CBT Exam Week Essays: What to do with the Big East?

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For college students and college basketball fans, Exam Week is the worst week on the schedule. For students, this week is the culmination of three months worth of procrastination, cliff notes and Wikipedia. For college basketball fans, it’s the lightest week of hoops action we will see all season.

With so very little going on this week in terms of action, the staff at College Basketball Talk is going back to school. Over the next five days, the CBT Staff will be responsible for answering an essay question in one of five different subjects.

Monday:Sociology
Tuesday: Psychology.
Wednesday: Statistics
Thursday: Physical Education

The final essay of exam week is the dreaded business final. I think you know what that means?

The Big East conference is in a a state of flux never seen before in it’s existence. With the addition of several football-only programs, along with a bevy of former C-USA programs, what can the Big East do to reclaim it’s position as the nation’s premier basketball conference. If you believe this is not an option, detail the best options for the traditional basketball schools.

By Eric Angevine

I know this isn’t the original assignment, but it’s been a really rough week. My grandma died, the dog ate my textbook and my girlfriend broke up with me and started sleeping with my roommate. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Big East went and dissolved on top of everything. So I hope you’ll understand; my original power-point presentation about saving the league is attached just in case, but I decided to pull an all-nighter and create a vertically integrated synergistic marketing portfolio to guide the formation of a theoretical basketball-only super league with the Catholic Seven at its core.

The dissolution of the Big East was handled well, from a business standpoint. The core of basketball-only schools known as the Catholic Seven – Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova and Providence – took control of the situation instead of waiting to be marginalized. By leaving on their own terms, the seven schools are now bargaining from a position of strength. They can act as a united group of basketball powers, rather than reactive individuals in a football-driven realignment scenario.
An analysis of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Catholic Seven will reveal much.

Strengths
• Unity of purpose. By acting in concert, the Catholic Seven have defined their own business paradigm.
• Media markets. New York, Washington D.C., Chicago and Philadelphia anchor a powerful nexus of desirable urban media markets.
• History. Thirty-four combined Final Four appearances and three national titles.
• Legislative freedom. The Catholic Seven can literally write their own bylaws and choose their own business partners, free from the non-basketball decisions made by Mike Aresco over the past several months.
• Coaches. From Steve Lavin to Buzz Williams, this is a very marketable group of motivated men who will provide a face for the new league that emerges.

Weaknesses
• Money. Football has been driving realignment because football makes the money.
• Negotiating power. Without football money, media rights deals will be more difficult to value, which gives the Catholic Seven and any future partners limited negotiating strength.

With these factors in mind, the Catholic Seven can properly assess risk and reward. They can form a new basketball-centric super league that will redefine the sports landscape. If they act from their strengths rather than their weaknesses, this league can be a boon to all stakeholders.

New members should be invited based on their ability to fit in with the aforementioned strengths, with one caveat: the league should have a reasonable geographical footprint, extending no farther west than the Chicago/Milwaukee outpost already established in the core group.

With those strictures in place, the following members should be invited:
Butler. The Indianapolis market, historical and recent basketball success, Brad Stevens and Hinkle Fieldhouse make the Bulldogs a perfect fit.
Temple. The natural rivalry between Villanova and Temple strengthens the league’s metro base.
Virginia Commonwealth. Richmond is not the biggest media market, but Shaka Smart and his up-tempo style of play will energize the league, giving it a youthful hipness no other potential member can provide.
Xavier. Losing Cincinnati to the football-loving crowd hurts. Bringing in the Bearcats’ natural rival is a great basketball decision, and allows the new league to keep fans in the Queen City.
Detroit. The league’s profile has already extended across the Rust Belt’s biggest cities, so it makes sense to grab this media market as well. Ray McCallum has the team on the right track on Dick Vitale Court, as well.
George Mason. Another nod to the D.C. metro area, a new rivalry for Georgetown and a strong history make this one a good choice.
Cleveland State. Locking up an East Coast/Rust Belt core makes the most sense. The Vikings have had some tourney success and bring Cleveland’s TVs into the mix.

This leaves the league with 14 teams, a sensible geographic footprint, and a rich basketball product. For now, teams like Creighton and Davidson, while admittedly high in basketball tradition, do not make the grade. Travel constraints and questionable media markets make them initially unattractive, though their national profile merits inclusion in the discussion.

If the theoretical new league avoids emulating the chaos of football realignment by shortening its reach and making decisions methodically, something new and powerful can emerge from the wreckage of the Big East.
And, best of all, there’s a golden, shimmering opportunity to choose a league name that doesn’t sound stupid. That alone is a pearl of great value.

Professor’s Notes: This is an absolutely tremendous outline on how to form the best possible basketball-only conference. Really, it is. The make-up of your desired conference would be great for the sport and for fans. However, you failed to answer much of the essay topic and provided you’re response in outline form. Then again, much has changed since this topic was issued at the beginning of the week, so you are being given a slight pass. Nonetheless, insert Billy Madison or Animal House quote here.

GRADE: C-

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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.