Bracketology: Florida moves to top line

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With the Super Bowl behind us, it’s time to start focusing on March Madness.  Given the action we’ve witness the past couple of weeks, the upcoming NCAA Tournament should be full of surprises.

If you need any other evidence, check out the teams listed around the bubble in today’s bracket.  They’re moving around faster than the Seahawks’ defense at MetLife Stadium.  We have some very interesting resumes.  Like recent weather forecasts, they change quickly, and often.

After 12 straight wins – and a loss by an injured Michigan State squad – the Florida Gators move to the line.  Wichita State is another team pushing for region supremacy.  The aforementioned Spartans, along with Villanova and San Diego State round out the two-seed line today.   Following its thrilling overtime victory over Duke on Saturday, and Arizona’s loss at California, the Orange now sit atop the bracket as the No. 1 overall seed.  Arizona and Kansas remain as the other projected No. 1 seeds based on games played through Sunday, February 2.  Yes, the Jayhawks lost at Texas, but their resume is filled with 12 Top 100 wins, a No. 1 strength of schedule, and the top spot in the RPI. Kansas also leads arguably one of the best two conferences (Big 12) in the nation.

Memphis absorbed the biggest seeding drop.  It’s not so much the loss at SMU as much as the behind-the-scenes resume numbers.  The Tigers are a concerning 2-5 against the RPI Top 50 and they have just three Top 100 RPI victories.  Fortunately, opportunities for seed-building wins remain: Gonzaga, Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, and SMU are still on the schedule.

If you’re returning to hoops with a football hangover, several new bracketing principles were introduced after last year’s tournament. You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.  You will see several examples of that in today’s bracket.

Enjoy a fun week of hoops.  We’re on the final push toward Selection Sunday.

UPDATED: February 3, 2014

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings with RPI as a tiebreaker for teams with the same number of losses. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Florida State vs. Arizona State | West Region
  • Oregon vs. Baylor | Midwest Region
  • SOUTHERN vs. COASTAL CAROLINA Midwest Region
  • ROBERT MORRIS vs. CHATTANOOGA | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTNew York WEST Anaheim                                 
Buffalo San Diego
1) SYRACUSE 1) ARIZONA
16) ROB MORRIS / CHATTANOOGA 16) UTAH VALLEY
8) VCU 8) Memphis
9) California 9) Kansas State
Orlando Spokane
5) Oklahoma State 5) Kentucky
12) HARVARD 12) Florida State / Arizona State
4) Iowa 4) Iowa State
13) CANISIUS 13) S.F. AUSTIN
Raleigh San Antonio
6) Wisconsin 6) GONZAGA
11) SOUTHERN MISS 11) Colorado
3) CINCINNATI 3) CREIGHTON
14) OHIO 14) UC-IRVINE
Buffalo San Antonio
7) Massachusetts 7) Ohio State
10) Minnesota 10) Tennessee
2) Villanova 2) SAN DIEGO STATE
15) STONY BROOK 15) NC-CENTRAL
SOUTH – Memphis MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Orlando St. Louis
1) FLORIDA 1) KANSAS
16) WEBER STATE 16) CO. CAROLINA / SOUTHERN
8) North Carolina 8) UCLA
9) George Washington 9) Xavier
Spokane San Diego
5) SAINT LOUIS 5) Texas
12) GREEN BAY 12) Oregon / Baylor
4) Oklahoma 4) Virginia
13) MERCER 13) DELAWARE
Raleigh Milwaukee
6) Connecticut 6) Louisville
11) LSU 11) Stanford
3) Duke 3) MICHIGAN
14) GEORGIA STATE 14) MURRAY STATE
Milwaukee St. Louis
7) New Mexico 7) Pittsburgh
10) Missouri 10) Providence
2) Michigan State 2) WICHITA STATE
15) AMERICAN 15) IPFW

NOTES on the BRACKET: Syracuse is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Arizona, Kansas, and Florida.

Last Five teams in (at large): LSU, Florida State, Arizona State, Oregon, Baylor

First Five teams out (at large): Georgetown, Ole Miss, SMU, Indiana, BYU

Next five teams out (at large): Clemson, St. Joseph’s, Dayton, Maryland, Richmond

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 12 (7): Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas

Pac 12 (7): Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, UCLA, California, Stanford, Arizona State

Big Ten (6): Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota

ACC (6): Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Virginia

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, LSU

American (4): Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati

Atlantic 10 (4): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, Geo Washington

Big East (4): Creighton, Villanova, Xavier, Providence

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … Southern Miss (C-USA), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Georgia State (Sun Belt), American (Patriot), IPFW (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Chattanooga (Southern), Utah Valley (WAC), Canisius (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Ohio (MAC), Mercer (A-Sun), Harvard (IVY), UC-Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Stony Brook (American East), Weber State (Big Sky), NC-Central (MEAC), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Robert Morris (NEC), Southern (SWAC)

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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

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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.