Bubble Banter: Oregon, Tennessee headline Saturday’s early winners

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There are eight days left until Selection Sunday. Every morning from now until the bracket comes out, we’ll help you get caught up on the happenings with impact on the bubble from the night before.

Our latest bracket projection can be found here.

WINNERS:

Oregon: I’m not sure if Oregon was still on the bubble entering Saturday’s date with No. 3 Arizona, but they sure aren’t after knocking off the Wildcats in Eugene.

St. John’s: The Johnnies picked up a double-overtime win at Marquette that they absolutely couldn’t afford to lose. It’s their sixth top 100 win and just their second away from home. But with just one top 50 win on their resume (Creighton), an RPI of 64 and two sub-100 losses, Steve Lavin’s crew is going to have some work to do in the Big East tournament if they still want to dance.

Tennessee: In a matchup that was billed as a de-facto NCAA tournament play-in game, the Vols jumped all over Missouri, pounding the Tigers 72-45. With the win, Tennessee improves to 7-7 against the top 100, but they have just two top 50 wins and four sub-100 losses. In other words, this victory certainly does not lock up a bid for Tennessee. They need to win at least one game, and maybe two, in the SEC tournament to avoid sweating out Selection Sunday.

MOREBrowse through all of our conference tournament previews

Stanford: The Cardinal entered Saturday having lost their last three games after knocking off UCLA, and they nearly lost to Utah, surviving a one-point win after blowing a big second half lead. But a win is a win, and this win should be enough to keep the Cardinal in the NCAA tournament for now. They have four top 50 wins, six top 100 wins and just one loss to a sub-100 team that came on the road in league play. Winning their first game in the Pac-12 tournament would make Selection Sunday much less stressful.

Pitt: How lucky are the Panthers? They scored five points in the final 2.4 seconds — a Lamar Patterson three and a short jumper from Josh Newkirk after Clemson turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds — to force overtime before pulling away from Clemson to land a much-needed road win. It’s the sixth top 100 win for the Panthers, although their best win on the season is still No. 47 Stanford. It’s an empty profile, and beating Clemson isn’t going to change that, but with six of their eight losses coming to top 25 foes — and the other two coming against top 75 opponents — Pitt is still in a pretty good spot. Perhaps more than any other team on the bubble, Pitt cannot afford a loss in the first round of their conference tournament.

Cal: The Bears quite simply had to beat Colorado at home on Saturday, and while it took overtime to get the job done, Mike Montgomery’s boys got the win they needed. It’s their fourth top 50 win — which includes their win over Arizona — and improves their record against the top 100 to 7-11. Their work isn’t done yet, however. The Bears probably don’t want to risk losing their opener in the Pac-12 tournament.

BYU: The Cougars handled their business against LMU in the quarterfinals of the WCC tournament, meaning that they no longer are at risk of suffering a loss to a sub-100 opponent. A win over San Francisco would push them to 8-6 against the top 100 with wins against Texas, Stanford and Gonzaga. Getting to the finals should be enough, although they may be able to withstand a loss in the semifinals.

WATCH: Doug McDermott’s scores 3,000th point, career-high on Senior Night

Dayton: The Flyers have won nine of their last ten games, including wins over UMass, Saint Louis and, on Saturday, Richmond to close out the season. Dayton now has an 8-6 record against the top 100, an RPI in the top 50 and four top 50 wins, which is enough to get them on the right side of the bubble as of today. Avoid a bad loss in the Atlantic 10 tournament, and the Flyers will likely host a game in the First Four.

Gonzaga: The Zags survived a battle from Santa Clara in the WCC’s quarterfinals, advancing when David Stockton hit a driving layup with 1.4 seconds left. The win was important for Gonzaga because their profile is not all that strong. They’re 8-4 against the top 100, but have just a single top 50 win and two losses to teams ranked outside the top 150.

West Virginia: A win over Kansas gets the Mountaineers back into the conversation, but with just a 5-12 record against the top 100 and 14 losses on the season, this group still has a lot of work to do. They might need a run to the finals of the Big 12 tournament.

LOSERS:

Georgetown: The Hoyas entered Saturday afternoon as one of a handful of teams sitting right on the bubble’s cutline but with a chance to go into Philly and knock No. 6 Villanova, a potential No. 1 seed. It didn’t go well. Georgetown got smoked, meaning that they’ll enter the Big East tournament with a 17-13 record and an 8-10 mark in the Big East. The Hoyas have three top 25 wins and five top 50 wins, but they were swept by Seton Hall this season and lost to Northeastern back in November. Here’s the bigger concern: all of a sudden, the Hoyas are looking at a situation where they will have 14 losses on Selection Sunday if they don’t win the Big East’s automatic bid. That’s a lot of losses.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks suffered their second loss to a sub-100 team, getting blown out on the road by Alabama on Saturday. Throw in Kentucky’s recent collapse, and all of a sudden their profile doesn’t look quite as strong. They have four top 50 wins — including one at Rupp — and are 8-8 against the top 100.

Missouri: The Tigers were one of a handful of teams sitting on the bubble’s cutline entering Saturday. They badly needed a win over fellow bubbler Tennessee on Saturday, and instead they went out and lost by 27. Missouri is now 7-8 against the top 100, but their only top 50 wins are against Tennessee and UCLA. The good news for Missouri is that this loss doesn’t hurt their profile all that much. Losing to an RPI top 50 team on the road isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like the Vols, they have work to do in the SEC tournament if they want to dance.

Providence: Losing at Creighton on Doug McDermott’s Senior Night is not a knock on a team’s resume, so this loss doesn’t make the Friars worse off as they head into the Big East tournament. The issue is that they lost an opportunity to land a marquee win, which would have made Selection Sunday so much less stressful. As it is, the Friars probably need a win or two at the Garden to feel comfortable. They’re 6-10 against the top 100 with a notable home win over the Bluejays, a bad loss to Seton Hall and a mediocre RPI (55).

Utah: The Utes had a chance to beat Stanford on the road on Saturday, but they ended up losing by one after being unable to get a shot off on their final possession. Utah had four top 50 wins and a 6-9 record against the top 100, but with their non-conference SOS checking in at 346th, they needed this win to have a real shot of earning an at-large bid.

Green Bay: The Phoenix are talented. Kiefer Sykes is as athletic as point guards come and Alec Brown is an NBA prospect. But Green Bay lost to Milwaukee in the Horizon semifinals, putting them in a position where they’re likely headed to the NIT. They’re 24-6 overall with a win over Virginia, but they have just four top 50 wins and three losses to sub-150 teams. Such is the life of a mid-major.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles were a good way off of the bubble’s cut line entering the day. At this point, they are probably going to need to win the automatic bid to dance.

Colorado: The Buffaloes have a strong enough profile to dance, but the concern is how it will be weighed in their time without Spencer Dinwiddie. They had a shot to beat Cal in regulation and in overtime at the buzzer, but failed to do so. Most projections have Colorado in the dance and missing the First Four.

Bubble games still to be played:

  • 9:00 Santa Clara at Gonzaga

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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.