Hoops weekend preview: Final year of The Border War?


(All times ET)

Game of the Weekend: Sat. 9 pm: No. 8 Kansas @ No. 4 Missouri

Let’s put this game in a vacuum. Let’s pretend that Missouri hasn’t turned into a top five team and that Kansas has struggled this season with their two-man attack. This game would still be must-see TV. Why? Because this could be the last time that these two teams meet in Mizzou Arena for a long time. The Border War is one of the most heated rivalries in the country, but with Missouri’s decision to head to the SEC next season, what little friendliness existed between the two schools is all but gone. The environment at this game is guaranteed to be absolutely electric, a fact that is only going to be magnified by Gameday’s appearance in Columbia.

But this game doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The fact of the matter is that these are two of the best teams in the country, with both having legitimate Final Four aspirations. That is sure to make things even more intense.

The intrigue is this game is heightened by the differing styles between the two teams. Simply put, Kansas is going to have a mismatch inside on every single possession. Its no secret that Missouri runs a four-guard lineup, using 6’6″ shooter Kim English at the power forward spot. No matter who he ends up guarding — National Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson or seven-foot center Jeff Withey — Missouri is going to hav issues matching up with the Jayhawks inside.

But the flip side of that is Missouri will have a mismatch of their own. Will Bill Self risk tiring out his star by having him chase English around the perimeter? Will he risk putting a less-mobile Withey on English? Will Self be forced to go small? Will Haith be forced to go big?

My pick: I’m taking Missouri. I think that the Tiger’s ball pressure defensively is going to force Tyshawn Taylor into too many turnovers and that Marcus Denmon is finally going to break out of this shooting slump.

Five more to keep an eye on:

Sat. 11 am: South Florida @ No. 14 Georgetown: It feels weird saying this, but this game could actually end up being quite important in the Big East standings. The way things are today, Georgetown is sitting all alone in third place, a half game up on South Florida, who is tied with Notre Dame one game behind the Hoyas in the win column. The Hoyas got Hollis Thompson going on Wednesday night against UConn, but save for a four minute stretch in the second half, Henry Sims had another tough game. He needs to get things turned around for the stretch run.

Sat. 1:00 pm: Vanderbilt @ No. 11 Florida: The way it looks like right, these are the two teams that are fighting for the right to be considered Kentucky’s biggest challenger in the SEC. Florida is coming off of a less-than-inspiring Thursday night win over South Carolina where Patric Young, who looked like he was getting over a nagging ankle injury the past week, was a limited factor. Florida is going to need Young to battle with Festus Ezeli inside. The perimeter battle between these two teams should be quite entertaining. Will Kenny Boynton go back to shooting like John Jenkins — which he did in non-conference play — or Kenny Boynton — which he’s done for the entirety of the rest of his career.

Sat. 1 pm: No. 18 Virginia @ No. 24 Florida State: Raise your hand if you like high-scoring basketball. If your hand is currently raised, then grab the remote and find out what channel this game is on. Now set your TV to make sure that channel is blocked for this two-hour time-block, because if Leonard Hamilton and Tony Bennett have their way, this game will look like the slop-fest that was Michigan State and Illinois. While this may not be a pretty game on the eyes, it is quite important in the ACC race. Florida State is tied with Duke and UNC at the top of the ACC while the Cavs are sitting one game behind those three.

Sat. 1 pm: Xavier @ Memphis: I don’t think that its a stretch to say that these are the two best non-BCS programs in the country, but neither of them are having the kind of season that they had hoped. Memphis looks like they have started to turn things around, but they are still sitting a game out of first place in the CUSA race. Xavier, on the other hand, appears to be a completely different team than they were at the start of the season. This isn’t a league game, but the bubble implications are huge.

Sat. 2 pm: No. 3 Ohio State @ No. 20 Wisconsin: You guys remember what happened the last time these two teams got together in the Kohl Center? This did. That game was a similar situation as well: Ohio State was the favorite in the Big Ten and Wisconsin was trying to prove to the nation they deserve to be in the conversation. The Badgers are going to have a very difficult time dealing with Jared Sullinger and they definitely aren’t the same team without the consistency that came with Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil. That said, despite early season struggles, Wisconsin is a tough team to beat at home, especially if their back court is shooting well.

