Missouri and the Big 12 highlight the hoops week in review

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Player of the Week: TyShawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, Kansas

We all already know about what TyShawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson did against Baylor. Taylor had 28 points, six boards and five assists while T-Rob demoralized the Baylor interior for 27 points and 14 boards as the Jayhawks steamrolled Baylor 92-74. Coming into the game, Baylor was undefeated and the third ranked team in the country. They were the squad that everyone was picking to end the Jayhawks’ streak of Big 12 regular season titles. I think Taylor and Robinson put an end to that.

More impressive, however, was the way that Kansas knocked off Texas on Saturday afternoon. Kansas jumped out to a big lead on the road, but Texas made their run late in the second half. After a J’Covan Brown three with three minutes left, the Longhorns had a four point lead and all the momentum. But Kansas had an answer, using a 9-2 run to close the game and pick up a solid road win against a better-than-you-think Texas team.

More than anything, however, the most important thing to take out of the win over Texas was something that TyShawn Taylor didn’t. Its no secret that turnovers are the issue with him, but against Texas, Taylor had 22 points, five boards, four assists and not a single turnover. The scouting report on Taylor has always been that he has the talent to be an all-american but he’s as consistently inconsistent as any player in the country. He’s been sensational the past three games. Can it last?

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

G: Anthony Marshall, UNLV: The Runnin’ Rebels lost at San Diego State last week, which put them in a bit of a whole to start out Mountain West play especially when you consider that the Aztecs also knocked off New Mexico on the road. If anything, UNLV proved that the MWC may end up being just a two team race as they knocked off TCU on Wednesday before running the Lobos out of the gym in an 80-63 win on Saturday. Marshall was the catalyst, finishing with 40 points, 18 assists, 11 boards and six steals in the two games.

G: Maalik Wayns, Villanova: The knock on Villanova this season is that they didn’t have a player capable of taking control and leading this team. Early in the season, that looked to be the case as both Wayns and Mouph Yarou were inconsistent. But over the past three games, Wayns has been unbelievable. He went for 39 points, 13 boards and six assists in a loss to Cincinnati last Saturday, but rebounded with 53 points, 10 assists and seven boards in wins over St. John’s and Seton Hall.

F: Khalif Wyatt and Ramone Moore, Temple: The Owls finally have Michael Eric back, but the biggest reason they are still in the race for the Atlantic 10 has been the play of Moore and Wyatt. They are the two leading scorers in the conference and lead the Owls to a 2-0 week, combining for 69 points, 17 boards and 16 assists in wins over La Salle and Maryland.

F: Kevin Jones, West Virginia: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are not three players in the country as underrated as KJ is. He’s averaging 20.7 ppg and 1.5 rpg for a team that may just be the second best in the Big East after their 77-74 win over Cincinnati in overtime. West Virginia also knocked off Marshall this week. Jones, in the two games, averaged 25.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 2.5 apg.

C: Matt Kavanaugh, Dayton: The Flyers looked like they were going to be left out of the Atlantic 10 race last month when it was announced that Josh Benson, their starting center, was out of the season with a knee injury. But as of today, the Flyers are currently sitting all alone in first place in the conference at 4-1, and Kavanaugh is one of the biggest reasons why. After going for 23 points and nine boards in last Saturday’s win over La Salle, Kavanauh had 20 points and nine boards in a 15 point win over league favorite Xavier.

Team of the Week: Missouri

Of all the teams that we can consider elite this season, I am not sure if there is any that has had their credibility questioned more than Missouri this season. Are they big enough? Can they rebound? Are they going to be able to shoot this well against “real competition”? Can they win on the road?

I think its safe to say they have answered those questions. After handling Texas A&M fairly easily at home on Monday, the Tigers went into Waco and smacked Baylor in the second half, leaving with a win that was much more impressive than the 89-88 final would indicate. There were two things that Missouri really showed on Saturday afternoon. For starters, they aren’t just a three-point shooting team. Ricardo Ratliffe looked like an all-american thanks to the penetration ability of Phil Pressey, Mike Dixon and Marcus Denmon. Missouri shot 31 free throws and dominated the much-bigger Bears on the glass.

The other thing that Missouri proved is that they aren’t just a team that wins at home. That was a question a lot of folks had after they got handled at Kansas State earlier in league play, but they followed that up with a convincing win over Iowa State in Ames and, or course, the win at Baylor. The beauty of this Missouri team is that every player has had their ability maximized in the system that Frank Haith is running. This group is the epitome of the saying “the whole is the sum of the parts.”

Five teams that deserve a shout out:

Cleveland State: The Vikings went 2-0 this week and moved into a tie for first place in a balanced and competitive Horizon League. They started out their weekend with a 10 point win over Green Bay, following that up with an 83-57 win over Milwaukee, who was leading the conference as of Thursday. The Vikings, who has been my pick to win the league since the beginning of the season, are now in the driver’s seat for the conference title. The team they are tied with — Valpo — still has to play at Cleveland State.

