Late Night Snacks: Coastal Carolina, Mercer and No. 2 Wichita State join NCAA field

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GAME OF THE DAY: Maryland 75, No. 5 Virginia 69 (OT)

In Maryland’s final regular season game as a member of the ACC the Terrapins needed five extra minutes to beat Virginia in College Park. The Cavaliers executed well late in regulation to force the extra session, with Anthony Gill’s basket with less than a second remaining tying the game. That could have been a crushing blow for the Terps, but Seth Allen and Dez Wells made important baskets in overtime to make sure that wasn’t the case.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 2 Wichita State 83, Indiana State 69

34 games. 34 wins. Gregg Marshall’s team took the next step in its quest to win a national title, responding to a second-half Indiana State run the way that champions are supposed to. Fred VanVleet scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, and Tekele Cotton added 20 points for the winners. Jake Odum and Justin Gant scored 18 points apiece for the Sycamores, who should land in the Postseason NIT.

2) Nebraska 77, No. 9 Wisconsin 68

While some bubble teams have managed to stumble down the stretch, others have risen to the occasion. One of those teams is Nebraska, which knocked off No. 9 Wisconsin in Lincoln. Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields scored 26 points apiece to lead the way, and there were other contributors as well. After starting conference play 0-4 Tim Miles’ Huskers have won 11 of their last 14, and they’re moving closer to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998.

3) Ohio State 69, No. 22 Michigan State 67

After dropping games at Penn State and Indiana the Buckeyes were in need of a win and they got it, with their defense and LaQuinton Ross standing out. The Buckeyes held Michigan State scoreless over the final 4:30, and Ross scored 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting. As for Michigan State, while there’s no need to panic their offensive execution down the stretch is something they need to improve on ahead of the Big Ten tournament.

STARRED

1) T.J. Warren (N.C. State) 

Warren made his final statement ahead of the ACC’s vote for Player of the Year, scoring 42 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the Wolfpack’s 78-68 win over Boston College. Warren’s scored 40-plus points in consecutive games, the first time an ACC player’s done this since 1957.

2) Jarvis Threatt (Delaware) 

19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in the Blue Hens’ 87-74 win over Northeastern.

3) Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway (Nebraska) 

Shields and Petteway scored 26 points apiece in the Huskers’ 77-68 win over No. 9 Wisconsin, with Petteway also grabbing ten rebounds.

STRUGGLED

1) Chris Wilson (Saint Joseph’s) 

Wilson struggled in the Hawks’ 71-63 home loss to La Salle, shooting 1-for-9 and finishing with two points, four rebounds and three assists.

2) Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey (Virginia) 

Mitchell and Tobey combined to score six points on 2-for-7 shooting in the Cavaliers’ 75-69 overtime loss at Maryland.

3) Sampson Carter and Raphiael Putney (UMass) 

Both players shot 2-for-10 from the field, combining to score 13 points in their 64-62 loss to No. 17 Saint Louis.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS 

  • America East: New tournament format year too late for Vermont
    After Stony Brook lost at Albany in last season’s semifinals the conference changed its tournament format, with the higher seed hosting every game. But that won’t occur until next season, leaving Vermont in the situation Stony Brook found itself in a season ago. Final score: Albany 67, Vermont 58. Peter Hooley scored 26 points and Gary Johnson added 17 to go along with 13 rebounds for the Great Danes, who will play at Stony Brook on Saturday for the automatic bid.
  • Atlantic Sun: Mercer returns the favor to earn first NCAA bid since 1985
    Last season FGCU began its captivating run with an Atlantic Sun title game win over Mercer on the Bears’ home court. Mercer hopes to do the same after beating FGCU 68-60 at Alico Arena. Langston Hall and Anthony White Jr. scored 15 points apiece for Bob Hoffman’s team, which has the ability to spring an upset in the NCAA tournament.
  • Big South: Coastal Carolina earns first NCAA berth since 1993
    The Chanticleers are headed back to the NCAA tournament thanks to a 76-61 win over Winthrop. Warren Gillis led four starters in double figures with 22 points, and Cliff Ellis has now led four programs to the NCAA tournament as a head coach.
  • CAA: Delaware, William & Mary advance to Monday’s title game
    Top-seed Delaware took care of business, beating Northeastern 87-74 in one semifinal. Their opponent in Monday’s title game will be William & Mary, with the Tribe beating Towson 75-71 in the other semifinal. And there will be some really good guards on the floor Monday night in Baltimore, with the Blue Hens being led by an experienced four-guard attack and Marcus Thornton the headliner for William & Mary.
  • MAAC: Bitter rivals Iona, Manhattan to play for the title
    Two schools separated by about ten miles will play for the MAAC automatic bid for the second consecutive season, with Iona holding off Canisius 75-72 and Manhattan whipping Quinnipiac 87-68. Iona’s Sean Armand and Manhattan’s George Beamon are two of the headliners who will be on center stage in Springfield, and these are two very talented teams capable of winning once in the NCAA field as well. But only one can go.
  • Southern: Western Carolina knocks off Davidson
    There will be a new SoCon representative in the NCAA tournament, with Western Carolina beating Davidson 99-97 in overtime. Trey Sumler scored 26 points for the Catamounts. Their opposition on Monday for the automatic bid: Wofford, with the Terriers eliminating Georgia Southern by the final score of 71-57.
  • Summit: Denver, South Dakota State roll
    Both winners scored 71 points, with Denver beating South Dakota 71-55 and South Dakota State outclassing Western Illinois by a final score of 71-50. Next up for Denver is top-seed North Dakota State, which received a bye to the semifinals. As for last season’s conference representative, the Jackrabbits face two-seed IPFW.

NOTABLES 

  • Jerami Grant made his return to the lineup in No. 7 Syracuse’s 74-58 win at Florida State and he played well, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. The Orange will be the two-seed in the ACC tournament.
  • Jordair Jett’s layup with just over three seconds remaining gave No. 17 Saint Louis a 64-62 win at UMass, ending their three-game losing streak just ahead of the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Billikens will be the top seed in Brooklyn, while the loss dropped UMass from a three to a six-seed in the event.
  • Saint Joseph’s suffered a tough loss for its resume, losing 71-63 at home to Big 5 (and Atlantic 10) rival La Salle. The Hawks will be a four-seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament, so they’ll get a bye to the quarterfinals.

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.