A Sweet 16 primer on the teams in East, West


We’re through the early madness of the men’s NCAA tournament and onto the regional semifinals, just two games away from the Final Four. We saw three massive upsets, eight games on Saturday and Sunday that came down to the final minute and one of the favorites lose their most important player.

So what’s the field look like?

The average team record is 28-8. The average seed still remaining is 4.6 (slightly more wacky than the historical average). Toughest region, according to average record and seed is the East (29-7/3.25).  The “easiest” according to record is the West (27-8/3.75), while the Midwest has the highest average seed (6.75) because of two remaining double-digit seeds.

Here’s a quick breakdown by regions and more on the teams playing Thursday:


Record: 33-2
How it got here: Beat No. 16 UNC Asheville 72-65; beat No. 8 Kansas State 75-59.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 4 Wisconsin

Essential info: ‘Cuse doesn’t have Fab Melo, but it still features plenty of talent and balance. Seven guys played at least 15 minutes vs. K-State and four scored in double figures. More importantly, the 2-3 zone defense played much better on Saturday than it did Thursday against UNC Asheville, a sign that perhaps it’ll be fully adjusted to Melo’s absence for the Badgers.

Record: 29-7
How it got here: Beat 15 Loyola (Md.) 78-59; beat No. 7 Gonzaga 73-66.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 6 Cincinnati

Essential info: Forward Deshaun Thomas has been the Buckeyes’ man, scoring 31 points vs. Loyola and another 18 against Gonzaga. But all the defensive attention continues to focus on sophomore center Jared Sullinger, who now seems content to not force any shots unless absolutely necessary.

: 26-9
How it got here: Beat No. 13 Montana 73-49; beat No. 5 Vanderbilt 60-57.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 1 Syracuse

Essential info: The Badgers’ offense wasn’t as sharp vs. Vandy (41.8 percent from the field, 30 percent from 3) as it was vs. Montana, but the defense was better. They frustrated every Commodore except 6-11 center Festus Ezeli, player the Orange won’t be able to trot out. Wisconsin excels at not turning the ball over; Syracuse thrives at creating them. Who wins that battle?

: 26-10
How it got here: Beat No. 11 Texas 65-59; beat No. 3 FSU 62-56.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2001
Next up: No. 2 Ohio State

Essential info: Cincy was more physical than Florida State – no mean feat – and showed off some impressive defense and timely shooting Sunday. Guard Sean Kilpatrick was the man Sunday (18 points), but center Yancy Gates couldn’t be contained vs. Texas (15 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks). It now faces an in-state rival that it beat in two national titles games, back in ’61 and ’62.


: 29-7
How it got here: Beat No. 16 LIU-Brooklyn 89-67; beat No. 9 St. Louis 65-61.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 4 Louisville

Essential info: Senior forward Draymond Green followed up a triple-double with a 16 and 13 day vs. St. Louis that capped a win coach Tom Izzo called “one of the tougher games we’ve been in.” Considering the Spartans have faced UNC, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Duke and Michigan this season, that’s a statement. Now, can they handle Louisville’s pressure defense?

Record: 27-7
How it got here: Beat No. 14 BYU 88-68; beat No. 6 Murray State 62-53.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 7 Florida

Essential info: Buzz Williams’ team just keeps rolling. The defense dominated Murray State and will have a size advantage – a rarity for Marquette – at most every spot against Florida. Knowing the Golden Eagles, they won’t waver from what’s worked. They’ll just continue forcing missed shots, the focus on sharing the ball and hitting 3s.

Record: 28-9
How it got here: Beat No. 13 Davidson 69-62; beat No. 5 New Mexico 59-56.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2009
Next up: No. 1 Michigan State

Essential info: No team remaining had closer games. Coach Rick Pitino exclaimed how “proud” he was of his team’s mental toughness and knack for winning games of late. Credit the defense, which hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than .97 points per possession since Feb. 18. Offense, on the other hand, has been tough to come by.

Record: 25-10
How it got here: Beat No. 10 Virginia 71-45 and No. 15 Norfolk State 84-50.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 3 Marquette

Essential info: The Gators had the easiest time reaching the Sweet 16 of any team, hitting 53 percent of its shots in both games. It also played two of the weakest seeds. They’ll probably still score – they’ve excelled at that this season – but defense will be the key vs. Marquette.

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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.