College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25: How far will Wisconsin and Gonzaga fall?

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1. Kentucky (29-0, LW: No. 1): Ho-hum, just another pair of blowout wins for the Wildcats. March Madness can’t get here soon enough. Here’s what I’m hoping happens: Kentucky has to beat Wisconsin, Virginia and Arizona or Duke to win the national title. I want to see them challenged. Seeing this team coast to No. 9 without beating anyone higher than a No. 3 seed would not only be boring, but it would result in their season having an asterisk next to it. I can see the headlines now: “Kentucky might be the greatest team ever, but we’ll never know because they were never tested.” That would get annoying really, really quick.

2. Virginia (27-1, LW: No. 4): No Justin Anderson, no problem. London Perrantes breaks his nose, Virginia beats Wake Forest by 36 on the road. They just keep on winning. We can only hope Anderson gets healthy. This team deserves to be at 100 percent in March.

3. Wisconsin (26-3, LW: No. 2): The Badgers picked up their first loss since January on Tuesday, as they went into College Park and lost to a Maryland team that is going to find themselves in the top ten of every poll in the country on Monday morning. What a devastating blow! I won’t mention the part about how the Terps matchup very well with Wisconsin, or how the Badgers missed a number of very good looks at threes in the first half, a major reason they found themselves down 11 at the break. The only real damage from that loss? It hurts their chances of getting a No. 1 seed, and may set them up for a date with Kentucky in the Elite 8.

4. Duke (26-3, LW: No. 5): As good as Duke’s wins are this season, I still have my doubts about their ability to win a national title. Their defensive issues are a major, major problem — it almost cost them against Virginia Tech — but that’s not it. Duke has four different guys that can take over a game when Justise Winslow plays the way he did this past week. But they lack depth and balance beyond that, which says nothing about how badly they need a stretch four or another big, athletic wing. The advantage that Duke gets when playing Winslow at the four is negated by the fact that they have to play either Matt Jones (too small) or Grayson Allen (not ready) at the three, and Amile Jefferson isn’t a good enough shooter to make it difficult for opposing defenses to smother Jahlil Okafor with big-to-big doubles.

5. Villanova (27-2, LW: No. 6): The Wildcats just keep winning. They clinched the outright Big East title this week with a 28 point win over Providence on Tuesday, following that up with an impressive win at Xavier over the weekend.

6. Arizona (26-3, LW: No. 7): The Wildcats have clinched a share of the Pac-12 title, and as long as they beat either Cal or Stanford at home next week, they will be the outright league champs. Sean Miller’s club seems to have shaken off their road struggles, and while they still have some issues with their perimeter shooting, Arizona can really, really defend. Also, it’s good to see Kaleb Tarczewski starting to play like a former top ten recruit.

7. Gonzaga (29-2, LW: No. 3): I can understand why Gonzaga lost on Saturday night. They were distracted by Senior Night in a game that didn’t mean much to them and that gave life to BYU’s season. It happens. But it doesn’t explain why the Zags have not looked like themselves over the course of the last three weeks.

8. Kansas (23-6, LW: No. 8): I still think that Kansas is one of the top eight teams in the country, but it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Cliff Alexander. He wasn’t playing all that effectively to begin with, but without him, the Jayhawks have a massive hole in their front line. At least Alexander provided them with some athleticism and physicality up front. The Jayhawks all but have a No. 2 seed locked up because of how strong their schedule is, but I think there’s a real gap between them and the rest of the top seven.

9. Maryland (24-5, LW: No. 17): After knocking off Wisconsin on Tuesday, the Terps are getting a bump into the top ten. I’ll be honest: after seeing them in person, I’m not convinced this is actually one of the top ten teams in the country. I’m also not convinced this is a team that can make the Final Four. But I don’t known if any of the teams below them can do that either.

10. Baylor (22-7, LW: No. 15): Has there been a hotter team in the country over the course of the last two weeks than Baylor? The run that they used to beat Iowa State in Ames on Wednesday — hitting six threes in six possessions — was impressive. It’s fluky, yes, but it shows you how dangerous this group is.

11. Utah (22-6, LW: No. 10)
12. Notre Dame (24-5, LW: No. 9)
13. Wichita State (27-3, LW: No. 14)
14. Northern Iowa (27-3, LW: No. 13)
15. North Carolina (20-9, LW: No. 11)
16. Oklahoma (20-8, LW: No. 16)
17. Iowa State (20-8, LW: No. 12)
18. West Virginia (22-7, LW: No. 18)
19. SMU (23-6, LW: No. 19)
20. Arkansas (22-5, LW: No. 20)
21. Butler (21-8, LW: No. 21)
22. Ohio State (21-8, LW: No. 22)
23. Louisville (23-6, LW: No. 25)
24. St. John’s (20-9, LW: UR)
25. Boise State (22-7, LW: UR)

Dropped Out: No. 23 Providence, No. 24 VCU

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.