Pregame Shootaround: Conference play in full force as the Big 12 has some big games

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source: AP
West Virginia’s Jonathan Holton (AP)

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 22 Baylor at No. 18 Oklahoma, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s weekend preview:

There is only one game this weekend that features two teams that are both ranked, and that pits the Bears against the Sooners. We think we know what Oklahoma is this year, a top 20 team with the ceiling of being a Final Four-caliber program. The question mark is Baylor, who entered the season without much in the way of expectations thanks to the graduation of Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson.

But the Bears have been one of the nation’s surprises. They have just one loss on the season and look like they could end up being a tournament team, a fact that would (gasp!) get Scott Drew some coach of the year consideration. And here’s the scary part: Kenny Chery is just now getting back into the rotation.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 17 West Virginia at TCU, 4:00 p.m.

Two of the bigger unknowns in the Big 12 collide as a defensive-minded West Virginia ballclub travels to face unbeaten TCU. The Horned Frogs have played one of the easiest non-conference schedules in the nation and they’ll finally receive a real test. It’s hard to say how good TCU is since they haven’t played a top-50 team, but West Virginia is going to get out and pressure the ball as much as possible. The point guard matchup between the Mountaineers’ Juwan Staten and TCU’s Kyan Anderson will be the battle to watch in this one.

UPSET WATCH: No. 6 Villanova at Seton Hall, 12:00 p.m.

From Rob’s weekend preview:

Seton Hall already has an upset win at home under their belt this week, as they knocked off No. 15 St. John’s at the Prudential Center on Wednesday afternoon. The most impressive part is that the Pirates were able to do it without Isaiah Whitehead healthy. Villanova is a much different team from Seton Hall: more talented, more disciplined, better defensively. The Pirates are going to need another terrific performance from Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina, but those two have been good this year.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR: 

  • Four of the best teams in the American matchup on Saturday as SMU travels to Cincinnati and Tulane heads to Memphis. There is a lot of uncertainty about this league right now, but all four of these teams are unblemished in league play and have shown some signs of life as we enter 2015.
  • Another unbeaten, No. 24 Colorado State, faces a real test when they travel to New Mexico for a Mountain West clash. While the Lobos have been depleted this season it’s never easy to win in The Pit and this will be a real challenge for Larry Eustachy’s team.
  • How will No. 15 St. John’s look after losing Rysheed Jordan indefinitely? The Red Storm host Butler and both teams are itching for a Big East win after both teams lost their conference openers on New Year’s Eve.
  • Michigan and Purdue lock horns on Saturday afternoon. Both teams won their Big Ten openers after up-and-down non-conference seasons, but how will Michigan deal with Derrick Walton’s injury? The sophomore has a toe injury that is bothering him and Spike Albrecht could get the start on Saturday.
  • Miami hosting No. 3 Virginia has the makings of a good ACC clash. The Hurricanes were a big surprise in the non-conference season and they’ll get a chance to climb back in the top 25 with a home win over the unbeaten Cavaliers.

TOP 25 GAMES:

  • Boston College at No. 2 Duke, 4:00 p.m.
  • No. 7 Gonzaga at Portland, 9:30 p.m.
  • No. 9 Iowa State at South Carolina, 6:00 p.m.
  • No. 11 Texas at Texas Tech, 2:00 p.m.
  • Minnesota at No. 12 Maryland, 12:00 p.m.
  • Georgia Tech at No. 14 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m.
  • No. 19 North Carolina at Clemson, 8:15 p.m.
  • Illinois at No. 20 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m.
  • Creighton at No. 25 Georgetown, 4:30 p.m.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:

  • Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 12:00 p.m.
  • Pittsburgh at N.C. State, 12:00 p.m.
  • Syracuse at Virginia Tech, 12:00 p.m.
  • Connecticut at Florida, 2:00 p.m.
  • Providence at Marquette, 2:00 p.m.
  • Xavier at DePaul, 2:00 p.m.
  • Yale at Vanderbilt, 2:00 p.m.
  • Penn State at Rutgers, 7:30 p.m.
  • Oregon State at Oregon, 8:00 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.