Patriot League Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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Despite losing both games to Colgate, Bucknell still managed to claim the Patriot League regular season title by one game over the Raiders. That should tell you how competitive this week’s tournament should be. Lehigh routed Bucknell one week ago and Lafayette, another contender, has notched wins over each of the top three teams in the league. Leading the list of dark horses were two of the preseason favorites, American and Holy Cross.

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

The Bracket

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When: March 3, 5, 8, 11

Where: Campus sites (higher seed)

Final: March 11, 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Bucknell

The Bison won the regular season title league for the fourth time in six years. Bucknell made noise early in the season, giving Villanova, now considered a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, a scare. But the Bison began league play 2-2 before rallying off win streaks of five and six games to win the Patriot League outright. It’s a young roster, but the Bison will hold home court and will have the guidance of Dave Paulsen, looking to take his third team to the NCAA tournament.

And if they lose?: Colgate

We’ve seen how important guard play is in March. The Raiders have a talented perimeter attack with senior scoring guard Damon Sherman-Newsome, Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Luke Roh and junior Austin Tillotson. Colgate has also shown it can win on the road with victories at Lehigh, Lafayette and Bucknell.

Sleepers:

  • Lehigh: The Mountain Hawks went 1-2 down the stretch, but that win was a 19-point win over league favorite Bucknell and those two losses — to fourth-place Lafayette and second-place Colgate — were by a total of eight points. A young roster got battle-tested in the last week of the season and they could use that, and the play of big man Tim Kempton, to make  a run this March.
  • American: Let’s not count out the defending champion. The Eagles still have Jesse Reed and Pee Wee Gardner. They also defeated three of the top four teams at least once this season.

Player of the Year: Dan Trist, Lafayette

The senior forward was conference’s top scorer at 17.7 points per game while grabbing 6.7 boards a night, good for fourth in the Patriot League. He went for 20 or more in both games against first-place Bucknell, including 29 points and 11 boards in a 84-74 win on Feb. 4. He also had strong outings against Colgate and Lehigh, the other two teams ahead of the Leopards in the league standings.

Coach of the Year: Dave Paulsen, Bucknell

The Bison were slotted to finish in the middle of the pack in the Patriot League preseason poll. Paulen, in his seventh season at Bucknell, took a young roster — seven freshmen and sophomores compared to two seniors who see significant minutes — and led them to the top spot in the standings, the fourth time the Bison have won the regular season title during his tenure.

All-Patriot League Team:

  • Trist
  • Tim Kempton, Lehigh: The sophomore big man was the league’s top rebounder (8.6) while averaging 15.1 points per game. He recorded six of his 13 double-doubles during Patriot League play.
  • Damon Sherman-Newsome, Colgate: The 6-foot-5 senior guard led the Raiders to a second-place finish, pacing the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game.
  • Cedric Hankerson, Boston University: The Terriers experienced a lot of turnover from last year. Hankerson embraced a larger role, increasing his scoring average by nearly 10 full points at 15.9 points per game. He also averaged 4.6 boards and 2.6 assists per game.
  • Chris Hass, Bucknell: The junior scoring guard scored 15.4 points per game, fifth in the Patriot League.

CBT PREDICTION: Bucknell over Lehigh

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.

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.