Sun. 1 pm: No. 10 Michigan State @ No. 22 Michigan: Will he or won’t he? Draymond Green, that is. He left the Spartan’s Tuesday night game against Illinois with a knee injury, one bad enough that he couldn’t put any weight on it the rest of the game. Will he be available just five days after that? Without him, Michigan State not only loses their leader, but a facilitator in their offense and one of their best offensive rebounders.

Who’s getting upset?: Sat. 1:45 pm: No. 6 Baylor @ Oklahoma State

Yeah, I know. This seems kind of silly. The last time these two got together, Baylor won. By a lot. 106-65 to be exact. And given that Oklahoma State has lost four of their last six — which includes a 15 point loss to a Texas A&M team that was missing 60% of their starting lineup — its not exactly like they are an underdog making a late-season surge. One of those two wins came against Texas Tech, who hasn’t won a game in league play yet. The other? Against Missouri at home. This game against Baylor? Its at home.

The issue with Oklahoma State is that they don’t always come to play. Its not like they don’t have the talent, because they do. Its an issue of effort. When they play up to their potential — which is a much easier thing to do when a rocking Gallagher-Iba Arena is backing them — they can win games. I think they’ll show up to play.

Who is on upset watch?:

Sat. 1:00 pm: No. 15 Marquette @ Notre Dame: Notre Dame has gone back to the Burn Offense, and its worked of late. The Irish are coming off of wins over Syracuse, Seton Hall and UConn because of it. What makes it so effective is that the Irish have two very talented playmakers in their back court in Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, a quality big man in Jack Cooley and a number of solid role players. But more importantly, they have a roster full of kids that have bought into this system and are willing to sacrifice stats for wins. Marquette is sitting a game above the Irish in the loss column. A win here and Notre Dame will climb into fourth place in the Big East.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 13 UNLV @ Wyoming: Wyoming is a much improved team this season, riding USC transfer Leonard Washington to a 17-5 record. They’ve struggled of late however, losing two of their last three games to fall to 3-3 in the MWC. We all know how tough it is to win games on the road in league play. I’ve been to Laramie, WY. Its not exactly … happening.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 6 UNC @ Maryland: When Maryland is right, the Comcast Center is one of the toughest places in the country to play. The problem is that its been a while since the Terps have been right, but that doesn’t mean the place doesn’t fill up when the right opponent comes to town. UNC is the right opponent. Maryland is going to need a bit of luck for that to happen — Terrell Stoglin will have to shoot the ball well and Maryland’s front line is going to have to play their best game of the season.

Sat. 5:00 pm: No. 12 Creighton @ Northern Iowa: The Panthers came into MVC play with fairly high expectations, including an outside chance at an at-large bid. Unfortunately, their success was short-lived; UNI has lost seven of their first 12 league games. That said, the Panthers have a bit of a chip on their shoulder in this one. Creighton’s player of the year candidate? Doug McDermott? He was supposed to be a Panther.

Sat. 7:00 pm: No. 20 Indiana @ Purdue: Would this even count as an upset? Purdue is 5-4 in Big Ten play. Indiana is 5-6. Purdue is great at home. Indiana stinks on the road. But Indiana is ranked, Purdue isn’t and this is an intense rivalry. That makes it count as an upset, right? No?

Mid-major matchup of the Weekend: Sat. 5:00 pm: Old Dominion @ George Mason

On Wednesday night, George Mason lost at Delaware. On Thursday night, Old Dominion knocked off James Madison. That means that there is now a four-way tie for first place in the CAA.

Five more to keep an eye on:

Fri. 7:00 pm: Belmont @ Lipscomb: Round two of the Battle of the Boulevard.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Iona @ Manhattan: The MAAC has been as competitive as any mid-major league in the country this season. Guess who the top two teams in the league are?

Sat. 8:30 pm: Oral Roberts @ North Dakota State: On Thursday night, Oral Roberts went into South Dakota State and lost, putting them just a game up on the Jackrabbits in the Summit League standings. NDSU is currently sitting in third place in the league.

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

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

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.