Jimmer shoots BYU back into 1 seed talk (yes, he can do anything)

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Everything fell for Jimmer Fredette Friday night. And not just in BYU’s win.

The nation’s leading scorer put on the show of the year by dropping a career-high 52 points during an 87-76 win over New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament semifinals. He hit 22 of 37 shots, including 7 of 14 from beyond the arc. Everyone else on BYU was just 12 of 31.

“He’s very special. Everyone knows that. The country knows that,” New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. “Special players can have special evenings like this, especially in March. He had one of ’em.”

The Cougars (30-3) will play for the title Saturday. But thanks to Notre Dame’s loss and Duke possibly not having senior guard Nolan Smith for its ACC tournament semifinal vs. Virginia Tech, the Cougars could grab what few thought possible earlier this week.

A No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

The odds aren’t great, but it’s possible. Here’s the scenario:

  • BYU beats San Diego State Saturday for its 31st win of the year and 12th vs. the RPI top 100. More impressive are seven wins vs. the RPI top 25 and the No. 5 overall RPI mark.
  • Notre Dame, now 26-6 after a loss to Louisville, drops to a 2 seed. The Irish have more wins vs. the RPI top 100, but the same number of top 25 wins. They’re No. 6 in the RPI.
  • Duke, which beat Maryland Friday, loses to Va. Tech. The Devils would be 28-5 overall with 15 wins vs. the RPI top 100, but only four vs. the top 25. They’re No. 4 in the RPI.

(This doesn’t even factor if Texas beats Kansas in the Big 12 title game. Hey, I had to make this manageable.)

Does that make the Cougars the most worthy team? Maybe. More important is that they’re back in the discussion, which didn’t seem likely ever since center Brandon Davies was dismissed for the season. Without him, BYU lost to New Mexico, mucked around vs. Wyoming and struggled in Thursday’s win over TCU.

But that’s where the Jimmer comes in.

The likely national player of the year had an historic night vs. the Lobos. He missed just six shots in the first half when he had 33 points. And even when the Lobos paid more attention to him, he still produced at a rate that shouldn’t be possible.

I mean, the guy easily outscored 13th-ranked Wisconsin, broke his own tournament scoring record and had more points in one game than any NBA player this season. It was a little unreal. And completely what we’ve come to expect out of Fredette.

“You know, earlier in his career we would kind of shake our heads. Now we really kind of expect that, which is probably not the right thing,” BYU coach Dave Rose said.

But when he’s in that rhythm where he believes everything he’s going to shoot is going to go in, he’s really hard to guard. They tried length, they tried quickness, they tried a combination of pressure and double-teams. Tonight Jimmer just found space, got into space and made shots. I think, you know, everybody on the team has seen that before, and they were happy that it happened tonight.”

Considering that he entered the game in a modest shooting slump – he was hitting 40 percent of his shots over the past 11 games – and it was easy to dig on the Cougars as one dimensional and unworthy of a 1 seed. Add in the fact that New Mexico had beaten BYU four straight times, and it elevates Fredette’s performance even more.

Fredette’s been a phenomenon for a few months now. Friday elevated it a little bit more.

And made it even tougher on the NCAA tournament seeding committee.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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.

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.