Northwestern highlights Saturday’s bubble winners


Northwestern has lost 10 games in Big Ten play. Six of those losses were by less than five points or in overtime and four of them were against ranked teams. In other words, Northwestern has had plenty of heartbreak this season, and it only makes things worse that the Wildcats are about as bubbly as a bubble team can get.

That’s why their win at Iowa on Saturday was so impressive.

Northwestern, which has never made the NCAA tournament, was down 15 in the first half before they could even blink. Playing against an Iowa team that has sprung more than their fair share of upsets this season, the Wildcats easily could have packed it in and not a soul would have blamed them. We all saw the look on the faces of John Shurna and Drew Crawford after Wednesday’s loss to Ohio State. That kind of disappointment is a tough thing to overcome, and the pervasive mentality of losing is not easy to overcome.

But Northwestern (18-12) rallied, closing the half on a 31-9 run to take a seven-point halftime lead. Iowa made things interesting down the stretch — Josh Oglesby had a good look at three that would have given the Hawkeyes a one point lead with five seconds left — but he missed it, and Bill Carmody’s club lived to fight another day with a 70-66 win. They still have plenty of work left to do, and as the seven seed in the Big Ten Tournament, they’ll have another chance to notch a marquee win against one of the top three teams in the conference if they can get by Minnesota in the first round.

Depending on where you look, Northwestern is either one of the last few teams in or the last few teams out. They have to make it at least as far as the semifinals to have a real shot at getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. But with a tough win under their belt, maybe they’ll have the confidence to finally land that marquee win they need so badly.

Other bubble winners:

Cincinnati: Cincinnati (22-9) should be able to feel pretty comfortable about their bubble standing as it followed up its dominating win over No. 8 Marquette with a hard-fought, 72-68 victory against Villanova.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers (19-12) still have some work left to do, but beating fellow bubbler South Florida 50-44 certainly helped their chances. If West Virginia ends up playing UConn in the second round of the Big East Tournament, it may end up being a knock out game.

UConn: The Huskies (18-12) got Jim Calhoun back on the sidelines for the first time in eight games and pulled out a tough win over Pitt, 74-65, as a result. The Huskies probably need a win or two at Madison Square Garden to feel comfortable, but it is a good sign they were able to win despite blowing a 15-point lead.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (21-10) followed up an overtime win at South Carolina by easily handling Arkansas at home to the tune of a 79-59 win. Mississippi State is is good position right now, but losing their first round game in the SEC Tournament might change things.

St. Louis: The Billikens (24-6) were in a good spot when they beat Xavier last week, and a 75-60 win at Duquesne just about locks up a bid.

Dayton: The Flyers (19-11) bounced back from a loss at Richmond by beating George Washington at home. Dayton still has some work to do, but heading into the A-10 tournament, winning their first round game may be enough to keep them on the right side of the bubble.

Xavier: The Musketeers (19-11) have been maddeningly inconsistent down the stretch of the season, but pulling out a 72-63 win over Charlotte keeps them in the mix for the time being.

Colorado State: The Rams (19-10) finally picked up a road win in league play, going into Colorado Springs and knocking off Air Force 75-65. I wouldn’t feel comfortable quite yet if I were Tim Miles, but with wins over each of the top three teams in the league and a strong computer profile, one MWC tournament win should get the job done.

Tennessee: Winners of eight of their last nine, its time to start seriously considering the Vols, who currently sit at third in the SEC after beating Vanderbilt 68-61. If Florida loses to Kentucky, Tennessee (18-13) will be the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament. Who predicted that?

Related: Saturday’s bubble losers

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


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.