Bubble Banter: How close is Purdue to a bid, and is SMU a lock yet?

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WINNERS

  • Purdue: The Boilermakers are the hottest team in the Big Ten not named Wisconsin, as they have now won seven of their last eight after knocking off the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall. But Purdue still has a ton of ground to make up to do a horrid non-conference season that included losses to North Florida and Gardner-Webb at home and (currently) sub-100 teams Kansas State and Vanderbilt. Last week’s loss at Minnesota certainly didn’t help, either. They’ll have chances, however. If they get past Rutgers, Purdue’s last three games look like this: at Ohio State, at Michigan State, Illinois. All three at top 50 opponents. They probably want to win two of those three to feel safe.
  • SMU: The Mustang win over Temple on Thursday night should just about lock them into an NCAA tournament berth. They are currently 22-5 overall and tied for first place in the American, and while they only have three top 50 wins on the season, they have eight top 100 wins and exactly zero losses outside the top 50. Those numbers could change by the end of the season — Cincinnati swept SMU and are No. 49 in the RPI, and SMU beat Tulsa, who is No. 48 — but the bottom line is this: even if the Mustangs were to lose out and lose in the first round of the American tournament, they would finish the season with a 22-9 record and, at most, one loss to a sub-100 opponent with eight top 100 wins. That’s damn good for a bubble team this year.
  • Dayton: Like SMU, Dayton is approaching lock status due to the fact that they simply do not have many sore spots on their resume. Unlike SMU, the Flyers still have some potential potholes remaining, as their next two opponents are of the sub-200 variety. Handle Duquesne and George Mason the way the Flyers did St. Joe’s on Thursday, and they should feel pretty good about their chances. I’d still recommend winning one of their last three, however: at VCU, Rhode Island, at La Salle.
  • Iowa: The good news for Iowa is that there is a lot to like about their profile. A win at North Carolina. A sweep of Ohio State. A win over Maryland. Prior to last week, they didn’t have a bad loss, either, but that changed when they not only dropped a game to Minnesota but they lost at Northwestern as well. Now, after beating Rutgers, the Hawkeyes are 16-10 overall and 7-6 in the Big Ten. Can the Hawkeyes avoid another collapse this season?
  • Ole Miss: The Rebels are in that ‘should get in category’, as they have three top 50 wins and seven top 100 wins. But losses to TCU, Western Kentucky and Charleston Southern are tough to overlook, which is why the Rebels needed this win over Mississippi State. Four of their last five games are against top 100 competition, and while Ole Miss is one of the hottest teams in the country — they’ve won seven of their last eight — they still have some work left to do.
  • BYU: The Cougars have to win out to even put themselves into the bubble discussion, and that’s because they play at Gonzaga in the season’s final game. On Thursday, they beat San Diego, which was their first step in the process.

LOSERS

  • Temple: “Loser” may be a bit harsh here, as the Owls fell at SMU, who currently ranks in the RPI top 25 and is the leader in the American. The Owls were already a No. 9 seed in our latest bracket, and the only thing they lost on Thursday was a chance to solidify their resume.

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.

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.