Thursday’s Shootaround: SDSU takes control of the MWC

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No. 16 San Diego State 75, New Mexico 70: The Aztecs have done some impressive things this season — there is a reason that they are ranked in the top 20 right now — but going into The Pit and getting a win is unquestionably the most impressive thing they’ve done this year. And its more than just the win, its how they did it. Down 48-44 midway through the second half, SDSU used a 15-0 run to open up an 11 point lead that New Mexico was never able to overcome. Throw in the fact that the Aztecs dug themselves a 10-0 hole and were playing in one of the toughest environments in the country, and you should understand why Steve Fisher’s club was so impressive.

What makes this win all the more important is that SDSU now as a one game lead on both UNLV, who they knocked off on Saturday, and UNM. Those two teams face off this Saturday, meaning that as long as SDSU can handle Air Force, they’ll be heading into next week with a two game lead on one of the other two challengers in the conference. Xavier Thames, who had been out with a knee injury, finally looked healthy on Wednesday night, going for 22 points and four assists. Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley added 12 each.

At this point in the season, Steve Fisher has to be considered a strong favorite to win Coach of the Year. Think about this: his team lost four starters, including their entire front line that counted a lottery pick as a member, and were all but written off this season. But instead of rolling over and dying, Fisher has coached this team into a well-deserved top 20 ranking. Based on who else has lost already this week, its pretty safe to say that SDSU will slide up into the top 15 come Monday.

Fisher has built that into a hell of a program. Its a shame that they are heading to the Big West.

New Mexico didn’t play terribly on Wednesday, but they were horrible for a five minute stretch during the second half when SDSU went on their run. Drew Gordon had 15 points, eight boards and five assists and Phillip McDonald went for 20 points off the bench, which more than made up for the no-show Tony Snell posted.

Cincinnati 70, No. 11 UConn 67: This game had a thrilling finish. After UConn erased a seven point lead in the final minute, capped by Shabazz Napier burying a tough and contested three, Sean Kilpatrick came down at the other end of the floor and drilled a deep three with two hands in his face with 2.5 seconds left on the clock. On the ensuing in bounds, Neils Giffey had a 3/4 court shot bounced off the back board and the rim.

The win was a big one for the Bearcats. Its the seventh straight they have won on the road in league play, dating back to last season, and the second straight they’ve won on the road vs. a ranked team this year (they knocked off Georgetown in DC 10 days ago). Its hard not to consider Cincinnati the second best team in the Big East right now, particularly with Ryan Boatright out.

UConn has a lot of work left to do. Andre Drummond took a step back against the Bearcats, as did Alex Oriakhi. They combined for six points and 12 boards on 3-16 shooting. Jeremy Lamb was not aggressive enough and while Napier played great — especially leading UConn’s comeback — he’s not ideal as a leader and a point guard.

Nebraska 70, No. 13 Indiana 69: The Hoosiers were up by as much as 13 in the second half of this game and blew the lead, losing their third consecutive game. Indiana has their issues as a team, but I did not think that this group was going to fall off a cliff the way that they have.

Simply put, winning is a skill. Knowing how to play as the favorite, as the team with a target on your back, is a tough thing to do. Indiana has never had to do that before. These guys were 2-29 under Tom Crean on the road. They’ve been stuck at the bottom of the Big Ten standings for the entirety of their careers. This group certainly has the ability to compete with the best in the conference, they have to learn how to approach those games mentally. Myron Medcalf did a really good job breaking this down for

Missouri Valley:

No. 18 Creighton 66, Missouri State 65: Doug McDermott was slowed as Missouri State send two and three defenders at him on every touch, but Gregory Echinique stepped up, finishing with 16 points and seven boards as the Bluejays managed to hold off the Bears to move to 7-1 in league play. A back and forth game, MSU’s Kyle Weems missed a tough jumper with six seconds left, and after McDermott missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Anthony Downing missed a 15 foot pull-up from the foul line. It was a good look, it just didn’t go down. Its the Bear’s third straight loss in league play.

Wichita State 71, Northern Iowa 68: Toure Murry had 24 points, including a layup with 1:21 left in the game to give the Shockers the lead and a jumper with 12 seconds left to push that lead to three. Marc Sonnen missed a three at the buzzer that would have forced overtime. WSU is now tied with Creighton at 7-1 in the league. Drake is the only other team with less than four losses. Unless something drastic changes over the next month and a half, the MVC looks like its going to be a two-bid league.

