Latest NCAA tourney projections a seeding mess in middle

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source: AP

With Valentine’s Day arriving on Tuesday, the Missouri Tigers will find a lot to love about our latest bracket projection.  Mizzou moves up to No. 3 on the s-curve – behind Kentucky and Syracuse – which positions the Tigers for a little home cooking in St. Louis via the Midwest Region.  If Missouri fans are so inclined, they can send a kind word to East Lansing.  Michigan State knocked off Ohio State in Columbus and bumped the Buckeyes out West.  Kansas is right behind OSU and the two teams are slotted 1-2 in the West Region.  If you have a different order, that’s fine.  It was a very close call.  After that, it’s Duke, Michigan State, and North Carolina on the two-line.

The middle of the bracket is a seeding nightmare.  It’s hard to find a lot of differences between a 6 to 8 seed in this bracket, or for that matter, an 8 to 11 seed.  You could slot them several ways.  Hopefully, a few of these things will become more clear over the next three weeks.  Other than Kentucky, it wasn’t a particularly good week for the SEC.  Florida lost to Tennessee (again), Mississippi State lost to Georgia, and Alabama suspended several key players.  Thus, the Tide take a little sharper hit this week, falling to an 11-seed in the East.  That might be a tad low, but let’s see how the team comes back together if players are reinstated.

We still have a very weak bubble.  That makes it easier for teams like Illinois, West Virginia, and others to work through losing streaks.  When you start comparing resumes, quality wins help separate pretenders from contenders.  Remember, a team’s record in it last 12 games is no longer an official criteria used by the Selection Committee.

I’ll be at the NCAA’s Mock Selection exercise later this week in Indianapolis.  It will be fun to see how the group works through some of the selection and seeding issues with this year’s landscape.  Enjoy a great week of hoops.

UPDATED: Monday, Feb. 13

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc). Records are for games against Division I teams only.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Miami-FL (14-8) vs. Minnesota (17-8) | West Region
  • Xavier (16-9) vs. Seton Hall (17-8) | South Region
  • MISS VALLEY ST (13-11) vs. STONY BROOK (15-8) | East Region
  • NC-ASHEVILLE (16-7) vs. UT-ARLINGTON (18-5) | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTBoston SOUTHAtlanta
Pittsburgh Louisville
1) SYRACUSE (25-1) 1) KENTUCKY (25-1)
16) STONY BROOK / MS VALLEY ST 16) NORFOLK STATE (17-7)
8) St. Louis (19-5) 8) Memphis (18-7)
9) Kansas State (16-7) 9) Connecticut (15-9)
Portland Nashville
5) San Diego State (18-4) 5) WICHITA STATE (21-4)
12) NC State (18-7) 12) Xavier / Seton Hall
4) Indiana (19-6) 4) Wisconsin (18-6)
13) MID TENNESSEE ST (22-4) 13) DAVIDSON (18-6)
Albuquerque Louisville
6) Creighton (21-5) 6) TEMPLE (19-5)
11) Alabama (16-8) 11) CALIFORNIA (20-6)
3) Baylor (20-4) 3) Marquette (21-5)
14) NEVADA (19-4) 14) IONA (20-6)
Columbus Greensboro
7) Virginia (19-5) 7) Mississippi State (19-6)
10) HARVARD (20-3) 10) Purdue (16-9)
2) Michigan State (19-5) 2) North Carolina (21-4)
15) BELMONT (18-7) 15) BUCKNELL (19-6)
MIDWEST – St. Louis WEST – Phoenix
Omaha Omaha
1) MISSOURI (23-2) 1) OHIO STATE (21-4)
16) LONG ISLAND (18-7) 16) UT-ARLINGTON / NC-ASHEVILLE
8) Notre Dame (17-8) 8) SO. MISSISSIPPI (19-4)
9) New Mexico (19-4) 9) Iowa State (18-7)
Portland Nashville
5) Gonzaga (20-4) 5) ST. MARY’S (21-3)
12) Washington (17-8) 12) Minnesota / Miami-FL
4) Michigan (18-7) 4) Louisville (20-5)
13) LONG BEACH ST (17-6) 13) ORAL ROBERTS (23-5)
Columbus Albuquerque
6) Florida (19-6) 6) Florida State (17-7)
11) Texas (16-9) 11) BYU (19-6)
3) Georgetown (18-5) 3) UNLV (20-4)
14) DREXEL (21-5) 14) AKRON (17-7)
Greensboro Omaha
7) MURRAY STATE (21-1) 7) Vanderbilt (17-8)
10) Illinois (16-9) 10) West Virginia (16-10)
2) DUKE (21-4) 2) Kansas (20-5)
15) VALPARAISO (16-9) 15) WEBER STATE (18-4)

NOTES on the BRACKET: Kentucky is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Syracuse, Missouri, and Ohio State. Next in line are Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina.

Last Five teams in (at large): Washington, Minnesota, Seton Hall, Miami-FL, Xavier

First Five teams out (at large): Northwestern, Arizona, Mississippi, Dayton, Cincinnati

Next Five teams out (at large): Colorado State, UCF, Oregon, Arkansas, Colorado

Bracket adjustments: There are several one-line adjustments to accommodate both conference conflicts, bracketing principles, and efforts to avoid regular-season rematches.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big Ten (8): Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota

Big East (8): Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Marquette, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Seton Hall

ACC (6): North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Florida State, NC State, Miami-FL

Big 12 (6): Baylor, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Alabama

Atlantic 10 (3): Temple, St. Louis, Xavier

Mountain West (3): UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico

West Coast (3): Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, BYU

Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Mississippi

Pac 12 (2): California, Washington

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

Sun Belt (1): Middle Tennessee State

Conference leaders/champions … Valparaiso (Horizon), Akron (MAC), Drexel (CAA), Nevada (WAC), Murray State (OVC), Iona (MAAC), Weber State (Big Sky), Davidson (Southern), Oral Roberts (Summit), Long Beach State (Big West), Long Island (NEC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Harvard (Ivy), NC-Asheville (Big South), Norfolk State (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Stony Brook (America East), UT-Arlington(Southland), Mississippi Valley State (SWAC)

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.