Ranking the Final Four: Power Forwards


Outlook: The power forward spot is the first position where there are clear mismatches for the two best players. Terrence Jones and Matt Howard are just that much better than anyone that VCU or UConn can put on them. Jones and Howard also happen to be polar opposites despite having very similar playing styles.

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Ranking the PFs:

1) Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Jones is, without a doubt, the most talented of the power forward crop. Its not even close. He is a 6’9″ power forward with the strength and the post moves to play on the block. But he is also quick and athletic enough to play on the perimeter. Throw in the fact that he has three point range and the handle to put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim, and its no wonder that NBA teams are salivating over him. The problem with Jones, however, is that he appears to be somewhat in John Calipari’s dog house. He’s not producing in the tournament like he did during the season, and he’s be visibly (and audibly) ripped by Cal during games. Which Terrence Jones shows up?

2) Matt Howard, Butler
Howard is Butler basketball. He’s a gritty, hard-working power forward that is terrific in the paint and around the rim. He takes charges, he dives on the floor for loose balls, and he’s never taken a play off. Howard has also added a three point shot this season, making him that much more dangerous of scorer. The issue for Howard is on the defensive end. How will he match up against teams and players with overpowering front lines? Remember, he was part of the group that allowed Vernon Macklin to score 25 points in the Elite 8.

3) Roscoe Smith and Tyler Olander, UConn
Smith and Olander and going to be very good one day. Right now, however, they are both probably better classified as “not bad for freshmen”. Smith is more of a combo-forward than a power forward. He’s got some perimeter skills and can knock down a three pointer. Olander is a face-up four. He can knock down a pick-and-pop jumper, but most of his impact is felt defensively and on the glass. When UConn has their bet lineup on the floor, however, its Smith that is playing the four alongside Alex Oriakhi.

4) Toby Veal, DJ Haley, and Juvonte Reddic, VCU
When VCU has their best lineup on the floor, Brad Burgess is generally going to be playing the four with three guards. But that doesn’t mean that these three don’t contribute when they do see time. They crash the offensive glass and get some easy buckets, they defend, and they provide a total of 15 fouls in the paint.

Future Pros: Whenever Terrence Jones decides to leave school (which will probably be after this year), he will be a lottery pick. Players that are 6’9″ will his skill set and athleticism don’t come around that often. It will be interesting to see what happens with the rest of this group. I’m not sure Matt Howard has the athleticism to be an NBA player, but he can definitely make a living in Europe. Roscoe Smith has the skill set to one day blossom into an NBA player. Hell, even DJ Haley has drawn some comparisons to former VCU star Larry Sanders.

Essential to winning a title?: For Kentucky and Butler, yes. I know that Kentucky has made it this far into the tournament without getting the Terrence Jones we all expected to see this season, but can they keep on winning that way? Don’t get me wrong, I’m on the Kentucky bandwagon. I believe. I think that DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller have been terrific late in the season and in the tournament, and I am a huge fan of Josh Harrellson. But how many teams have won a national title with their second leading scorer and leading rebounder struggling?

As far as Howard is concerned, he’s the leader for Butler on the floor. He’s the consummate glue guy that so happens to be very talented and extremely hard working.

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.