Missouri’s SEC play brings out the anger in Bill Self

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Conference realignment excels at two things: Creating confusion and creating anger. Kansas coach Bill Self has finally embraced the latter.

After months of downplaying the Big 12’s future demise despite schools doing their best to ditch the conference, Self finally had enough Tuesday night when news of Missouri openly declared its intentions to chase after the SEC.

He’s ready to end this rivalry. Kinda.

As he told the Lawrence Journal-World’s Gary Bedore, the Kansas-Missouri game is “one of the best in college basketball without question,” but he’s not interested in playing the Tigers once a year. Not when they might be in the SEC and there’s no home-and-home every season. A neutral-court game like Missouri plays with Illinois – which Self took part in while coaching the Illini – doesn’t appeal to him.

He doesn’t completely slam the door on playing Missouri, but it’s close. From the paper:

“I could probably change my mind (but) trust me, we would have no trouble finding another nonleague game to play. I love the rivalry (uninterrupted since 1907 with KU leading 171-94). Playing home and home in the league is great and all those things … (but) I can’t imagine, why would we continue playing?

“If they choose to be somewhere other than with us and with the other schools that they’ve been a part of and could jeopardize the future of the other schools … I’m not going to make a commitment now that we’d ever play again. I’m not saying we won’t. I’m certainly not going to pretend that we would.”

This isn’t about basketball. This is about emotion. It’s about giving the finger to a school that’s trying to leave you high and dry. I get that. Why continue doing business with a person who’s sticking it to you?

Well, there is the tradition aspect (and these factors). Kansas and Missouri have played every year since 1907. That’s longer than most schools have been playing college hoops. That’s hardly insignificant. It’s easy to see why Self doesn’t view Missouri as a true rival. He’s 14-3 vs. Missouri as Kansas’ coach. Texas and Oklahoma State are more competitive.

But this is fuel for stoking the rivalry. This would add some much-needed spice to a game that’s become one-sided. Take it out of the “rivalry week” spots in February and March. Schedule it in early December, get it on national TV and make the game matter nationally again.

(Though, until Missouri rises to Kansas’ continued hoops success, that’ll be hard to do. Giving Missouri hoops a boost is a big drawback in Self’s view. I think a one-off game is overrated in terms of national significance, exposure, recruiting.)

Not that this’ll influence Self. From the Journal-World:

“I’m not saying it would be bad or won’t be bad (playing once on neutral court). I will say this … the media is not going to dictate who we play. I’ll dictate who we play as long as I’m coaching here,” Self said. “I have no ill will toward Missouri at all, but to do something at a time that could be so damaging and hurtful to a group, I can’t see us just taking it and forgetting. I think that would be something that’d be talked about with our administration and we’d make a decision that’s best for our place. They are making a decision that’s best for theirs. We’ll make a decision on a schedule that’s best for us.

“I am not going to schedule Missouri just to schedule Missouri. I’m going to schedule what’s best for us, period. That’s how it’s going to be.”

Fair enough. Self’s earned the right to run Kansas how he likes. It seems overblown than Missouri leaving might kill the Big 12 when Texas and Oklahoma aren’t going anywhere, but you can appreciate his honesty.

Just remember, ultimately this isn’t about bitterness or fairness. It’s about basketball. And basketball is supposed to be fun.

Well, and maybe a little contentious. But that hasn’t hurt Louisville-Kentucky …

From Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star:

Have we forgotten that? There has been so much scandal and talk about revenue sharing and grants of rights and TV contracts that maybe the whole reason we watch and care about college sports is buried.

College sports at their best — and we haven’t seen their best in a while, it seems — are emotional. They are my school against your school, bonds tighter than professional sports can ever create, and there isn’t a place in the country that can claim a deeper and more meaningful rivalry that the one between Kansas and Missouri.

The most fun games of the year for both schools are the ones against each other, and stop it with the Tweets about the games not meaning anything without a conference title on the line. How often is a conference title on the line between those schools in either football or basketball?

Do the (non-bitter) fans and alumni a favor. Keep it going. Would that be so bad?

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You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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.