Weekend Preview: Duke-Cuse, Kansas-Texas, Arizona’s roadtrip highlight huge weekend

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 17 Duke at No. 2 Syracuse, 6:30 p.m.

Could this get any juicier? Let’s ignore, for a second, the fact that the team currently sitting in first place in the ACC will be taking on the team that may be playing the best basketball in the ACC. Let’s also ignore that this is the game between the biggest name in the ACC and the biggest name to join the ACC. Then we can also look past the fact that there are going to be somewhere around 35,000 people in the Carrier Dome to watch this game. Or Coach K vs. Boeheim.

Let’s focus, instead, on the fact this game will feature one of the nation’s three remaining undefeated teams taking on a team that features arguably the nation’s best player and just so happens to be well-suited to breaking down the Syracuse zone. Going beyond the multitude of story lines, the game itself should be fantastic.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 6 Kansas at No. 25 Texas, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

Kansas vs. Texas was the single biggest game in the Big 12 for a number of years, and it looks like it may be that way again this season. The Longhorns are much improved this year, defending as well as anyone in the Big 12 and getting enough out of their offense to slide into second in the conference standings. Texas might also be the best matchup of any Big 12 team with the Jayhawks given the size they have source: Getty Imagesinside to combat Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis. The problem? If the Andrew Wiggins that has scored 56 points in the last two games shows up, I’m not sure Texas has a chance.

FIVE MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON

  • No. 24 Ohio State at No. 14 Wisconsin, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: I’m not sure there are two teams in the country that need a win as badly as Ohio State and Wisconsin both need a win. Well, except for maybe …
  • Baylor at No. 8 Oklahoma State, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: … Baylor, who currently sits at 1-6 in the Big 12 with Kansas and Oklahoma as the next two games on their schedule. This is about as must-win as a game gets.
  • No. 23 Oklahoma at No. 16 Iowa State, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: If you’re looking for an entertaining basketball game, this is going to be it. Both teams spread the floor, shoot threes, play at a faster and struggle defensively.
  • Virginia at No. 18 Pitt, Sun. 12:30 p.m.: Duke and Syracuse are the trendy picks as the two best teams in the ACC, but Virginia and Pitt are both putting together strong cases. They need big wins to validate it, however. Saturday is their chance.
  • No. 10 Michigan at Indiana, Sun. 1:00 p.m.: Michigan is the hottest team in the country and currently sitting in first place in the Big Ten. Indiana? They desperately need to land a marquis win over someone like — oh, I don’t know — the Big Ten leader.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?

  • No. 11 Kentucky at Missouri, Sat. 1:00 p.m.: Kentucky is coming off of an embarrassing road loss at LSU. Missouri, who is better at home, just picked up a win at Arkansas. Will trends continue? The Tigers need this win if they are going to be a tournament team.
  • No. 22 Memphis at SMU, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: SMU is still in the hunt for the NCAA tournament spot, but losing to South Florida on Wednesday hurt. They need to pick up a win like this.
  • No. 15 Iowa at Illinois, Sat. 7:30 p.m.: Illinois’ season is almost over. Like Baylor, this is almost a must-win game. Iowa, on paper, is as good as anyone, but this is a team that has yet to prove themselves with a marquee win.
  • No. 21 UMass at St. Joseph’s, Sat. 6:00 p.m.: Based on the way that they’ve played over the last month, UMass is one of the most overrated teams in the country. They’ll visit St. Joe’s after losing at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday.
  • No. 1 Arizona at Cal, Sat. 10:30 p.m.: Arizona will put their undefeated season on the line against a good Cal team that desperately needs this win.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) There will be four games on the NBC Sports Network on Saturday:

  • 12:30 p.m.: George Washington at Dayton
  • 2:30 p.m.: George Mason at No. 19 Saint Louis
  • 4:30 p.m.: Drexel at Towson
  • 9:00 p.m.: Penn at Harvard

2) No. 4 Wichita State will once again put their undefeated season on the line as they host Evansville on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m.

3) No. 7 Michigan State will be without Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson on Saturday as they face Georgetown, which is key for the Hoyas. They don’t have much size inside and this will be a must-win game for them.

4) There are a couple of important bubble games on the schedule for the weekend:

  • Northwestern at Minnesota, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • Arizona State at Stanford, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • Arkansas at LSU, Sat. 5:00 p.m.
  • Boise State at UNLV, Sat. 8:05 p.m.
  • Tennessee at Alabama, Sat. 9:00 p.m.
  • Saint Mary’s at BYU, Sat. 11:00 p.m.

5) And who doesn’t love a good rivalry game?

  • Richmond at VCU, Sat. 11:00 a.m.
  • N.C. State at North Carolina, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
  • No. 9 Villanova at Temple, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

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.