Saturday’s slim margins dictating Selection Sunday decisions

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Selection Sunday never lacks for intrigue, but this year promises to have more than most – especially on the bubble.

No fewer than 15 teams will be nervous when the field of 68 is announced, whether it’s because they made a late push for inclusion (N.C. State, Ole Miss, Marshall), stumbled down the stretch after some impressive early wins (Seton Hall, Mississippi State, Cal), have a good, but not great profile (Southern Miss, West Virginia) or won the regular-season league title, but fell short in the conference tournament (Washington, Drexel, Iona).

And the final decision may come down to the slimmest of margins.

Take N.C. State. The Wolfpack won 22 games and have a winning record in the ACC, but could’ve  woken up Sunday without any worries if only a few calls had gone their way during an ACC semifinal against UNC. Also not helping matters? The coaching staff’s handling of C.J. Leslie’s fourth foul. If the Pack misses out, one loss will create plenty of angst in Raleigh.

Here’s a rundown of the other key storylines from Saturday and what it means for the 2012 NCAA tournament:

Watch out for Ohio State. The Buckeyes drilled Michigan and will make their case for a No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament final on Sunday. Its opponent, Michigan State, held off Wisconsin and will be vying for just its third conference tournament title under Tom Izzo.

Duke’s out of the running for a No. 1 seed. The Devils may have bigger problems depending on when Ryan Kelly returns.

Florida lost to Kentucky for the third time this season, which says as much about the Wildcats as it does the Gators. Even if Kentucky loses to Vandy in the SEC finals, it’ll still be a No. 1 seed and the favorite to win it all. But take note of their closes games this week. That’s a little concerning.

Missouri beat Baylor and ended its Big 12 tenure as tournament champs. The Tigers seem destined for a No. 2 seed.

Xavier did its best to avoid any bubble worries by reaching the A-10 finals after beating Dayton. If Tu Holloway & Co. beat St. Bonaventure on Sunday, they’ll enter the Big Dance on a roll. A loss would hurt, but they still might get in.

Louisville won the Big East tournament and will be a trendy pick to make the Final Four and lose early. One or the other. You watch.

Will the committee ruin Georgetown’s day by matching the Hoyas against Ohio?

Not long before Ole Miss came up short against Vandy in the SEC semis, NCAA tournament seeding committee chairman Jeff Hathaway told CBS that the 37 at-large bids were already chosen. It caused a fair amount of consternation among people worried they’d already written off the Rebels, but it wasn’t exactly what Hathaway meant. Regardless, the loss didn’t help Ole Miss.

Raise your hand if you had Colorado winning the Pac-12 tournament? Anyone? Now Washington and Cal, the league’s two best teams, will have a long Sunday. Only one’s likely getting in.

Memphis ended Marshall’s surprising run to the Conference USA final in dominant fashion. Anyone who gets the Tigers won’t be happy. The Thundering Herd will probably end up unhappy at the end of Sunday.

No bid thievery from the Big West. Long Beach State finally got to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007.

New Mexico won the Mountain West and might be the league’s team best suited to making a Sweet 16 run.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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.