Week in Review: Brandon Paul and Florida State in a landslide

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

Player of the Week: Brandon Paul, Illinois

This was a relatively easy choice. Paul played a single game this week, and in that game, he had arguably the single most dominant individual performance of the season. He scored 43 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots. He shot 11-15 from the floor — the first time in 16 years that someone scored as many as 43 points while taking as few as 15 shots — and 8-10 from three. He scored 15 points in the last three minutes of the game, including a pair of ridiculously tough threes to keep Illinois in the lead. The latter came from about 22 feet with Aaron Craft’s hand literally in his face.

The question for Illinois now is how they build on this. Yes, Paul’s performance was great theater and yes, it got them a marquee win that they so desperately needed. But its not difficult to see how this win can be viewed as fool’s gold. Paul isn’t going to be this dominant every single night, and even with that kind of performance, Illinois only managed to knock off Ohio by five points. Paul needs to be much more consistent and the Illini need to get more out of Meyers Leonard. If they do, Illinois should be in the mix at the top of the Big Ten.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team

G: Phil Pressey, Missouri: Missouri was sensational in Missouri’s win over Texas, finishing with 18 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers. He also added 12 points, five boards and five assists in a huge road win at Iowa State. Missouri got drubbed by the now 1-3 Kansas State Wildcats on the road, which is why a win over an improved Cyclones team — one in which Missouri played far from their best game — is a very good sign.

G: Chaz Williams, UMass: The Hofstra transfer has been one of the most improved point guards in the country. He’s averaging 16.2 ppg and 5.9 apg, spurring the Minutemen on to a surprising 3-1 start in Atlantic 10 play. This week, Williams has 22 points, six boards and seven assists — and just one turnover — as UMass overcame a 17 point deficit to knock off St. Joe’s. That performance came on the heels of the 19 points, six assists and five boards he had in a win over Charlotte.

G: Lenzelle Smith, Ohio State: Lenzelle Smith had a career-high 28 points and added seven boards as the Buckeyes knocked off Indiana in impressive fashion, getting revenge for a loss at Assembly Hall from earlier in the season. Putting OSU here is less about Smith, however, and more about simply wanting to comment on the Buckeyes: they made a statement here, and they needed to. There had been some doubt creeping into the minds of the pundits over the last couple of weeks. Between the loss at Kansas (without Sullinger), the loss at Illinois (when Paul went nuts) and the loss at Indiana, the Buckeyes suddenly looked mortal. For my money, OSU is still the favorite to win the Big Ten. As they showed Saturday, they can be absolutely smothering defensively. When they are getting the kind of perimeter production they got on Sunday, look out.

F: Terrence Ross, Washington: Ross had the best game of his career on Sunday night, scoring 30 points, grabbing 14 boards and hitting six threes as he led the CJ Wilcox-less Huskies to a win at Washington State. 26 of those points came in the second half. Washington has a wealth of perimeter talent, but for one reason or another, Lorenzo Romar has been unable to get everyone on the same page. No one has suffered from that lack of cohesion as much as Ross. Is this the spark he needs to become the kind of player that everyone expected him to be in the preseason.

C: Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State: Moultrie was only average in a 62-58 win over a scrappy Tennessee team, finishing with 13 points, four boards and four blocks. But he was sensational as Mississippi State knocked off fellow SEC West member Alabama 56-52 on Saturday. He had 25 points and 13 boards (seven offensive) and helped to keep JaMychal Green from having a major impact in the paint.

Team of the Week: Florida State

Just like the Paul pick, this is fairly obvious. On Tuesday, the Noles went into Blacksburg and knocked off Virginia Tech 63-59. But that’s not the game that everyone is going to be talking about this weekend. On Saturday, FSU absolutely pulverized North Carolina, taking an eight point lead into the break and embarrassing the Tar Heels in the second half, winning by 33 points. Seriously! 33 points!

We’ll save our question marks about UNC for later. Its all Florida State here. The Noles really, really needed this win, and its not just because they had a resume that included two losses to Ivy League teams and a twenty point loss to Clemson. Deividas Dulkys was 8-10 from three. Michael Snaer went for 17 points. Luke Loucks hit a pair of threes. Florida State’s issue coming in was offensively — they struggle to score in large part because they can’t shoot. Will this be the confidence boost they needed to turn that around?

Five teams that deserve a shoutout:

Baylor: First, the Bears go into Kansas State and knock off the Wildcats a couple of days after Frank Martin’s team blew out Missouri on the same court. Then, Baylor puts up 106 points in a 41 point win over Oklahoma State. Some people are waiting to see if Baylor can beat Kansas in Phog Allen to label this team a national title contender. Not me. The Bears are as good as anyone in the country.

