Weekend Preview: Duke and UNC highlight the best games

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Game of the Weekend: Sat. No. 6 UNC @ No. 4 Duke, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

It doesn’t get much better than this. Last day of the regular season. Duke and North Carolina. An ACC title on the line. A potential No. 1 seed in the balance. And the icing on the cake? The last time these two got together, Duke somehow erased a 10 point deficit in the final two and a half minutes, winning in the Dean Dome when star freshman Austin Rivers did this.

Yeah, this should be fun.

There are really two ways to look at this game. On the one hand, in the first matchup, North Carolina dominated the Blue Devils for 37 minutes. I still find myself asking the question “how in the world to Duke manage to come back?” Duke may have gotten the victory, but you would be hard-pressed to find someone willing to say that the Blue Devils were actually the better team that night.

Having said that, I think that Duke is just starting to hit their stride this year. I think Miles Plumlee, who has recently been moved into Duke’s starting lineup, and Mason Plumlee to be able to hold their own against UNC’s front line, I expect Austin Rivers to have another big game and with a raucous crowd in Cameron for Saturday evening tip, I think Duke completes the sweep.

Sat. No. 11 Georgetown @ No. 8 Marquette, 2 p.m. (ESPN3): To me, this may be an even more interesting game than UNC-Duke because I believe both teams are real Final Four threats. We all know about Marquette by now. They like to press, they like to run and they have a number of versatile players that have really bought into what Buzz Williams is selling. Georgetown, however, is thriving because of their own versatility. The Hoyas are a tremendous defensive team when they want to be. They have three 6’8″ athletes that can defend any position on the court, which makes it so difficult to run offense because they can switch everything. Their zone, when they go to it, is as long as Syracuse’s. The key is going to be Henry Sims. Is he going to be aggressive offensively, attacking the rim and distributing the ball, or will he settle for 15 foot jumpers?

Sat. No. 19 Louisville @ No. 2 Syracuse, 4 p.m. (CBS): Louisville really needs to get this win. As of now, they are 0-6 against the Big East teams currently above them in the standings. That’s concerning. How good of a team are you if you cannot steal a win or two against the teams situated ahead of you? The problem? I just don’t see the Cardinals winning, not with the Syracuse defense and how Louisville has played on the offensive end of the floor of late.

Sat. No. 9 Baylor @ Iowa State, 7 p.m. (ESPN3): As we all know, Baylor has slowly started to fade down the stretch of the season, as they’ve lost all four of their games to Missouri and Kansas and have struggled with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma since then. they did, however, handle the Bears fairly easily about a month ago, which puts even more intrigue into this game. With a win, the Baylor and ISU will have split their season series and will be tied for third place in the Big 12. But since ISU has knocked off Kansas, they would get the three seed in the Big 12 Tournament and avoid Kansas until the title game.

Sat. No. 21 San Diego State @ TCU, 7 p.m. (MTN): TCU is 6-0 at home in Mountain West play. They have already beaten New Mexico and UNLV in their own arena. SDSU, on the other hand, is 3-3 on the road and coming off of a loss at Air Force the last time they played outside of Viejas Arena. He’s the tricky part — a loss for the Aztecs means that New Mexico, should they be able to beat Boise State at home on Saturday, will be the outright winner of the MWC. Wouldn’t that be wild?

Sun. No. 1 Kentucky @ No. 16 Florida, 12 p.m. (CBS): The only thing standing in between Kentucky and a perfect regular season in the SEC is Senior Night at Florida. I’ve been warning folks that losing Will Yeguete had the potential to be disastrous for the Gators, and so far they are 0-2 since he broke his foot. That said, we do have to keep in mind the fact that Florida does have a potent perimeter attack. If Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton and the rest of those guys get into a rhythm, Florida always has a chance. But even if they do, we shouldn’t forget just how badly the Gators were beaten at Rupp. It was bad. And they had Yeguete.

Sun. No. 10 Ohio State @ No. 5 Michigan State, 4 p.m. (CBS): What a perfect way to cap off the regular season in college hoops. Michigan State senior night, not only honoring Draymond Green but bring Delvon Roe back as well. A Big Ten title on the line. The leagues two favorites for player of the year squaring off. Thad Matta vs. Tom Izzo. This should be fun.

The key, in my opinion, is going to be Keith Appling. Aaron Craft is the best on-ball defender in the country and Appling isn’t a natural point guard. If he can avoid being rushed into offense and protect the ball when he is trying to orchestrate offense, the Spartans will have a great shot of winning this game.

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

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.