Week in Review: Kevin Jones and Seton Hall get love, but the Big East doesn’t


The #BIAHRoadTrip will be cutting into our national coverage a bit, so the Week in Review’s will be limited over the next three weeks.

Player of the Week: Kevin Jones, West Virginia

All of a sudden, the Mountaineers look like a team that has to be considered a contender in a wide-open Big East. After winning at Rutgers (a place when both Florida and UConn have fallen in the past two weeks) by 21 and knocking off Georgetown by 12 in Morgantown, the ‘Eers are sitting at 12-4 overall and 3-1 in the Big East, just a game off the pace set by Syracuse. And Jones, as much as anyone, is the reason for that.

He finished the week with 36 points and 30 boards in the two games, moving his season averages to Big East highs of 19.8 ppg and 11.9 rpg. He also played 78 of 80 minutes in the two games, which isn’t exactly unusual for a guy that averages 37.1 mpg. As good as Herb Pope and Henry Sims have been, Jones is making a very strong case as the best big man in the Big East. The scary part? There is still room for him to improve. KJ has always been a good three-point shooter, but he’s hitting just 23.3% from beyond the arc this season. What happens when he regains that stroke?

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: Kevin Dillard, Dayton: The Flyers moved themselves right back into the conversation for the Atlantic 10’s top team as they knocked off both St. Louis and Temple. Dillard was instrumental in that performance, averaging 17 points and 9 assists in the two games.

G: Jordan Theodore, Seton Hall: Theodore led the Pirates to their first national ranking in over a decade thanks to wins over UConn and at Providence. Theordore averaged 16.5 ppg, 10.0 apg and 4.5 spg on the week.

G: Damien Lillard, Weber State: Doug McDermott gets all the mid-major love, but Lillard is having an incredible season out at Weber State. After scoring 68 points, grabbing 12 boards and handing out 10 assists while shooting 12-21 from three in two wins last week, he’s now averaging 26.3 ppg on the season.

F: Travis Releford, Kansas: Releford may strides towards becoming that second weapon for the Jayhawks offensively, going for 16 points and 11 boards in a big win over Kansas State and following that up with a career-high 28 points in a win over Oklahoma.

F: Royce White, Iowa State: The Cyclone’s point forward thrust ISU into the national picture by leading them to big wins over both Texas and Texas A&M. He averaged 12.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and 6.0 apg in the two games, including a 10 point, 18 rebound and 10 assists performance against the Aggies. Imagine, now, if he shot better than 10-21 from the free throw line.

F: Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts: No one in the country is playing better than Dominique Morrison is right now. In the last seven games, he is scoring 26.0 ppg while shooting 61.8% from the field, 63.6% (28/44) from three and 89.9% (44/49) from the line. ORU is 7-0 in that stretch, including wins against Texas Tech, at Xavier and, in the last week, at Oakland and at home against North Dakota State and South Dakota State. In the win over SDSU on Saturday, Morrison scored 38 points as the Golden Eagles moved a game in front of the Jackrabbits for first place in the Summit.

Team of the Week: Seton Hall

The Pirates earned their first national ranking in more than a decade on Monday, and they have a legitimate gripe that they are still being underrated. The AP put the Pirates at 24th and the Coaches left the unranked. Frankly, the Pirates have a legitimate case to be considered for the top 15. Just take a look at who they’ve beaten: VCU, Dayton, UConn, St. Joe’s, West Virginia. There are not many teams in the country that can boast that kind of resume right now.

This week, the Pirates looked at their best. They ran the Huskies out of the gym on Tuesday, getting 19 points and 11 assists out of point guard Jordan Theodore, and followed that up with a tough win on the road against a better than you think Providence team. As good as Theodore has played and as impressive as Herb Pope has been this year, don’t forget about Fuquan Edwin, who went for 24 points, nine boards and five steals against Providence after notching a double-double against UConn.

Five more teams that impressed:

Dayton Flyers: The Flyers are making a strong case to be considered the favorite to win the Atlantic 10 this season. They started off league play with wins over St. Louis at home and followed that up with a win at Temple just three days after the Owls knocked off Duke in the same building.

