Wednesday’s Snacks: No. 1 Kentucky moves to 28-0, Northwestern knocks off Indiana

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Richmond 67, No. 22 VCU 63 (2OT)

Richmond now has a two-game win streak in this series for the first time since 2001, and as a result of the Spiders’ win there’s now a four-way tie atop the Atlantic 10. Terry Allen’s block of a Treveon Graham shot in the final seconds of double overtime sealed the game for Richmond, which forced a second overtime on a T.J. Cline layup with 2.8 seconds remaining in the first extra session. ShawnDre’ Jones scored 22 points off the bench for Richmond, while Graham led all scorers with 25 points while also grabbing ten rebounds.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES 

1. No. 1 Kentucky 74, Mississippi State 56

John Calipari’s Wildcats didn’t play their best basketball in the first half, and that carried over into the early stages of the second. Then Kentucky went on a 24-4 run and removed any doubt. Trey Lyles scored 18 points and Aaron Harrison added 16 for the Wildcats, who host No. 18 Arkansas on Saturday. Kentucky wraps up at least a share of their record 46th SEC regular season title.

2. Northwestern 72, Indiana 65

Chris Collins’ young Wildcats continued to build on their recent momentum, winning their fourth straight conference game for the first time since 1967. Tre Demps scored a game-high 23 points and freshman Victor Law IV added 14 and eight rebounds. As for Indiana, they went more than ten minutes without a point in the second half and that stretch proved costly. Troy Williams scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Hoosiers.

3. No. 19 Baylor 79, No. 12 Iowa State 70

Thanks to an 18-4 second half run the Bears turned an eight-point deficit into a six-point lead, and from there they were able to do enough to wrap up their first-ever win at Iowa State. Taurean Prince scored 20 points off the bench to lead five players in double figures for Baylor, which shot 14-for-26 from three. By comparison, Iowa State shot 6-for-24 from beyond the arc.

Wednesday’s Bubble Banter

STARRED

1. Saint Joseph’s DeAndre Bembry

Even with his team’s struggles, Bembry has been one of the best players in the Atlantic 10. Bembry led the Hawks to an 82-71 win at UMass with 33 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.

2. North Florida’s Beau Beech

Beech scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the Ospreys’ 76-62 win at FGCU. Matthew Driscoll’s team is one win away from clinching home court throughout the A-Sun tournament.

3. Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes

The Seminoles’ comeback at Miami fell short, but Rathan-Mayes (35 points, five assists, four rebounds) did his best to make it happen. The redshirt freshman scored 30 points over the final 4:39 of the 81-77 loss.

STRUGGLED

1.  Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr.

Blackmon Jr. shot 1-for-10 from the field, scoring six points, in the Hoosiers’ loss at Northwestern.

2. La Salle’s Cleon Roberts and Steve Zack

Robert and Zack combined to shoot 0-for-14 from the field and score two points (two Roberts free throws) in the Explorers’ 63-48 loss at Fordham.

3. Iowa State’s Naz Long and Bryce Dejean-Jones

The two guards combined to score nine points on 3-for-12 shooting in the Cyclones’ 79-70 loss to Baylor.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 2 Virginia whipped Wake Forest 70-34, and they were playing without both Justin Anderson and London Perrantes. The Cavaliers limited the Demon Deacons to 21.8% shooting from the field.
  • No. 11 Wichita State took care of business on the road, beating Indiana State 63-53. The Shockers led by four at the half, with Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet both going scoreless during the stanza.
  • No. 23 Butler moved to 10-5 in Big East play with a 21-point win over Marquette. Chris Holtmann’s Bulldogs are now tied for second with Georgetown, and the two teams meet March 3 in Indianapolis.
  • No. 4 Duke needed overtime to leave Blacksburg with a 91-86 win over Virginia Tech. Jahlil Okafor made his return, tallying 30 points and nine rebounds, and Quinn Cook added 26 for the Blue Devils. However Duke needs to get better defensively, as Virginia Tech shot 53.4% from the field.
  • No. 10 Northern Iowa avenged its lone conference loss, beating Evansville 68-57. The Panthers visit Wichita State on Saturday, with the winner earning the outright Missouri Valley Conference title.

NOTABLES

  • North Florida won 76-62 at FGCU, moving into a first-place tie atop the Atlantic Sun with the Eagles as a result. Beau Beech went for 22 points and 13 rebounds for UNF, which will earn the top seed in the conference tournament with a win over Stetson (or FGCU loss to Jacksonville) on Saturday.
  • Valparaiso failed to wrap up the Horizon League regular season title, losing 63-60 at Detroit. The Crusaders can still clinch the outright title with a win over Cleveland State on Friday.
  • Vermont clinched the two-seed in the America East tournament as they beat New Hampshire 64-49. All tournament games will be played on the home floor of the higher seed this year (Albany is the top seed).
  • In a matchup of Atlantic 10 teams looking to play their way into the NCAA tournament discussion, Davidson won 60-59 at Rhode Island on a Jack Gibbs three with 13 seconds remaining. Both teams are now 11-4 in league play.
  • In a matchup of two of the four teams tied for first in the CAA, UNCW took care of James Madison 74-54. The Dukes (11-6 CAA) have lost all six of their games against UNCW (12-5), William & Mary (12-5) and Northeastern (11-5).
  • Bucknell will have to wait a couple days to wrap up the Patriot League, as they lost 84-65 at Lehigh. The defeat gives Colgate some hope, as the Raiders pulled to within a game of first with a win at Lafayette.
  • Larry Nance Jr. made his return to the court for Wyoming, playing 37 minutes in the Cowboys’ 64-59 home loss to Fresno State. Fresno State’s Marvelle Harris led all scorers with 23 points.
  • Aaron White scored 29 points and corralled nine rebounds to lead Iowa to a 68-60 win over Illinois in Iowa City.
  • Georgia picked up a solid road victory, winning 76-72 at Ole Miss. Kenny Gaines scored 22 points and Marcus Thornton added 18 and 13 boards for the Bulldogs, who need to get hot down the stretch if they’re to get into the NCAA tournament conversation.
  • Oregon and UCLA both avoided losses that would not have looked good on their respective resumes, with the Ducks winning 80-69 at Cal and UCLA blowing out Washington in Los Angeles.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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.