College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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I spent the morning arguing with Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com for his decision to include SMU in his Top 25.

You can see it here. SMU is sitting right there at No. 25 despite the fact that, just six days ago, the Mustangs lost to South Florida at South Florida.

His justification, more or less, is that the Mustangs have (mostly) beaten who they’re supposed to beat, and they also have wins over two teams that are all-but locks for the NCAA tournament in UConn and Memphis, both of who can be found in both my top 25 and his top 25.

And at this point, that’s actually a resume that’s worth consideration for being ranked, because once you get past the top 22 or 23 teams, there is a whole lot of mediocrity out there. Me? I have New Mexico ranked 24th mostly because they beat Cincinnati back in December and because they have been steam-rolling the Mountain West despite missing starting center Alex Kirk of late.

The MWC is down this year and UNM might be better without Kirk because it forces them to actually defend.

I have Pitt ranked 25th despite the fact that they’ve beaten absolutely no one of note — unless you are enamored with Penn State or Stanford — simply because I think that they are better than some of the other teams in consideration. You want to put UMass or Gonzaga or Wisconsin there? It’s not all that crazy.

Neither is ranking SMU.

Because, as ridiculous as this sounds, whipping up on this Memphis team — at home, nonetheless — is enough to set SMU apart from some of the other dreck that will find its way into the ‘others receiving votes’ pile, even if it came four days after a loss to South Florida.

THE TOP 25

1. Syracuse (21-0, LW: No. 2): If C.J. Fair is going to play like a superstar, like he did on Saturday, Syracuse really is one of the best teams in the country.

2. Arizona (20-1, LW: No. 1): I’m leaving Arizona at No. 2 for now, but I think that this injury to Brandon Ashley is really going to hurt the Wildcats.

3. Florida (19-2, LW: No. 3): Wanna talk defense? Florida has given up 128 points in their last three games.

4. San Diego State (19-1, LW: No. 8): SDSU is one of nine teams in the last nine-plus seasons to win at Phog Allen, and their only loss came by single-digits at Arizona. That’s strong.

5. Kansas (16-5, LW: No. 4): Kansas got embarrassed at Texas, but the Longhorns are a tough matchup for this group. I’m still buying the Jayhawks.

6. Wichita State (22-0, LW: No. 7): Big week for the Shockers: at Indiana State and at Northern Iowa. Win these two, and they might actually go undefeated in the regular season.

7. Michigan State (18-2, LW: No. 6): A banged up team lost a non-conference game at Madison Square Garden in February. I’ll put more stick in the win at Iowa five days earlier.

8. Cincinnati (19-2, LW: No. 12): The Bearcats are legit. Winning at Louisville should convince you. This team can really, really defend.

9. Villanova (19-2, LW: No. 9): I’m not ready to bump Villanova up past anyone of the teams in front of them, but rest assured, three road wins in their last three games didn’t go unnoticed.

10. Michigan (16-5, LW: No. 5): Indiana was able to stop Nik Stauskas. Was that just the result of a great performance from Yogi Ferrell, or is it a blueprint for the rest of the Big Ten?

11. Duke (17-5, LW: No. 19)
12. Texas (17-4, LW: UR)
13. Creighton (18-3, LW: No. 20)
14. Kentucky (16-5, LW: No. 10)
15. Iowa (17-5, LW: No. 13)
16. Iowa State (16-4, LW: No. 15)
17. Saint Louis (20-2, LW: No. 18)
18. Virginia (17-5, LW: UR)
19. Louisville (18-4, LW: No. 17)
20. Oklahoma (17-5, LW: No. 24)
21. UConn (17-4, LW: No. 21)
22. Memphis (16-5, LW: No. 22)
23. Oklahoma State (16-5, LW: No. 11)
24. New Mexico (17-4, LW: UR)
25. Pitt (18-4, LW: No. 16)

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.