Cincinnati: Cincinnati is doing everything they can to prove that the loss they suffered to St. John’s at home — the only loss they’ve had since the brawl — was a fluke. The Bearcats went into DC and knocked off Georgetown, following that up with a four point win over Villanova despite the Wildcats getting 39 points, 13 boards and six assists from Maalik Wayns. Mick Cronin’s team is now sitting just a game out of first place in the Big East.

Oregon: Don’t look now, but the Ducks are sitting just a game out of first place in the Pac-12 after sweeping a road weekend at the Arizona schools. Making their record all the more impressive is that the Ducks have won three of their four games on the road. Given everything that is going on in that conference, we have to consider this group a contender for the league title.

SDSU: The Aztecs knocked off UNLV in the most exciting game of the week. Jamaal Franklin, who went for 24 points and 10 boards on a bum ankle, hit a driving layup with 0.3 seconds left on the clock. I guess that SDSU’s terreible schedule during the holiday break didn’t hurt them too much. It doesn’t get any easier for Steve Fisher’s club, however. Three of their next four are on the road, at New Mexico, at Colorado State and at Wyoming.

St. Mary’s: The Gaels are now the favorite in the WCC. That’s what happens when you beat BYU and Gonzaga by an average of 18.5 ppg. But remember, we’ve seen this before out of St. Mary’s. We’ve seen the great starts. Can they close out the season? And what happens when they go and play those two teams on the road? St. Mary’s has been very impressive, particularly Rob Jones and Matthew Dellavedova, but I still need to see more.

Five Thoughts:

Road losses: We saw a lot of ranked teams lose on the road this week. UNC and Louisville got smoked by Florida State and Providence, respectively. Michigan lost at Iowa. Michigan State lost at Northwestern. Kansas State, Seton Hall and Ohio State all lost road games as well. As you can probably imagine, this led to a plethora of tweets and stories about just how difficult it is to win on the road in conference play, all of which were true.

But its also common. Every year, we talk about how tough it is to win on the road in league play and how teams are going to eventually slip up playing against programs that are so familiar. It happens every single season. So what do you make of the losses? Well, each situation is difference. The fact that UNC quit against Florida State is alarming. Louisville’s loss at Providence further drove home the point that the Cardinals are and have been very overrated. But Kansas State and Seton Hall lost at improved Oklahoma and South Florida teams who are going steal games all year long. Ohio State ran into the Brandon Paul buzz saw.

Home losses are more worrisome (looking at you Indiana) than road losses, and so long as teams are able to bounce back and keep a loss from becoming a losing streak, all is ok.

The Missouri Valley is too balanced: The Missouri Valley is very strong this season. Creighton and Wichita State are probably good enough to earn at-large bids, and there are another five or six teams in the league that are capable of beating anyone in the conference on a given night. While that is going to make for some great basketball games and an entertaining race, it may also mean that the league ends up beating themselves into just two NCAA Tournament bids.

Outside of the top two, who is going to be able to put together one of the 37 best at-large resumes? UNI and Indiana State are both sitting below .500 in league play. Missouri State won at Creighton but has since lost to Illinois State, Northern Iowa and Evansville, with two of those losses coming at home. Drake and Evansville both have a star, but that hasn’t exactly turned into wins. Can anyone separate themselves from the rest of the pack?

Duke now the favorite in the ACC?: I’m not ready to say that yet, but I do think that North Carolina showed their true colors against the Seminoles. The Tar Heels lack toughness. I’m not just talking about physical toughness, either — all though that is a major issue, given how hard the Heels were smacked on Saturday. Their mental toughness has been a problem. UNC quit against Florida State. Plain and simple. They got smacked around a bit, they found themselves in a hole and they just said “screw it, I don’t want to be out here anymore”. That’s not the only time something like this has happened, either. Remember the brain lock against Kentucky, when UNC opted not to foul after Anthony Davis blocked that John Henson jumper with six seconds left?

Duke has their own issues, which have been well-documented in this space. And while they may deserve to be ranked above UNC right now, I don’t believe they are the better team. That said, if UNC has this kind of performance against Duke, they’ll lose by 40.

Jarnell Stokes: He was awesome in his debut. He clearly is out of shape and he needs to learn the system that Cuonzo Martin runs, but he’s a big guy with a nice touch around the rim and decent range on his jumper. At 6’8″, 250 lb, he will provide a nice compliment alongside Jeronne Maymon. Don’t be surprised to see the Vols knock off some of the contenders in the SEC this season.

Northwestern: The Wildcats got a huge win against Michigan State. That point cannot be stressed enough. After coming up short against both Illinois and Michigan, Northwestern absolutely had to have this game. But its no where near enough. They are 2-3 in the league right now and they still have to play loaded Big Ten schedule. Are they going to be able to beat Wisconsin on the road? Indiana on the road? Purdue? Ohio State? Northwestern has plenty of work to do.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

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.