Late Night Snacks: Recapping the tournament’s first REAL day

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Andrew Smith, Butler

Smith finished with 14 points and 16 boards in the Bulldog’s win over No. 11 seed Bucknell. He also hit a three midway through the second half that not only was Butler’s first on the afternoon (they were 0-14 from distance up to that point) but also helped stem the tide of a Bucknell run that had erased Butler’s double-digit lead.

But that wasn’t Smith’s most important contribution. Mike Muscala, the 6-foot-11 center for the Bison who just so happens to be a potential first round draft pick, finished with just nine points and 10 boards on 4-17 shooting, stymied by the defense of Smith and the rest of the Butler front line. That’s why the Bulldogs were able to win a tournament game on an afternoon where they, frankly, shot the ball horrendously from the floor.

Who else was good?:

  • Derrick Nix, Michigan State: The biggest player on arguably the biggest team in the tournament played like it, going for 23 points and 15 boards in a win over No. 14 seed Valparaiso.
  • Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State: Armstead finished with 22 points and five assists and helped hold Tray Woodall to 1-12 shooting and five turnovers as the Shockers beat No. 8 seed Pitt 73-55.
  • Dwayne Evans, St. Louis: Evans led the way with 24 points and six boards as the Billikens beat No. 13 seed New Mexico State.
  • Dorian Green, Colorado State: Green scored 17 of his 26 points in the first half as the Rams ran past Missouri.
  • Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway, Jr, Michigan: The Wolverines put No. 13 seed South Dakota State away easily on Thursday despite the fact that Trey Burke was 2-12 from the floor. GR3 and Hardaway finished with 42 points combined, shooting 16-21 from the field and 8-10 from three.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Harvard Crimson

You have got to feel good for the Crimson at this point. After losing their two best players in the preseason to an academic scandal, Harvard backed their way into the NCAA tournament when Princeton surprisingly lost a pair of games on the road on the final weekend of Ivy League play. But they managed to earn a 14 seed, and then pulled off a stunning upset of No. 3 seed New Mexico in the opening round of the tournament.

The Lobos were projected as a team that could make a run to the Final Four. They had the size to take advantage of Harvard’s smaller front line. They had the talent and the resume for most bracket analysts to simply look past that first round games. And Harvard still managed to beat Steve Alford’s team to pick up the first NCAA tournament win in the history of the program.

Who else was impressive?:

  • Oregon: I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Oregon. The No. 12 seed Ducks dominated a good Oklahoma State team from start to finish and made everyone realize just how silly their seeding truly was. The most important note? Dominic Artis finished with 13 points in 17 minutes, easily the best game he’s played since he returned from a foot injury. He had some explosive and confident moves in the mix.
  • Southern: I know they lost, but hats off to the Jaguars for giving No. 1 seed Gonzaga everything they could handle.

GAME OF THE DAY: Marquette 59, Davidson 58

This one  is going to sting for a while:

[youtube=http://youtu.be/IL4kH5ATauU]

FIVE THOUGHTS:

1) So the Pac-12 is good again?: Two No. 12 seeds (Oregon and Cal) knocked off No. 5 seeds. No. 6 seed Arizona beat the trendy upset pick, No. 11 seed Belmont, in decisive fashion. That puts the Pac-12 at 3-0 in this year’s tournament with two very winnable games for No. 6 seed UCLA and No. 10 seed Colorado tomorrow. After being the laughing stock of college basketball for a couple of years, that has to feel good, especially when the Mountain West is now 1-3 in the tournament, with the two best teams heading how already.

2) Defining performance?: The defining moment of the first day of the NCAA tournament was probably Harvard’s win over New Mexico, but Davidson’s collapse and Marquette’s game-winner are definitely in the mix. But who had the defining performance? When the Player of the Day wins for the work he did on the defensive end, that should tell you something.

3) Sad to see seniors leave: What makes it worse is when they leave after a terrible performance. Matthew Dellavedova was not himself as Memphis stormed over St. Mary’s. Tray Woodall played one of the worst games of his career in Pitt’s loss to Wichita State. Both were in tears after the game.

4) Shaka’s ruthless: He was playing the team of the first guy to give him a DI job. Up 40 with eight minutes left, he was still pressing. Havoc never sleeps.

5) More excitement tomorrow?: Today turned out to be kind of a dud, but it seems like that happens with one day of the round of 64 every year. Where will the crazy come from on Friday?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.