Recapping Saturday’s wild upsets, memorable finishes

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The 4:00 pm games: On paper, it didn’t seem like this Saturday’s game were going to be incredibly interesting after the top five battle that took place in Waco, Texas, but those people (me included) ate their words after three games involving teams ranked in the top 11 came down to the final possession in the span of no more than two minutes.

The biggest game was obviously Florida State’s 76-73 upset of Duke. The Seminoles withstood a second half surge by the Blue Devils, one that saw Duke open up a 58-50 lead, but Florida State used a 26-15 surge to close the game that was capped by Michael Snaer’s three-point buzzer-beater that answered a game-tying runner from Austin Rivers with 4.9 seconds left:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34s-le4vbx8%5D

I don’t think that we can say that the Seminoles are the favorite to win the ACC right now. Frankly, I’m not convinced that they are a better basketball team that either Duke or UNC. That’s what happens with you lose by 20 to Clemson and drop two games to the Ivy League (Harvard and Princeton). That said, Florida State is in an ideal position to make a run at the league title. They don’t have to play the Tar Heels again, they get Duke at home and those two teams still have to play two games against each other.

It’s going to come down to offense for the ‘Noles. They are 117th in the country nationally, scoring 1.039 PPP. The past three games (wins over UNC, Maryland and Duke), however, FSU is scoring 1.196 PPP. The biggest difference? They shoot 32.0 percent from three on the season, but the past three games they are knocking them down at a 46.3 percent clip. Can it last?

At the same time, UConn was in the midst of a furious comeback at Tennessee. The Huskies dug themselves a ten point hole with three minutes left, but Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb hit a flurry of threes late which was aided by a few missed free throws from the Vols. Napier missed a half court prayer at the buzzer that would have forced overtime, but instead lost 60-57 in Knoxville. There are two problems with UConn right now. The biggest issue is that their offense is absolutely atrocious. Regardless of what Jim Calhoun tries to run (if anything), it devolves into Napier or Lamb trying to go 1-on-1. Tennessee was playing tough defense, which meant that the Huskies were forced into taking contested jumper.

The other issue is the play of their big men. After getting embarrassed by Yancy Gates on Wednesday, freshman Jarnell Stokes — who was playing his third game after finishing high school in December and enrolling at UT early — gave Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi 16 points and 12 boards while fouling out Oriakhi. Much of the blame for the performance of those two has to fall on their shoulders as they continue to play without toughness or desire, but UConn also does not look to get them touches in the post.

The final game of that trio was No. 7 Kansas surviving a furious comeback from the Longhorns to win 69-66 in Austin. The Jayhawks were up big for much of the first half and early in the second half, but Texas made a run late in the game. They finally took the lead with five minutes left, erasing what had been a 15 point deficit, before eventually pushing the lead to four points with three minutes remaining. But Kansas had an answer, taking their final lead on a layup by Jeff Withey.

If you are going to take anything out of this game, its the performance of TyShawn Taylor. His continued his hot streak, finishing with 22 points, five boards and four assists, but his most important stat was a zero in the box score. Turnovers have been Taylor’s issue all season — he’s averaged more than four per game — but he didn’t turn it over a single time against UT.

The top five battle: There are two reasons that people knock Missouri: they can’t win on the road and they are too small to handle bigger teams. We can throw that “on the road” thing out the window now. Coming off of a road win over an improved Iowa State team, the Tigers went into Waco and handled Baylor, beating them much more soundly than the 89-88 final score will make you believe.

I’m not ready to say that they can handle a bigger team, however, because everyone on Baylor’s front court plays like they’re 6-6. Frankly, I think Missouri’s performance against Kansas State’s front court is much more telling And while Ricardo Ratliffe’s line was unreal — 27 points and eight boards (six offensive) on 11-14 shooting — the majority of his shot opportunities are simply catch-and-dunk situations. He thrives because he doesn’t miss around the rim, and playing with guys like Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon means that he will forever be getting open opportunities.

