Ranking the Positions: The Shooting Guards

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Outlook: The shooting guard spot is where these rankings get a bit difficult. The thing that is so great about this Final Four is that three of these teams have completely fluid lineups. They can play big. They can play small. Sometimes their best lineup is four guards and a big man. Sometimes they need those two big bodies on the floor to matchup sizewise. In this case, a couple of these listings might look a bit funny. For example, I’m putting Jeremy Lamb as a small forward even though he can probably be listed as a shooting guard as well. The same goes for a guy like DeAndre Liggins.

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For these rankings, the shooting guards may actually be the weakest position of the five.

Ranking the SGs:

1) Doron Lamb and Darius Miller, Kentucky
Lamb and Miller both play vital, albeit slightly different, roles on this Kentucky team. Lamb is the guy that spreads the floor. He’s a lights out shooter and has a knack for getting free in transition. He’s also able to comes off of screens and shoot in the midrange, although he’s not used that way as much by the Wildcats. He hasn’t scored a ton in this tournament, but he’s capable of going for 25 when he gets hot.Miller is also used to spread the floor, but he’s more of just a spot-up shooter than Lamb. Miller does a lot of other things for Kentucky as well. He probably falls into the category of glue guy. He can defend and he crashes the offensive glass well for a back court player. He played his best basketball down the stretch of the season, carrying the Wildcats in some of their late regular season games.

2) Brandon Rozzell, Ed Nixon, Rob Brandenburg, and Darius Theus, VCU
There isn’t a star in this group, but all four of these wing players are quite good at their role. Rozzell is the hired gun off the bench. He’s a streaky shooter, but when he gets hot, look out. He had 26 against Georgetown and his four first half threes against Kansas were instrumental in building their first half lead. Nixon is probably the best defender of the group, but he can also knock down an open three. Brandenburg provides some athleticism and playmaking off the bench and can score in bursts. Theus is the back up point guard, but Shaka Smart likes to play him and Rodriguez together quite a bit, giving VCU two penetrators.

3) Shabazz Napier and Donnell Beverly, UConn
Both Napier and Beverly are probably more suited to being point guards than shooting guards. Both are very good defenders, which is one of their more valuable roles on the team. They also both spend a lot of time as the guys that dribble the ball at the top of the key as Kemba Walker runs off of screens. Beverly isn’t much of a scorer, but Napier has had a couple of big games this season. Early on, the freshman was turnover prone and a gunner. But as he has gained confidence, he’s developed a bit of a reputation for hitting crucial, and tough, jumpers for the Huskies.

4) Ronald Nored, Shawn Vanzant, and Zack Hahn, Butler
Nored and Vanzant are both known for their defensive abilities. They are ball hawks that overcome their lack of size with quickness, toughness, and anticipation. Nored, at times, can be an offensive liability, but Vanzant is an underrated scorer and creator. Hahn might be the x-factor on this Butler team. He’s a shooter, but he’s only shot 32.6% from three this season. When he is on, he makes Butler a more dangerous team.

Future Pros: Like I said before, this is probably the weakest position in this Final Four. Beyond Doron Lamb, there probably isn’t a pro in this group.

Essential to winning a title? Since all four of the teams in this year’s Final Four have ball-dominating, scoring point guards, the off-guards are resigned to filling roles. When they fill their roles, they make each of their teams that much better. When Darius Miller and Doron Lamb are hitting from the perimeter, they spread the floor for Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones. When Shabazz Napier is scoring and protecting the ball, he takes a lot of pressure off of Kemba Walker. Ronald Nored and Shawn Vanzant usually are defending the best perimeter players on the floor for their opponents.

The most important, however, is probably VCU’s guards. When the Rams are at their best, they are spreading the floor, creating driving lanes, and hitting threes on kick outs. Their ability to knock down threes in Houston will be likely be a determining factor in how far VCU advances.

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.