College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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Five Thoughts

Last word on Kansas-Missouri: I still can’t get over this game. I wrote almost 1,200 words on it after it happened, and I still think I shorted it. The way Missouri played for the first 25 minutes should be lauded. Its not easy to build up a 19 point lead on the road; its near impossible to do so at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in a big game. The way that Kansas came back was even more impressive, as they fed Thomas Robinson over and over again what stymieing Missouri’s vaunted offense. There were too many clutch shots down the stretch to remember.

But more than anything, I think the fact that this was one of the best college basketball games you will ever see played in an environment unlike any other will do wonders for keeping this rivalry going. To be frank, the “rivalry” hasn’t been much of a rivalry over the last decade or two. Kansas is Kansas, and while Missouri fields some very good basketball team now and again, they aren’t on the same level as the Jayhawks. That said, during years like this — when Missouri is for real and Kansas is just as good — the games get taken to another level, just like they did on Saturday.

I think that will be enough to convince Kansas to play Missouri again, even if it helps Missouri more than it will ever help the Jayhawks. It won’t be next season. It may be five or ten years. Maybe more. But eventually, this game will come back. Until then, as Joe Posnanski said, we’ll miss it.

The Mountain West race will be fun this week: San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV are all tied for first place in the MWC at 8-4 with just two games left this week. Barring another upset — which is a ridiculous assumption to make given how often rank has been a factor in the conference this season — SDSU has the inside track for the No. 1 seed in the tournament. They already have a win over fourth place TCU, and they play at TCU. That said, TCU has beaten UNLV and UNM at home. Ugh.

UNLV looks like they will be headed for the No. 2 seed if they can win out this week. New Mexico has already lost to Colorado State, the fifth place team, but the Rebels won at home earlier this season and have to travel to Ft. Collins for the rematch. Oh, and Colorado State has beaten both New Mexico and SDSU this year. Double ugh.

So like I said, the end of the MWC race is going to be some fun this week. Buckle up.

Can the CAA get two bids?: It might be tough. Drexel and VCU are both going to have to make the title game of the league tournament. I’d also expect that Drexel has a better chance of getting in with an at-large bid, so we would probably need VCU to win the automatic bid. The Dragons will be an interesting case. They’ll have 27 wins if they make it to the title game. They’ll have won 25 of their last 27 games. Their 2-4 start? Two of those losses came when sharpshooter Chris Fouch was injured and the other two came when he was back on the court but not 100%. Think about it like this: Drexel, as of now, has lost once since Dec. 3rd and ran through an always tough and always balanced CAA, winning the league outright despite a couple of talented teams. That deserves heavy consideration.

Late whistles: There were a number of late calls that decided games this week. The most notable: the no-call on Phil Pressey’s drive and the foul called on Tyshawn Taylor’s drive in the KU-MU game; the charge called on Kyle Casey that erased what would have been the go-ahead bucket for Harvard in their loss to Penn; the no-call when Roscoe Smith drove in the final seconds against Syracuse. I’m sure I missed some.

My opinion is this: I think down the stretch, you have to allow a little bit to change in terms of how a game is called. You don’t call ticky-tack fouls that will decide the outcome. If a player is hit hard enough, yes, you should give him the whistle. The definition of a foul is termed as when “an advantage is gained”, and so long as the referees stick to that theory late, I think they’ll be fine. There was no advantage gained when Robinson hit Pressey at the end of regulation, but there was also no advantage gained when Taylor drove and drew a foul that gave Kansas their final lead. I like seeing players decide the outcome of a game, but if they draw a foul, it has to be given to them.

Also, I have an issue with how much folks talk about overworked referees. The best in the business get paid upwards of $3,000 per game. For two hours worth of work. If I got paid that much, I would be working 20 hours every day. And frankly, I don’t think refs get that tired flying around the country as much as they do. I certainly don’t blame bad calls on refs being travel-weary. I think the bigger issue is that some of these refs just aren’t that good.

Best game you won’t hear anything about this week: Weber State, who is led by future first-round pick, and Montana are tied for first place in the Big Sky. Weber State won the first matchup between the two by 16 at home, but they will be heading to Missoula, MT, for the rematch. Currently, the third place team in the conference is five games behind these two and the fourth place teams is seven games back; in other words, both Montana and Weber State are good. Which is why this matchup should be fun to watch.

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

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.