I still think Baylor is a national title contender, but there are serious issues with this team that need to be addressed. Scott Drew needs to find some way to get his team tougher. Perry Jones III disappears far too often for someone with his ability, and that is a microcosm of the fact that the Bears cannot handle getting “punched in the mouth”. If I’m Scott Drew, I take a page out of Eddie Sutton’s book and start practicing with football pads on.

No. 1 goes down: Playing without Fab Melo (academic issues, he will miss Monday’s game at Cincinnati as well), Syracuse went into South Bend and got absolutely crushed by the Irish, losing 67-58 because the Orange made a run late in the game when the outcome was all but decided. We shouldn’t overreact to this loss. Based on tweets that went out last night and earlier today, the team — and Melo — had no idea that Melo wasn’t going to be traveling with them until the 11th hour.

That distraction — plus the fact that Notre Dame is always a tough place to play — can easily be blamed for this hiccup. That said, don’t underrate what Melo’s absence meant. He’s an anchor in the middle of that zone. He blocks shots, he takes charges and he just makes things difficult for opponents. Most expect Melo to rejoin the team at some point, which is obviously a good thing for Syracuse. But this loss should show you the importance of Melo staying out of foul trouble on the court.

But No. 10 survived: Murray State got 21 points from Isaiah Canaan as they knocked off SIU-Edwardsville to remain undefeated, the last team in the country without a loss. I sincerely hope that, for the remainder of the season, we can all enjoy the run that Murray State is on. Its no secret they’ve played an easier schedule than quite a few teams; they are an Ohio Valley team after all. Let’s save the talk about their seeding for Selection Sunday and just enjoy one of the best storylines of the season, mmk?

So who is the second best team in the SEC?: Add the SEC into the leagues that make absolutely no sense. With Festus Ezeli back in the fold and coming off of a dominating win at Alabama, it looked like the Commodores had staked a claim as the most likely team to challenge Kentucky.

Not so fast. Mississippi State got a layup from Dee Bost with 57 seconds left for a 78-77 win in overtime, surviving fairly open looks for the Dores at the end of regulation and overtime. Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney combined for 45 points and 19 boards, outplaying Ezeli, who finished with 12 points, 14 boards and five blocks.

Alabama made a statement of their own on Saturday. They lost to Kentucky 77-71, but the Crimson Tide, who tend to struggle on the road, gave the Wildcats all they could handle, keeping the game within three or four points for most of the second half. JaMychal Green finished with 22 points and 12 boards despite going up against the best defender in the country in Anthony Davis.

The team everyone is forgetting about? Florida. The Gators, playing with a limited Patric Young (tendinitis in his ankle) knocked off LSU 76-64, getting a team-high 15 points out of Erik Murphy. It also should be noted that the most exciting game of the day in the SEC was the 66-64 upset that Arkansas pulled off against Michigan. The Razorbacks opened up a 20 point lead in the first half, but Michigan slowly chipped away. They never got the game tied, but Trey Burke got a decent look at a step-back three at the buzzer that rimmed out.

What do we make of UNLV and New Mexico?: The Runnin’ Rebels absolutely put the smackdown on New Mexico, beating them by 17 points in Vegas. It was a win that UNLV really needed, considering that after they lost to San Diego State in the MWC opener they couldn’t afford to fall two games behind the Aztes in the standings. UNLV’s ability to force turnovers and get out in transition was impressive, but it also lent worry to the Lobos. For the second time this week, UNM looked completely outclassed in league play, having gotten dropped at home by SDSU on Wednesday. Maybe its just as simple as New Mexico is not a good as we thought they were; they are sitting two games behind SDSU and there is a fairly large gap between them and the MWC’s top two teams.

The Pac-12 stays weird, which makes it all the more awesome: There is simply no way to predict what is going to happen in the wide-open Pac-12 conference. As of today, there are four teams tied atop the conference with two losses. There are another two that sit just a game back in the loss column. None of those six teams go by the name UCLA or Oregon State.

