Bubble Banter: Just how safe is Michigan State, and did Ohio State punch a ticket?

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  • Ohio State: The Buckeyes are probably safe now that they’ve gotten past Nebraska. They have just two top 50 wins, but they’re 6-8 against the top 100 and the only potentially “bad” loss left on their schedule is a road trip to Penn State. If the Buckeyes don’t pick off Wisconsin in their season finale, this team has the makings of one that will wind up in a 8-9 or 7-10 game, and having to get through D’Angelo Russell to make it to the second weekend is going to be a scary prospect for any No. 1 or No. 2 seed.
  • Temple: The Owls sidestepped what would have been a disastrous loss to Houston, and they’re going to have to do the same next week when they play at East Carolina, because right now, so much of Temple’s profile hangs on that win over Kansas. They’re 1-6 against the top 50 with six top 100 wins and a pair of sub-100 losses. They can’t afford to add a sub-250 loss to that profile, win over Kansas or not.
  • Purdue: The Boilermakers avoided a loss to Rutgers, which would have been a killer blow to their profile. Purdue has four top 50 wins, an 8-6 record against the top 100 and are sitting at 11-4 in the Big Ten, good for a tie for second place. They’re playing some of the best basketball in the country, having won eight of their last nine games. Right now, Purdue is a tournament team, but “right now” doesn’t change what happened in November and December, when the Boilermakers lost to three sub-100 opponents — including Gardner-Webb and North Florida at home — and played a non-conference schedule that ranks 238th nationally. Purdue plays at Michigan State, at Ohio State and at home against Illinois down the stretch. They’re on the cut-line right now, but they’ll have chances other bubble teams will to change that.
  • Stanford: The Cardinal still have a lot of work to do to lock up a bid, but they took a step in the right direction on Thursday with a win over Oregon State at home. It’s just their seventh top 100 win on the season — none of which are in the top 40 — to go along with three sub-100 losses. The Cardinal still have Oregon at home and a road tip to the Arizona schools left on their schedule. They’re on the cut-line as of today, but they’ll have chances to lock up a bid.
  • BYU: The Cougars beat Portland on Thursday, which was a necessary step heading into their showdown at Gonzaga on Saturday. BYU had to win that game — and probably do some work in the WCC tournament — if they’re going to have a real shot at an at-large bid.


  • Michigan State: The Spartans are probably going to make the NCAA tournament. Let me get that out of the way first. But after losing to Minnesota on Thursday night, I think that it’s fair to say that the Spartans are not quite as safe as they may seem. They have just two top 50 wins and are just 6-6 against the top 100 with a pair of sub-100 losses, including the disaster that was their home loss against Texas Southern. Those three wins against Ohio State, Michigan and Illinois in the last two weeks were huge, losing to Minnesota isn’t a killer, and Michigan State doesn’t have any more potential bad losses on their schedule. But if they don’t want to sweat things out on Selection Sunday, I’d strongly recommend picking up another win or two.


  • Oregon State at Stanford, 11:00 p.m.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

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

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


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.