Pregame Shootaround: Over 130 games on the Saturday college hoops schedule, led by some great ranked matchups

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GAME OF THE DAY:  No. 6 Villanova at No. 18 Butler, 6:00 p.m.

CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on this in the Weekend Preview:

It feels like a weekly occurrence that we try to figure out who the second best team is in the Big East, and this week, with Georgetown and Providence losing, it looks like it is Butler. The Bulldogs have won five in a row and seven of their last eight and now sit a full two games in front of the Hoyas in second place in the league. A win and Butler will be tied for first place in the conference in February with the No. 6 team in the country, which is incredible when you think about everything that the program has been through in the last two years.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 16 Baylor at No. 8 Kansas, 1:00 p.m.

Also from Rob’s weekend preview:

Baylor is one of a handful of teams that I feel like I can’t figure out. I know they’re good, but just how good are they? Is this truly one of the top 15 or 20 teams in the country, or are they a team that’s closer to being a team destined for a first weekend exit from the NCAA tournament? I’m not sure, but I do know this: the Bears probably should have beaten Kansas in Waco earlier this season. I’m sure they’ll have revenge on their minds, but winning in Phog Allen Fieldhouse is much easier said than done.

UPSET ALERT: No. 12 North Carolina at Pitt, 12:00 p.m.

From Rob’s Weekend Preview:

The Panthers have not had a great season in 2014-2015, but they have proven that they are capable of competing with — and beating, right Notre Dame? — the best in the ACC, particularly on their home floor. North Carolina bounced back from back-to-back losses to Virginia and Louisville with a win at Boston College, but the next game on their schedule is a trip to Duke on Wednesday. This is a classic trap game.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. Start off your Saturday by watching Ohio State freshman D’Angelo Russell, one of the nation’s best player, as the No. 23 Buckeyes travel to Michigan State. This hasn’t been a dominant year by the Spartans by any stretch, but they’re still tough at home.

2. Another matchup between ranked teams in the Big 12 as No. 21 West Virginia travels to No. 14 Iowa State. The Big 12 keeps beating up on each other and both of these teams sit at 7-4, so this might be a pivotal conference game as we get towards the stretch run.

3. An easy Saturday for No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Virginia? It sure looks that way. The top two teams in the country host South Carolina and Wake Forest, respectively, and both are favored by over 17 points. Let’s see if these elite teams put these away early, especially Virginia without Justin Anderson.

4. A test in the American for SMU as they get one of the conference’s more talented teams in UConn. The No. 25 Mustangs are tied with Tulsa atop the American standings and could use a good home win here. Nic Moore and Ryan Boatright battling should be a fun matchup.

5. Rematch of one of college basketball’s games from last season as No. 4 Duke goes to Syracuse. The Orange don’t have anything to play for except pride, but the interior matchup between Syracuse senior Rakeem Christmas and Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor should be one of Okafor’s better tests of the season.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: There will be two games on NBCSN and streaming on Live Extra this weekend:

  • St. Bonaventure at Dayton, 12:30 p.m.
  • Delaware at William & Mary, 2:30 p.m.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 20 VCU at George Washington, 2:00 p.m.
  • N.C. State at No. 9 Louisville, 4:00 p.m.
  • No. 21 Oklahoma State at TCU, 6:00 p.m.
  • No. 15 Wichita State at Illinois State, 6:00 p.m.
  • No. 17 Oklahoma at Kansas State, 8:00 p.m.
  • Pepperdine at No. 3 Gonzaga, 8:00 p.m.
  • No. 19 Maryland at Penn State 8:30 p.m.
  • No. 24 Arkansas at Ole Miss, 9:00 p.m.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

  • Virginia Tech at Clemson, 12:00 p.m.
  • St. John’s at Xavier, 12:30 p.m.
  • East Carolina at Temple, 2:00 p.m.
  • Tulane at Cincinnati, 2:00 p.m.
  • Auburn at Georgia, 2:00 p.m.
  • Oregon at UCLA, 3:00 p.m.
  • Seton Hall at Providence, 4:00 p.m.
  • LSU at Tennessee, 4:00 p.m.
  • Florida at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m.
  • Colorado State at San Diego State, 8:00 p.m.
  • Old Dominion at UTEP, 9:00 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.