Colorado Buffaloes: So guess who the only undefeated team left in the Pac-12 is? Granted, all three of Colorado’s wins have come at home and two of them were against Washington State and Utah (Washington the third). We’ll learn a lot more about this group as they head to the Bay Area to take on Cal and Stanford the week. Could a team that lost Alex Burks and Cory Higgins really be the Pac-12’s best this season?

George Mason Patriots: The Patriots got off to a slow start this season, but it looks like Paul Hewitt’s club is finally starting to hit their stride. This week, they won at Old Dominion and snapped Georgia State’s 11 game winning streak to move to 4-0 in the CAA.

Arkansas Razorbacks: Arkansas got a nice start to conference play as they knocked off visiting Mississippi State 98-88 despite not having Marshon Powell, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Julysses Noble and BJ Young both went for 24 points to lead five players in double figures.

La Salle Explorers: La Salle was picked to finish 11th in the Atlantic 10, but they have been quietly surging, winning 10 of their last 11 games. They put together a dominating performance in a win over Xavier on Wednesday and followed that up by knocking off another sneakily successful team in UMass.

Five Thoughts:

Todd O’Brien needs to put up or shut up: The latest in the Todd O’Brien hostage crisis is that his most recent appeal to the NCAA has been denied. He has come out and said that he is willing to waive the privacy laws if St. Joe’s wants to tell the world why he is not being allowed to play at UAB this season. Well, Todd, if you don’t care if the information comes out, than why don’t you just tell everyone the truth? I know that college coaches can be vindictive SOB’s, but I refuse to believe that Phil Martelli and St. Joe’s would take this kind of PR hit without having what they believed was a valid justification for ending this young man’s collegiate career.

I think it is incredibly unfair that coaches and schools are able to wield this kind of power. I think that it is one of the first rules that needs to be changed in college athletics. And I think that Martelli is being unreasonable. This decision needs to get reversed. But to paint Todd O’Brien as an angel that is being tortured by Martelli for the fun of it is incorrect. There is more to this than you think.

The Big East is way, way down: Syracuse is ranked No. 1 in the country, and deservedly so. They are undefeated, they are drilling good teams (ask Seton Hall) and they have the roster make up that puts them up with the UNCs and UKs of the world as legitimate national title contenders. But after that? Pitt has lost to Notre Dame and DePaul and is currently winless in league play. Villanova is 1-3 in the conference with a 17 point loss to South Florida at home and their only win coming against DePaul. UConn got smacked around by Seton Hall on Tuesday and then lost at Rutgers on Saturday. Louisville has proven themselves to be more overrated than we initially thought, losing to Notre Dame in double-overtime at home. Hell, even Marquette has tumbled after a strong start to the year.

With all due respect to Cincinnati, West Virginia and Seton Hall, when they all can legitimately be considered top five teams in the Big East, you know the league is down.

Be worried about Missouri: There is valid reason to be alarmed by Missouri’s loss at Kansas State on Saturday. They were manhandled. There are two concerns about this Tiger team: 1) Can they beat teams with a powerful front line by playing four guards?; and 2) Are they going to be able to win on the road this year? They did against Old Dominion last Saturday. They didn’t this Saturday. On Wednesday they are at Iowa State and on January 21st they are at Baylor. It will be interesting to see what happens in those two games.

The Pac-12 and ACC are going to get more bids than you think: Why? Its simple math. There have to be 37 at-large teams, and once you get towards the bottom of the pool, there really isn’t all that much to work with. The bubble is going to be very weak once again this year, which means that a team from the Pac-12 or the ACC that didn’t little to nothing in non-conference play is going to sneak in because they put together a solid season in their league. I’d say that the Pac-12 gets three and the ACC gets five.

Who those teams are, however, is anyone’s guess at this point.

Royce White can play: I gotta admit, I’m rooting for Royce White. He’s brought most of his issues on himself, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been through an incredible amount in the first two years of his collegiate experience. I got a chance to see him play on Wednesday against Texas, and he was out there playing great basketball with a big smile on his face. Good for him.

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.