Before Final Four begins, a rundown of the teams


Ready for the glut of Final Four stories? The press conferences will have been held, writers will be typing away and every media outlet around the country will be posting items.

So let’s have a quick review, courtesy of the Associated Press, shall we?


Butler Bulldogs (27-9)

Coach: Brad Stevens.
Conference: Horizon League. Bid: Horizon champion.
Region: Southeast. Seed: No. 8.
Tournament Record: 17-10, 11 years. Last appearance: 2010.

Scoring: Team (72.1); Matt Howard 16.7; Shelvin Mack 15.9; Andrew Smith 8.8; Shawn Vanzant 8.1.
Rebounds: Team (34.7); Matt Howard 7.7; Andrew Smith 5.4; Shelvin Mack 4.3.
Assists/Turnovers: Team (12.2/11.1); Shelvin Mack 3.6/2.4; Ronald Nored 2.5/2.1.
3-pointers: Team (.355); Shelvin Mack 78; Matt Howard 52; Zach Hahn 44; Chase Stigall 37.

Last 10: 10-0.

Skinny: Butler is on a 13-game winning streak that gave them regular-season and conference tourney titles, four more NCAA tourney wins. The Bulldogs are the first Indiana school to reach back-to-back Final Fours. In the tournament, Butler beat Old Dominion with a second-round buzzer-beater and top-seeded Pittsburgh in a wacky foul-filled finish. They survived a late charge from Wisconsin to become the only 2010 Final Four team to make the regional finals and rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final 9 1/2 minutes to beat second-seeded Florida 74-71 in overtime. The Bulldogs are the third team in tourney history to knock off No. 1 seeds in consecutive years before reaching the Final Four. They joined UCLA (2006 and 2007) and Duke (1988, 1989 and 1990).


Virginia Commonwealth Rams (28-11)

Coach: Shaka Smart.
Conference: Colonial Athletic. Bid: At large.
Region: Southwest. Seed: No. 11.
Tournament Record: 9-9, 10 years. Last appearance: 2009.

Scoring: Team (71.8); Jamie Skeen 15.4; Bradford Burgess 14.3; Brandon Rozzell 11.8; Joey Rodriguez 10.5.
Rebounds: Team (32.3); Jamie Skeen 7.4; Bradford Burgess 6.2.
Assists/Turnovers: Team (14.5/11.3); Joey Rodriguez 5.1/2.3; Darrius Theus 2.1/1.4.
3-pointers: Team (.370); Brandon Rozzell 78; Joey Rodriguez 68; Bradford Burgess 68.

Last 10: 7-3.

Skinny: The Rams have sent home five teams, all from power conferences. VCU beat Southern Cal of the Pac 10, Georgetown of the Big East, Purdue of the Big Ten, Florida State of the Atlantic Coast Conference and top-seeded powerhouse Kansas of the Big 12. All but the victory against the Seminoles came by 10 points or more. The Rams became the third 11th seed to make the Final Four. The previous time was George Mason in 2006, when that Colonial Athletic Association school stunned Connecticut in its regional final. LSU made it in 1986. The Rams’ upset of the Jayhawks guaranteed a Final Four without a No. 1 seed. It is the third time since seeding began in 1979 that not a single No. 1 seed made it to the final weekend.


Connecticut Huskies (30-9)

Coach: Jim Calhoun.
Conference: Big East. Bid: Big East champion.
Region: West. Seed: No. 3.
Tournament Record: 50-28, 30 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2009.

Scoring: Team (73.3); Kemba Walker 23.9; Jeremy Lamb 11.1; Alex Oriakhi 9.6; Shabazz Napier 8.0.
Rebounds: Team (39.4); Alex Oriakhi 8.6; Kemba Walker 5.3; Roscoe Smith 5.2; Jeremy Lamb 4.3.
Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.1/11.3); Kemba Walker 4.5/2.2; Shabazz Napier 3.0/1.8.
3-pointers: Team (.334); Kemba Walker 74; Shabazz Napier 46; Jeremy Lamb 45.

Last 10: 9-1.

Skinny: UConn is the highest seed to make it to this year’s Final Four. It’s the first time not a single No. 1 or No. 2 made it to the final weekend since seeding was used in 1979. UConn also made the Final Four in 1999, 2004 and 2009 – all three times out of the West. The Huskies, 9-9 in the Big East this season, have won nine games in tournament play in 19 days. UConn won five games in five days at the conference tournament. In the NCAA tournament, the Huskies beat Bucknell, knocked off conference foe Cincinnati, eliminated second-seeded San Diego State and edged Arizona 65-63. UConn has three freshmen in its starting lineup: Jeremy Lamb, Roscoe Smith and Tyler Olander. Junior Kemba Walker was named Connecticut’s first All-America since Emeka Okafor in 2004. Connecticut beat Kentucky 84-67 in the Maui Invitational championship game in November.


Kentucky Wildcats (29-8)

Coach: John Calipari.
Conference: Southeastern. Bid: SEC champion.
Region: East. Seed: No. 4.
Tournament Record: 107-46, 52 years. Last appearance: 2011.

Scoring: Team (75.4); Brandon Knight 17.3; Terrence Jones 15.8; Doron Lamb 12.3; Darius Miller 11.1.
Rebounds: Team (37.4); Josh Harrellson 8.8; Terrence Jones 8.7; Darius Miller 4.6; DeAndre Liggins 4.1.
Assists/Turnovers: Team (12.7/10.7); Brandon Knight 4.2/3.1; DeAndre Liggins 2.5/1.4.
3-pointers: Team (.400); Brandon Knight 84; Doron Lamb 65; Darius Miller 57; DeAndre Liggins 35.

Last 10: 10-0.

Skinny: Freshmen Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones helped the Wildcats get to the Final Four for the first time since their 1998 national title team. Coach John Calipari joined Rick Pitino as the only coaches to lead three different programs to the Final Four. Calipari’s previous visits at Massachusetts in 1996 and Memphis in 2008 were vacated by the NCAA for rules violations. Kentucky is an 8-5 favorite to win the title. Connecticut is the next favorite at 11-5, while Butler is 4-1 and VCU 7-1 to win it all. The Wildcats edged Princeton, beat West Virginia, knocked out overall No. 1 seed Ohio State and avenged a two-point December loss to No. 2 seed North Carolina to reach their 14th Final Four. Kentucky has seven national titles, second to UCLA’s 11.

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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.