Rutgers’ future looks bright, but what about Florida’s right now?



“Those were all freshmen guards. The future is bright.”

That’s how Rutgers head coach Mike Rice wrapped up his interview with Bill Raftery on ESPN after his Scarlet Knight team knocked off No. 10 Florida 85-83 in double-overtime at the RAC on Thursday night. That also happens to be precisely what every single person in the country that happened to stumble upon ESPN2’s broadcast of the game thought.


Because you know what you are going to get from a team coached by Mike Rice: scrappy defense and the kind of hustle that guarantees his team will lead the league in floor burns. Rice is the kind of coach that doesn’t mind missed shots or turnovers so long as his players are giving every ounce of effort possible. Play hard and you play. Its pretty simple.

It worked last season, as Rutgers was more competitive that most people expected them to be heading into the season — the Scarlet Knights knocked off Villanova, a top ten team at the time, in Jersey and won a game in the Big East Tournament. And while much of last season’s roster was lost to graduation, Rice teamed some talented returners with one of the more impressive recruiting classes in the country.

What’s that mean?

Well, not only does Rice have his team playing hard this season, he’s got some talent at his disposal. Eli Carter was absolutely sensational against Florida, finishing with 31 points on 12-24 shooting to go along with seven boards and seven assists. Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears added 14 and 13, respectively. The number of big shots those three hit late in regulation or during the overtimes is probably upwards of a dozen. Kadeem Jack, who may actually be the best recruit that Mike Rice landed this season, was finally cleared to play after injuring his foot back in October and only logged three minutes. Now imagine what this team looks like with a healthy Jack and when games like this from the back court become less of an outlier and closer to the median.

Two years down the road, I think it is fair to say that Rutgers will be an NCAA Tournament team.

But that’s two years down the road. Today, as we get ready to change the calendars from 2011 to 2012, Rutgers is a long way from the NCAA Tournament. Those 31 points that Carter had? They are going to seem like a long time ago the next time he has a night like he did against Richmond (three points, no boards, 1-8 shooting) back in November. And the “next time” will only become more often as Big East defenses learn about him and start to defend him to take away his tendencies.

And that, in a nut shell, is why this loss should be troubling for Florida fans.

Yes, Rutgers is a tough team to beat in their home gym, especially when you allow their talented youngsters to gain some confidence. But Florida is Final Four good. They aren’t quite on the same level as Kentucky, Syracuse or Ohio State, but its not difficult to justify picking the Gators to make it to New Orleans.

They are good enough that they should not be losing to Rutgers. Ever. Home, away, on the moon, anywhere.

Here’s my problem with Florida being a Final Four team: I just don’t trust their back court to make good decisions for four straight games against quality opponents. Take tonight as an example. Kenny Boynton was on fire, he finished with 26 points, but the other three members of Billy Donovan’s perimeter attack shot 10-29 from the floor and 3-14 from three. They combined for just 29 points while turning the ball over 12 times. Meanwhile, Patric Young — the most dominant player on the floor for Florida — got just eight shots in 41 minutes.

You want a perfect example of what I’m talking about?

After Carter hit a pull-up three at the end of the first overtime to tie the game at 76, Florida called timeout at half court with 13.2 seconds left. Its tough to tell what, exactly, they run because its out of the frame, but with seven seconds on the clock, Brad Beal catches the ball on the wing with Patric Young on the same side block with Carter, who is all of 6’2″, guarding him. In the picture below (click to enlarge), you can see Young sealing for a lob:

Beal is unable to make the pass because of the defensive pressure from Myles Mack, so he takes a dribble to relieve the pressure. In this picture, you’ll see Beal staring down Young, who has perfect position in the post, going one-on-one against a point guard:

Instead of throwing the ball into the post, Beal drives middle and turns the ball over:


Is this where I should mention that Young, who only had 11 points on the night, had scored seven straight at that point?

Florida should have won the game right then and there. In fact, had they gotten Young involved prior to the overtime, there probably wouldn’t have been an overtime.

As much as I like the Gators, I just cannot see them going four games against good teams without throwing up a performance like this.

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.