Race on for No. 1 seeds in latest NCAA tournament projection

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Two weeks from Selection Sunday and only two of four No. 1 seeds appear to be locked in place: Kentucky and Syracuse.  Six teams are wrangling for those final two spots – most likely in the Midwest and West Regions.  While the South Region appears to be a more natural fit for Kentucky, it’s possible the Wildcats could be routed through St. Louis, which is a few miles closer to Lexington than Atlanta.  With Kansas and Missouri among the teams in contention for that region, however, it seems more plausible that UK will feed through the South.  Just something to keep in mind.

source: AP

Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, and Ohio State join KU and Mizzou as potential No. 1 seeds.  Both Duke and North Carolina and Michigan State and Ohio State play each other again in the regular season.  We could easily see a third matchup in the ACC and Big Ten conference tournaments.  So the race is far from over.  Conference championships (regular season and/or conference tourney) will likely prove decisive.

In today’s bracket, Michigan State (Midwest) and Kansas (West) grab the final No. 1 seed positions.  A quick note of explanation: Duke beat both the Spartans and Jayhawks on neutral courts in November.  Those are important victories that could ultimately work in the Blue Devils’ favor.  As of this bracket, however, Michigan State and Kansas have outright leads in their respective conferences.  That’s why MSU and KU have been slotted just ahead of Duke on the s-curve.  Safe to say, we have a lot of basketball left.   For those wondering, spots 5-8 on the s-curve are listed like this: Duke, Missouri, Ohio State, North Carolina.

Today’s update also features a unique situation in the First Four.  Dayton is among those teams – slotted against Texas in an opening round game.  There is no bracketing provision that excludes Dayton from playing on its home floor if the Flyers are indeed a First Four participant.  This was covered by the NCAA during the Mock Selection exercise in Indianapolis.  The winner of the Dayton-Texas game heads to Nashville for a matchup with Louisville.  The other at-large First Four game is Colorado State and Arizona.  That winner heads to Portland to battle Wisconsin.  As a point of reference, the Selection Committee will try to route one at-large matchup winner to a Thursday/Saturday site and one to a Friday/Sunday site.  One of the at-large games will be played Tuesday and one Wednesday.

Enjoy a great weekend of hoops.

BRACKET UPDATE: Saturday, February 25 | 9 a.m. (ET)

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)

  • Dayton (17-10) vs. Texas (17-11) | Midwest Region
  • Colorado State (16-9) vs. Arizona (20-9) | South Region
  • MISS VALLEY ST (16-11) vs. SAVANNAH ST (16-10) | South Region
  • STONY BROOK (17-8) vs. UNC-ASHEVILLE (19-6) | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTBoston SOUTHAtlanta                                    
Pittsburgh Louisville
1) SYRACUSE (28-1) 1) KENTUCKY (27-1)
16) UNC-ASHEVILLE / STONY BROOK 16) MS VALLEY ST / SAVANNAH ST
8) Virginia (21-6) 8) St. Louis (21-5)
9) HARVARD (22-3) 9) Connecticut (17-10)
Portland Portland
5) Indiana (21-7) 5) Wisconsin (19-8)
12) BYU (21-7) 12) Arizona / Colorado State
4) TEMPLE (22-5) 4) Notre Dame (20-8)
13) MID TENNESSEE ST (22-4) 13) ORAL ROBERTS (25-5)
Albuquerque Nashville
6) Creighton (24-5) 6) NEW MEXICO (21-5)
11) Washington (19-8) 11) Southern Mississippi (20-6)
3) Baylor (22-5) 3) Georgetown (19-6)
14) NEVADA (20-5) 14) DREXEL (24-5)
Pittsburgh Greensboro
7) MURRAY STATE (24-1) 7) Kansas State (19-8)
10) Seton Hall (19-9) 10) Mississippi State (19-9)
2) Ohio State (23-5) 2) North Carolina (24-4)
15) BUCKNELL (20-8) 15) BELMONT (22-7)
MIDWEST – St. Louis WEST – Phoenix
Columbus Omaha
1) MICHIGAN STATE (22-5) 1) KANSAS (23-5)
16) LONG ISLAND (22-7) 16) UT-ARLINGTON (20-6)
8) ST. MARY’S (22-5) 8) Purdue (18-10)
9) CALIFORNIA (23-6) 9) Cincinnati (20-8)
Nashville Albuquerque
5) Louisville (21-7) 5) UNLV (21-6)
12) Dayton / Texas 12) Xavier (17-10)
4) Florida (22-6) 4) WICHITA STATE (24-4)
13) IONA (23-6) 13) LONG BEACH (18-7)
Louisville Columbus
6) Florida State (19-8) 6) Vanderbilt (19-8)
11) Alabama (18-9) 11) West Virginia (17-12)
3) Marquette (23-5) 3) Michigan (20-7)
14) AKRON (20-5) 14) DAVIDSON (20-7)
Omaha Greensboro
7) San Diego State (19-6) 7) Gonzaga (22-5)
10) MEMPHIS (20-8) 10) Iowa State (20-8)
2) Missouri (25-3) 2) DUKE (24-4)
15) WEBER STATE (21-4) 15) VALPARAISO (18-10)

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

Last Five teams in (at large): Xavier, Dayton, Colorado State, Texas, Arizona

First Five teams out (at large): Northwestern, NC State, Miami-FL, Oregon, LSU

Next Five teams out (at large): South Florida, VCU, UCF, St. Joe’s, Massachusetts

Bracket adjustments: Several one-line adjustments were made to accommodate bracket principles and procedures.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big East (9): Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Marquette, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Seton Hall

Big Ten (6): Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue

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

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

ACC (4): North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Florida State

Atlantic 10 (4): Xavier, St. Louis, Temple, Dayton

Mountain West (4): UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico, Colorado State

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

Pac 12 (3): Washingon, California, Arizona

Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Mississippi

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

Conference leaders/champions … Middle Tennessee State (Sun Belt), 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), Savannah State (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Stony Brook (America East), UT-Arlington(Southland), Mississippi Valley State (SWAC)

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.

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.