ACC Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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The ACC turned into one of the best conferences in college basketball this season, as five different teams have held top ten rankings during the season. As it stands, two of the top five seeds have a real chance to finish the month in the Final Four, while three more could very well find themselves in the second weekend of the Big Dance.

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology

Duke and Virginia look like they’ll end up being No. 1 seeds by the time that the brackets are released on Selection Sunday, although that’s far from a given at this point. Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame and N.C. State are all playing for seeding at this point, while Miami and, potentially, Pitt have a chance to earn an at-large bid by the time it’s all said and done.




MORE:’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

When: March 10-14

Where: Greensboro, N.C.

Final: March 14, 8:30 p.m.

Favorite: Virginia

The Cavaliers rolled through the ACC, winning their second straight outright league title while playing for nearly a month without Justin Anderson, their all-american caliber wing. There’s no guarantee that Anderson will be back in the lineup this week, however, but even if he’s not, UVA has still proven to be the best defensive team in the country.

And if they lose?: Duke

There isn’t a team in the country who has as many players that can completely take over a game as the Blue Devils. We all know about Jahlil Okafor, but Tyus Jones was the star in both wins over North Carolina, Quinn Cook was the hero in their blowout win against Notre Dame and Justise Winslow can be nearly unstoppable when he’s allowed to get out in transition. Duke has depth and defensive issues, but when their offense is clicking, they can beat anyone.

Other Contenders

  • North Carolina: We all know how good Marcus Paige can be when he’s playing well, and while he’s dealt with some nagging injuries this season, he was at his best in the season-ending loss to Duke. With Paige and a front line that can be overpowering, the Tar Heels are a dangerous team this month.
  • Notre Dame: The Irish have the ACC’s most dangerous offensive attack, as Jerian Grant’s all-american season has made the Irish a nightmare to defend. They can struggle to get stops, but with Bonzie Colson emerging as a legitimate backup to Zach Auguste, Notre Dame can beat anyone.

Sleeper: Louisville

I know that they are playing without Chris Jones, but the Cardinals are coming off of a win over Virginia on Saturday. Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier are a terrific 1-2 punch, and when Wayne Blackshear, Quentin Snider and company are hitting their threes, this team is dangerous.

Deeper Sleeper: N.C. State

The Wolfpack have been annoyingly inconsistent this season, but they have beaten Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Syracuse — all four coached by Hall of Famers – this season.

ACC Player of the Year: Jahlil Okafor, Duke

There is a ton of talent in the ACC this season, but Okafor is the easy pick for Player of the Year. No one else in the league is as unstoppable as he is, and while he does have some issues — his free throw shooting and defense, for example — I don’t think there is any question who the best player was.

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ACC Coach of the Year: Tony Bennett, Virginia

Virginia doesn’t have a consensus top 50 recruit on their roster and Justin Anderson is their only potential NBA Draft pick. Yet the Cavs only lost twice this season — once on a flurry of threes from Duke, once on a jumper from Mangok Mathiang of all people — despite playing without Anderson for more than a month. The only reason he’s not the National Coach of the Year is a man by the name of John Calipari.

First-Team All-ACC:

  • Okafor
  • Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: If anyone had an argument to be slotted above Okafor, it’s Grant, who was the engine driving Notre Dame’s offense this season. He’s better at making his teammates better than anyone in the country.
  • Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse: The Orange won’t be playing in the ACC tournament, but that doesn’t mean that Christmas wasn’t terrific this season. He’s the nation’s most improved player.
  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: Harrell isn’t the most talented big man in the league, but he’s the hardest worker, the best athlete and arguably the best defender.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia: Anderson was Virginia’s best player this season, but Brogdon was terrific in ACC play, particularly once Anderson went down with his hand injury.

Second Team All-ACC:

  • Justin Anderson, Virginia
  • Terry Rozier, Louisville
  • Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
  • Quinn Cook, Duke
  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina

Defining moment of the season: Duke’s comeback at Virginia

CBT Prediction: Duke upsets Virginia in an epic, two-overtime title game.

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.