College Basketball Oscars: Who would bring home the biggest awards?

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Argo took home Best Picture at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, but who is deserving of similar awards in college basketball? CollegeBasketballTalk compiled a list and voted for winners in 12 key categories. Take a look at the list below. Have a differing opinion? Feel free to vote for your own winners in the comments.

Best Picture: No. 13 Butler 64, No. 8 Gonzaga 63

This one had all the elements of a true masterpiece. There are good college basketball games, then there are those like Butler-Gonzaga on Jan. 19. It had all the elements: the “underdog” implications, the national rankings, the late-game drama, the surprise ending. You thought the game was over when Alex Barlow was called for traveling with 3.5 seconds to play? Wrong. Roosevelt Jones’ steal, weave, and floater as time expired gave Butler the win and cemented a place in highlight history for years to come.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJOTrmNpT6I]

Best Player in a Leading Role: Trey Burke, Michigan (18.6 points, 6.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds per game)

When Burke made the decision to return to Michigan for his sophomore season and put off his NBA dreams for another season, he knew that he was walking into a leading role. He knew he would inherit and team with talent and national title aspirations in the nation’s toughest conference and, like Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, he has shouldered the weight of those expectations.

Best Player in a Supporting Role: Victor Oladipo, Indiana (14 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.4 steals per game, 63.9% FG)

Oladipo has emerged throughout the season and shown that he has the single most important characteristic of a supporting player: versatility. One night, he could carry the Hoosiers offensively. Another night, it is his defense that makes Indiana go. He may even bring everything together into one performance that is truly masterful, like when he had 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals, and three blocks in a win over Michigan State on Jan. 27.

Best Original Dramatic Sequence: Frantz Massenat, Drexel vs. Hofstra

There’s always room for a low-budget film in the College Basketball Oscars. None is more deserving than the moment Frantz Massenat gave us against Hofstra. With seconds remaining in regulation, Massenat heaved a shot from beyond half court between two defenders and nailed it, giving Drexel the 55-52 win. Perfection. We’ve seen similar shots, like Ben Brust’s prayer against Michigan on Feb. 9 that sent that game into overtime, but sheer distance and the fact that it was for the win gives Massenat the nod.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/jBYSF4bLfgM]

Best Costume Design: UCLA’s blue alternates, adidas

In a year that has seen its share of new uniforms, including the logo-prominent Nike look to adidas’ monochromatic experiment, UCLA’s blue alternate jerseys stand above the rest. The designer takes care to contrast the lighter blue with a sharp navy color for the number, but also makes one key addition. Where the monochromatic jerseys failed, these succeed. A thin bit of gold outlines the numbers and makes them pop. Important.

Best Short Film: Jamaal Franklin’s Off-the-Backboard Dunk vs. Fresno State

Considering the undertaking, for Franklin to even attempt a moment like this is almost unthinkable. To have captured it so perfectly is something else entirely. But that is a mark of a great innovator. He is not afraid to take chances. As a wise man once said, “You miss 100% of the off-the-backboard alley-oops to yourself that you don’t take.” Perhaps I’m paraphrasing, but the message still rings true.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-stx17fY-I]

Best Kiss: Jack Cooley, Notre Dame

Very little can be said, other than to let the image speak for itself. The Casablanca kiss pales in comparison.

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Best Director: Jim Larranaga, Miami

With the cloud of an impending NCAA investigation hanging over the program’s head, Larranaga has worked with a group of veterans that he largely inherited to become a force in the ACC and a contender for a top seed in the NCAA tournament. College basketball lacks a dominant team this season, which makes Larranaga a clearer choice, considering the expectations going into the season, a non-conference loss to Florida-Gulf Coast, and the injuries that the Hurricanes have endured.

He has mastered a range of styles, key for any director, helping Miami to win at a slow, grinding pace, or more up-tempo and in transition. He caps it all off with his personal masterpiece, a 27-point drubbing of then-No. 1 Duke. Bravo.

Best Player in a Foreign Film: Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s (Australia)

Dellavedova comes from a program that has a history of producing and developing quality Australian-born players. He is simply the next in line. In the off-season, he developed his game by adding muscle to his frame, making him a player with more physical tools with which to work. He knows how to work the whole “persona” thing, too. His oversized mouthguard is unique and helps him stick out more than just his 16.1 points and 6.3 assists per game already do.

Best Single-Game Performance in a Leading Role: Kendall Williams, New Mexico vs. Colorado State

There are nights when one player simply cannot be stopped. On Feb. 23 against Colorado State, Kendall Williams had one of those nights. The junior shot 12-of-16 from the floor, including 10-of-13 from three-point range on his way to 46 points and a nine-point New Mexico victory. Consider the stakes of the game, with both teams ranked and fighting for position in the highly contested Mountain West, and Williams’ performance shines even brighter.

Most Animated Player: Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss

Henderson has been as polarizing as he has been productive, which makes him such an intriguing personality and the kind of “What will he do next?” character that we don’t often see at the college level. He once posited that Ole Miss could beat Tennessee 10 out of 10 times (100% of the time, for those of you keeping track at home), and on another occasion kindly told the media that he didn’t have much time for questions because it was a Saturday night and he had a place to be. Oh, and this happened:

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Breakthrough Performance: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga (17.0 points, 7.0 rebounds per game)

A breakout performer turns a quality project into an elite one. This is what Kelly Olynyk has done for Gonzaga. Olynyk redshirted the 2011-12 season and came out of it now averaging 17.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He has shown the ability to attack defenses in a number of ways, whether it is around the rim, off the dribble, or on the perimeter. Gonzaga has ridden the classic underdog narrative to a 27-2 record and a No. 3 national ranking. The Bulldogs are hoping that this one ends with triumph and possibly even a national championship.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Jeff Withey, Kansas (13.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.0 blocks per game)

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to the nation’s best fifth-year senior. Its recipients are part of a select group, one that only has players who have continued to produce long after others around them are past their time. Coach Bill Self and Kansas has had continued success because elite players leave and more fill in seamlessly behind them. This season, Withey is that elite player filling in the gap left by the depature of Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson and is one of the main reasons that the Jayhawks are eyeing another Final Four run. For that, Mr. Withey, we honor you.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

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.