There are some things that seem normal — like Cal being tied for first or Washington sitting a game in the win column behind them — and some things that would get you called crazy if they were brought up in November — like Oregon being tied for first or Colorado being tied with Washington.

So what happened on Saturday?:

– Washington State beat Cal 77-75 behind 24 points from Faisal Aden. Cal had a chance to tie late, but Jorge Gutierrez missed a shot at the buzzer.

– Carlon Brown scored 19 points to lead the Buffs, but Arizona’s Kevin Parrom missed a three at the buzzer as Colorado held on to win at home 64-63.

– Washington finally put it all together, getting 39 combined points out of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten as they used a 20-3 run in the second half to put away Stanford.

– EJ Singler had 26 points and Garrett Sim added 16 as Oregon improved to 2-0 on the weekend as they overcame a 13 point halftime deficit in a 75-68 win over UCLA.

Tempers flare in East Lansing: Michigan State won 83-58 and Robbie Hummel went 0-11 from the field, the first 0-fer of his collegiate career, but that’s not what anyone was talking about after the game. Matt Painter got into it with a fan in the Izzone, MSU’s student section, for yelling at Robbie Hummel “I hope you tear your acl again”. That wasn’t it for Painter, either. He had an exchange with Brandon Dawsen, a player he recruited out of Indiana, after Dawsen said something after hitting a three in front of the Purdue bench.

Cincinnati’s road streak comes to a close: The Bearcats had their streak of seven straight road wins in the Big East — the last two of which came against Georgetown and UConn — in a 77-74 loss in overtime at West Virginia. Kevin Jones led the way with 26 points and freshman Gary Browne hit a three that forced the overtime period.

Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown win: Louisville took a step in the right direction with a 73-62 win over Pitt at Pitt. Kyle Kuric, who was questionable to even play in this game, had 22 points. Georgetown survived Rutgers 52-50 despite hitting just 12 shots from the field as Otto Porter hit two free throws with 8.5 seconds left. And Marquette overcame a feisty Providence team 79-72 on the road.

I guess we don’t know who the best team in the A-10 is: Xavier is the most talented team in the Atlantic 10, but after going into Dayton and losing, the flyers now own sole possession of first place in the conference. It wasn’t just the fact that they lost, because that rivalry is one of the more heated in the A-10, its the fact that Dayton scored 87 points and dominated the game after the first 10 minutes. Matt Kavanaugh, starting because Josh Benson is done for the year, finished with 20 points and nine boards.

Ditto for Conference USA: Marshall went into Hattiesburg, MS, and lost to Southern Miss 67-63. Neil Watson had 18 points and five assists and hit a big three with 18.5 seconds left on the clock. With Memphis and Central Florida also winning, there is now a four-way tie between the four teams at the top of the league. All four have one loss.

Notes:

– LIU knocked off Wagner 73-66 to improve to 7-0 in the NEC and take a one game lead on Wagner.

– South Dakota State got 28 points in a 91-88 OT win over North Dakota State as they stayed within a game of Oral Roberts in league play. ORU is 10-0 in the league after Warren Niles scored 27 points in a 92-83 win over Oakland.

– With a 72-60 win over Towson, George Mason took sole possession of first place in the CAA at 7-1 thanks to VCU’s 61-48 win over ODU. VCU and ODU are both 6-2 in league play

– St. Joe’s lost to Penn 84-80, their third straight loss and fifth in seven games.

– Tony Mitchell had 30 points and 17 boards, including a buzzer-beating tip-in, to beat Denver 75-74 in overtime. They moved into a three-way tie with UALR at 5-2 in the Sun Belt’s Western Division.

– USC-Upstate overcame a 16 point halftime deficit to knock off Belmont 79-78 on a tip-in at the buzzer.

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.