Tourney Preview: Burke vs. Wolters, Marquette’s upset watch, how many 11s lose?

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GAME OF THE DAY: 7:15 p.m. – South Dakota State (13) vs. Michigan (4) – CBS

I’m not sure if South Dakota State has the horses to run with Michigan for 40 minutes, but what I’m sure of is that regardless of how long they hang around, the Jackrabbits are going to keep things interesting. By now, you should have heard the name Nate Wolters before. Wolters is the point guard for SDSU, and while his style of play is quite different than that of Trey Burke, the way that he is used and is productivity is quite similar.

Both the Wolverines and the Jackrabbits spread the floor with shooters, putting the ball in the hands of their point guards, allowing them to create. Neither plays much defense, and both can put up points in a hurry. This should be fun. And hopefully it will come down to the final possession.

Three more games you cannot miss:

  • 1:40 p.m. – Wichita State (9) vs. Pittsburgh (8) – TBS: This won’t be a pretty basketball game, but these are two big, physical teams that can grind it out with the best of them. It may look like a rugby match, but it’ll be close.
  • 2:45 p.m. – Saint Mary’s (11) vs. Memphis (6) – CBS: They might play the same position, but I’m not sure there are two point guards that more different than Joe Jackson and Matthew Dellavedova. They’ll be going head-to-head as Josh Pastner tries to win his first career NCAA tournament game.
  • 7:20 p.m. – Belmont (11) vs. Arizona (6) – TNT: Belmont is legit. They have arguably the best back court in their region with Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark. Can Mark Lyons and company be enough to slow them down?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET: 3:10 p.m. – Davidson (14) vs. Marquette (3) – tru TV

I picked this one in my bracket. Davidson is a veteran team that’s been together for a while. This is the same team that went into Kansas City last season and knocked off a Kansas team that went to the national title game. They can play with the big boys. Davidson’s two best players are De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen, two forwards that will be tough for either Chris Otule or Davante Gardner to matchup with.

WHO’S NOT GETTING UPSET: 12:40 p.m. – Bucknell (11) vs. Butler (6) – Tru TV

I just don’t see this one. Bucknell’s star is Mike Muscala, but Butler not only has the best game-planner in the country this side of Tom Izzo in Brad Stevens, but they also have a 6-foot-11 center named Andrew Smith that’s just as big and even more physical than Muscala. I don’t see the Bulldogs losing this one.

BEST INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: 9:57 p.m. – Montana (13) vs. Syracuse (4) – Tru TV

The best individual matchup is Trey Burke and Nate Wolters, but since we already talked about that, I’ll go with Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar squaring off against Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. A lot of people have picked Montana to pull the upset, and it will take a big game from the Grizzlies back court to make that happen.

EXPLOITABLE MATCHUP: 9:20 p.m. – Missouri (9) vs. Colorado State (8) – TBS

It works both ways here. Colorado State has been lit up by scoring points guards of late, and Missouri has a kid by the name of Phil Pressey. I don’t know if you heard of him. But Missouri’s front line has had their issues rebounding the ball and handling big, physical opponents. Colorado State is as big and as physical as anyone in the country. This will be interesting to watch play out.

THURSDAY’S FULL SCHEDULE

12:15 p.m. – Valparaiso (14) vs. Michigan State (3) – CBS
12:40 p.m. – Bucknell (11) vs. Butler (6) – Tru TV
1:40 p.m. – Wichita State (9) vs. Pittsburgh (8)- TBS
2:10 p.m. – New Mexico State (13) vs. Saint Louis (4) – TNT
2:45 p.m. – Saint Mary’s (11) vs. Memphis (6) – CBS
3:10 p.m. – Davidson (14) vs. Marquette (3) – tru TV
4:10 p.m. – Southern (16) vs. Gonzaga (1) – TBS
4:40 p.m. – Oregon (12) vs. Oklahoma State (5) – TNT
6:50 p.m. – North Carolina A&T (16) vs. Louisville (1) – TBS
7:15 p.m. – South Dakota State (13) vs. Michigan (4) – CBS
7:20 p.m. – Belmont (11) vs. Arizona (6) – TNT
7:27 p.m. – California (12) vs. UNLV (5) – Tru TV
9:20 p.m. – Missouri (9) vs. Colorado State (8) – TBS
9:45 p.m. – Akron (12) vs. VCU (5) – CBS
9:50 p.m. – Harvard (14) vs. New Mexico (3) – TNT
9:57 p.m. – Montana (13) vs. Syracuse (4) – Tru TV

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.