Atlantic 10:

Xavier 68, St. Joe’s 55: Playing without Carl Jones, St. Joe’s simply had no answer for Xavier’s back court. Mark Lyons went for 17 points and Tu Holloway added 12 assists as the Musketeers improved to 4-1 in league play. They haven’t lost an Atlantic 10 game in the Cintas Center since 2006.

Temple 76, La Salle 70: Rahlir Hollis-Jefferon led the Owls with 19 points and Ramone Moore had 17 points to pace Temple, as they knocked off their Philly rivals and improved to 2-2 in the league. The owls led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but La Salle was able to get that lead down to one point on four different occassions. The Explorers, who have gotten off to a terrific start to the season, dropped to 2-2 in the league as well.

Duquesne 80, UMass 69: BJ Monteiro had 23 points, Sean Johnson went for 20 and 10 boards and TJ McConnell added 15 points and six assists as the Dukes knocked off UMass on the strength of forcing 29 turnovers. Both teams are now 3-2 in the league and sitting a game behind Xavier in the standings.

Ole Miss 75, No. 15 Mississippi State 68: Reginald Buckner went for 19 points, 15 boards and three blocks, out playing Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie to lead the Rebels to their first win over their in-state rivals in six tries. Ole Miss had control for all of the second half, as they never trailed and only allowed the Bulldogs to get within three once, a 63-60 with about two minutes left.

South Florida 64, St. John’s 49: Its time that we start taking USF seriously. After this win, the Bulls are now 4-2 in Big East play, the four wins being the most that they have ever won in the Big East. Victor Rudd led the way with 24 points, including one of the nastiest dunks you are going to see this season.

Villanova 84, Seton Hall 76: So much for the Pirates being a contender. They’ve now lost back-to-back games after getting put into the top 25 last week. I know the name on the jersey might allow you to justify the loss, but the Wildcats are not the same team that we expect them to be. Maalik Wayns has been outstanding the last two games, finishing with 39 points, 13 boards and six assists in a loss at Cincinnati and 25 points and seven assists last night.

West Virginia 78, Marshall 62: Kevin Jones scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half as the Mountaineers pulled away from a scrappy Marshall team in the second half. The Thundering Herd were giving WVU everything they could handle in the first half, but the ‘Eers looked outstanding in the final 20 minutes. Truck Bryant added 22 points.

Central Florida 68, Memphis 67: Joe Jackson his a three with 42 seconds left to give Memphis a 67-65 lead, but they couldn’t hold on to it as Keith Clanton scored on an and-one, hitting the free throw, with four seconds left for the win. Clanton had 23 points and Marcus Jordan added 20.

Kansas State 84, Texas 80: If Anthony Marshall isn’t the hottest player in the country, than Rodney McGruder is. The junior guard with for 33 points to carry K-State to a four point win on Wednesday night and is now averaging 22.7 ppg in the last seven games. Both teams are sitting at 2-3 in league play.

Iowa State 71, Oklahoma State 68: This happened:


The rest of the top 25:

No. 10 Murray State 66, Morehead State 60: The Racers knocked off their heated rivals despite trailing for much of the game, moving to 19-0 on the season. Isaiah Canaan finished with 20 points, including the go-ahead three with 3:57 left.

No. 20 UNLV 101, TCU 78: The Rebels have really shown the ability to get out and score some points this season. Mike Moser had 16 points and 15 boards for UNLV, but it was Anthony Marshall’s 27 points, nine assists, five boards, three blocks and two steals that really set the tone. The 27 points are a career-high, besting the 26 he scored on Saturday against SDSU. There are not many guards in the country playing as well as he is right now.

Other notable scores:

– Wisconsin 77, Northwestern 57
– Northeastern 60, Georgia State 57
– Ohio 87, Kent State 65
– Buffalo 82, Akron 70
– Miami 76, Clemson 73
– Bucknell 4-0, Lehigh 2-2
– Georgia 57, Tennessee 53 OT
– Wyoming 64, Air Force 53

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

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

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


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.