February 20 Bracket: Big Ten benefitting from weak bubble

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This year’s Big Ten is not last year’s Big Ten.  Wisconsin is just as good, but quality throughout the league isn’t the same – even with solid contributions by newcomer Maryland.  All of which would suggest that fewer Big Ten teams would be participating in this year’s NCAA tournament.  Not necessarily so.

Given the current status of bubble teams – those hanging around the proverbial 68-team cutline – as many as eight Big Ten teams have realistic hopes of hearing their name called on Selection Sunday.  Case in point: there are eight teams in today’s updated bracket projection – further buoyed by Purdue’s victory last night at Indiana.  The Boilermakers had some issues in December, but they’ve been a different basketball team the past three weeks.  We’ll see if they can finish the task at hand.  We’ll also find out soon if Illinois and Iowa can stay the course.  Will all eight teams make it?  Probably not.  But the door is open.

The only other notable change from Monday is Duke passing Gonzaga for the No. 3 spot on the Seed List.  It only changes the Regions in this sense:  As the No. 4 overall seed, Gonzaga is now opposite Kentucky (West vs. East) in Final Four pairings; Duke and Virginia (South vs. East) would be on the other side.  Will the ‘Zags end up a No. 1 seed?  If they win out – and finish with just one loss – I believe the Selection Committee will reward the Bulldogs with the top seed out west.  If not, a spot could open up for those next in line: Villanova, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Arizona.

Enjoy a weekend of hoops.  Selection Sunday is closing in.  To view the complete Seed List for today’s bracket, visit Bracketville.

UPDATED: February 20, 2015

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid.  In the event of a tie in the loss column, RPI is the first tiebreaker used. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).

Several new bracketing principles were introduced last year. You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • NC State vs. St. John’s East Region
  • Miami-FL vs. Oregon East Region
  • TEXAS SOUTHERN vs. ALBANY Midwest Region
  • ST. FRANCIS-BROOKLYN vs. BUCKNELL East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

MIDWEST – Cleveland                    EAST Syracuse                                  
Louisville Charlotte
1) KENTUCKY 1) VIRGINIA
16) ALBANY / TX-STHERN 16) SFBK / BUCKNELL
8) Michigan State 8) Mississippi
9) Xavier 9) Temple
Jacksonville Seattle
5) WICHITA STATE 5) Northern Iowa
12) WOFFORD 12) Miami-FL / Oregon
4) North Carolina 4) Oklahoma
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) HARVARD
Omaha Pittsburgh
6) VCU 6) West Virginia
11) LSU 11) St. John’s / NC State
3) Iowa State 3) Maryland
14) UC-DAVIS 14) TOLEDO
Columbus Pittsburgh
7) SMU 7) Ohio State
10) Texas 10) Cincinnati
2) WISCONSIN 2) VILLANOVA
15) NORTHEASTERN 15) HIGH POINT
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Houston                        
Seattle Charlotte
1) GONZAGA 1) Duke
16) NEW MEXICO ST 16) UL-MONROE
8) SAN DIEGO ST 8) Dayton
9) Illinois 9) Purdue
Columbus Jacksonville
5) Baylor 5) Arkansas
12) VALPARAISO 12) MURRAY STATE
4) Louisville 4) Butler
13) IONA 13) LOUISIANA TECH
Louisville Portland
6) Providence 6) Georgetown
11) Georgia 11) Texas AM
3) Notre Dame 3) Utah
14) NC-CENTRAL 14) E. WASHINGTON
Portland Omaha
7) Oklahoma State 7) Indiana
10) Iowa 10) Colorado State
2) ARIZONA 2) KANSAS
15) SO DAKOTA ST 15) FLA GULF COAST

NOTES on the BRACKET: Kentucky is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Virginia, Duke, and Gonzaga. Next in line: Villanova, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Arizona.

Last Five teams in (at large): Georgia, NC State, St. John’s, Miami-FL, Oregon

First Five teams out (at large): UCLA, Stanford, Tulsa, Davidson, Boise State

Next five teams out (at large): Rhode Island, BYU, Massachusetts, Old Dominion, Saint Mary’s

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 10 (8): Wisconsin, Maryland, Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois, Iowa

ACC (7): Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, Louisville, North Carolina, NC State, Miami-FL

Big 12 (7): Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Texas

Big East (6): Villanova, Butler, Providence, Georgetown, Xavier, St. John’s

SEC (6): Kentucky, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Texas AM, LSU, Georgia

Pac 12 (3): Arizona, Utah, Oregon

American (3): SMU, Temple, Cincinnati

Mountain West (2): San Diego State, Colorado State

Atlantic 10 (2): VCU, Dayton

Missouri Valley (2): Wichita State, Northern Iowa

Conference USA (1): Louisiana Tech

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

ONE BID LEAGUES: UL-Monroe (SBELT), Harvard (IVY), Eastern Washington (BSKY), Valparaiso (HZN), S.F. Austin (SLND), Wofford (STHN), UC-Davis (BWEST), Toledo (MAC), Iona (MAAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), Murray State (OVC), Northeastern (CAA), High Point (BSO), NC-Central (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Albany (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), St. Francis – NY (NEC), Texas-Southern (SWAC)

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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Michael Hickey/Getty Images
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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.