Washington State: No one is out of the Pac-12 race this season. No one. That’s why Wazzu’s 2-0 week, knocking off both Stanford and Cal at home, is so important. For the first time all season, Faisal Aden is playing well. He went for 33 points against Stanford and followed that up with 24 against Cal. With Reggie Moore joining Aden in the back court and Brock Motum playing well this season, who knows?

Florida State: Believe it or not, the Seminoles actually have an real chance to win the ACC this season. After knocking off Maryland at home and Duke on the road this week, FSU is currently died for first place in the conference. The better news? They don’t play North Carolina again this season, they only host Duke while the two Tobacco Road rivals still have to play each other twice. I wrote about it in more detail on Saturday, but during this three game winning streak, FSU has turned into one a powerhouse offensively. No one should be expecting them to continue shoot at that clip, but if they get more consistent offensively, this group is big enough and tough enough defensively that they are going to have a real chance to make some noise in March.

San Diego State: The Aztecs followed up their two point win over UNLV from last weekend with an impressive victory over New Mexico at the Pit and a win over Air Force. Xavier Thames had 22 points and four assists in the win over the Lobos. The Aztecs have to get put into the driver’s seat in the MWC race. Not only do they have a game lead on UNLV and a two game lead on New Mexico, but they own a victory over both teams already and still host UNM.

Central Florida: The Golden Eagles moved into sole possession of first place in the Conference USA race by going 2-0 this week. On Wednesday, they knocked off Memphis and followed that up with a 48-41 grind-it-out win at UAB.

Five Thoughts:

Tulsa’s easy road: Conference USA doesn’t have divisions on the basketball side, but the way that the conference schedule breaks down is that the teams in the “eastern division” all play each other twice while playing the teams from the “western division” just once, and vice versa. Tulsa is in the west. Memphis, UCF, Southern Miss and Marshall are all in the east. That means that Tulsa plays the top four in the league four times while the top four all play each other six times.

Depending on how it plays out, those two games could end up playing a huge role. While it will be difficult for Tulsa to win the conference outright — they already have two bad losses to teams at the bottom of the league — if they can turn things around there is a chance that the Golden Hurricane can steal one of the byes in the CUSA Tournament from one of the top four teams.

Big 12 is the best conference: At this point, it has to be considered as much. Why? Because every other league in the country is a mess. Outside of Syracuse, it looks like no one in the Big East is better than “pretty good”, and the Orange lost their first game of the season on Saturday when Fab Melo didn’t play. The Big Ten has turned into a Royal Rumble. Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin all look like they were overrated earlier this year. Michigan State has struggled on the road. Ohio State still looks like the favorite, but with the way William Buford has played of late, the Buckeyes look “vincible”. Florida State, who lost to Princeton, Harvard and Clemson by 20, has beaten UNC by 33 and Duke in Cameron. Beyond Kentucky, the next four teams in the SEC are a toss-up. The Pac-12 is a mid-major league.

At least in the Big 12, the top three teams are playing like the top three teams. Up until this week, we thought Baylor was the favorite. And now, after they got worked by both Missouri and Kansas, the Border War is going to be the coin-flip we need to determine who is the best team in this conference. Its refreshing to have question marks about a league because the teams are surpassing expectations.

Is Oregon actually a contender in the Pac-12?: They may be. After sweeping the LA schools at home, the Ducks are now 6-2 in the Pac-12 and tied with Cal for first in the conference. They’ve won four straight games and have three legitimate scoring threats on their perimeter in Devoe Joseph, Eli Singler and Garrett Sim. Who would have thought this was possible after Oregon lost Jabari Brown? And what does this say about the Pac-12?

Let’s just enjoy Murray State’s run, ok?: Yes, we all know that this team plays a weaker schedule than the rest of the country. Yes, we all know they are a mid-major. Yes, we all know they may not be as good as some of their high-major counterparts. But the bottom-line is this — the Racers are still undefeated, and they are the only team without a blemish on their record. Instead of criticizing them for what they aren’t, can we all please just sit back and enjoy what they are?

Murray State plays a fun style. They shoot a lot of threes, they get up and down the floor and they score a lot of points. They have a superstar that will be loved by both the efficiency gurus and the guys that study box scores with a name that is perfect for a sharp shooter (Isaiah Canaan, pronounced the same way as “cannon”). How often does a team actually have a legitimate chance to go undefeated in the regular season? Not often. So kick back, grab a brew and have fun with it.

Can Loyola Marymount throw a wrench in the WCC race?: For most of the season, the thought has been that the round-robin between St. Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU is going to be what determines the WCC conference race. But LMU is proving to be a thorn in the side of the big boys. After losing by just four at Gonzaga last Saturday, the Lions went into BYU and handled the Cougars pretty solidly. The difference is that they now have Drew Viney healthy. He had 21 points against a very good BYU front line and Anthony Ireland went for 27 points, five assists and five steals.

The win avenged an earlier loss to BYU, meaning that the Lions haven’t lost to anyone that isn’t a part of the “big three”. They are only two games off the pace right now with two games left against the leader St. Mary’s. If they can beat the Gaels at home next week, it may be time that we start considering this team as a sleeper.

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.