in on both if they want to dance.

Tennessee: The Vols once again suffered an inexcusable home loss, this time to Mississippi State 70-69 when Dee Bost found Wendell Lewis for a dunk with 3.4 seconds left. Now, this loss doesn’t necessarily crush Tennessee’s chances. In fact, it probably wouldn’t knock them out if the tournament started today. But with a trip to South Carolina and Kentucky still on their schedule, it puts the Vols into a position that they cannot lose either of those games. How well has Tennessee played under pressure this year?

Minnesota: The Gophers are done. After losing to Michigan 70-63 at home in what essentially amounted to a play out game — the Gophers seventh loss in their last eight games — Minnesota is not 6-10 in the Big Ten. The good news? With the win, Michigan still has an outside chance of playing their way into an at-large bid.

Memphis: The Tigers were on the edge of the bubble after last week’s loss to Rice. And now, after losing 74-47 to UTEP, the Tigers now must win the C-USA Tournament if they want to go to the Big Dance. Its fairly shocking how bad C-USA is this season. Legitimate question — is the CAA better?

VCU: The Rams were in a bad spot coming into this game, and after losing to James Madison 72-69 they are now 12-6 in the CAA. This is certainly not going to be an NCAA Tournament team, and now may be a team that is on the verge of missing the NIT.

Colorado State: Well, so much for the Rams as an at-large candidate. After losing to BYU on Wednesday, the consensus seemed to be that CSU had a shot if the could knock off San Diego State on the road to close out the season. That’s no the case after losing to Air Force 74-57.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.