Bubble teams with the most on the line this week

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Cam Payne (AP Photo)

SEASON IS DONE

BYU: No team in the country is going to be more nervous this week than BYU, a team whose sole top 50 win just so happens to be one of the top five wins any team has earned this season. The Cougars lost to No. 7 Gonzaga in the WCC title game on Tuesday night, meaning that they will spend the next seven days hoping that every bubble team on this list loses in the first round.

Murray State: Steve Prohm and his players can make all the impassioned pleas that they want, they’re not getting into the NCAA tournament. It’s not because they aren’t good enough, mind you, because they are. Cameron Payne is as good as any point guard in the country, and if, by some miracle, the committee does throw them a bone, the Racers could very well win a game or two. The problem? If they do get invited, it will mean that the committee has to completely change what they value when it comes to at-large profiles.

If anything, hopefully Murray State can be a harbinger for change. It’s time we started to reward regular season championships, especially when those champions went 16-0 during the regular season in their conference.

GAMES LEFT TO PLAY

Texas: The Longhorns played one in one of the toughest conferences in the country, and it shows in their record. Texas is 19-12 overall and 8-10 in the Big 12 with just a 3-11 record against the top 50. The best thing about their profile? No bad losses, which is what makes their Big 12 tournament opener against Texas Tech so important.

Indiana: The Hoosiers have four top 50 wins and three top 25 wins, which is impressive, compared to just one sub-100 loss this season. But they’ve lost eight of their last 12 and some poor non-conference scheduling — they played four sub-300 teams and six sub-230 teams — has crippled their power numbers. They would be wise to avoid a loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten opener.

Temple: Temple has a profile that looks an awful lot like BYU’s: One great win — by 25 over Kansas in Philly — and a whole let of ‘meh’ beyond that. The Owls have proven to be tough when they’re healthy, however, which is why this week is important. They can play their way into the Big Dance with a few wins.

Texas A&M: The Aggies have one of the most boring profiles of anyone in the country. They’ve lost 10 games this season, but the worst loss was to Alabama. They’ve won 21 games this season, but none of them were more noteworthy than LSU, who they swept.

Ole Miss: Three top 50 wins — none of which came at home — and three sub-100 losses — none of which came in SEC play. The Rebels are just … weird. They’re also probably in the tournament with a win over South Carolina or Missouri.

Davidson: The Wildcats put themselves in a terrific position to get an at-large by winning the Atlantic 10 outright and ending the regular season with a blowout win over VCU, giving them a quality win to hang their profile on. But they’re not safe, not with a non-conference strength of schedule in the 230s and two sub-100 losses. The Wildcats are dangerous enough to win a game or two in the NCAA tournament if they get there.

Boise State: The Mountain West regular season champs are probably safe at this point, but with the MWC being filled with potential landmine losses, the Broncos are not safe yet.

Colorado State: The same can be said for Colorado State, who sit even closer to the bubble than Boise State. The Rams are one of the teams most susceptible to playing their way out of the tournament with a bad loss, which is crazy seeing as they were projected as a potential No. 9 seed less than a month ago.

Miami: Miami’s 16-point win at Duke is keeping them in the conversation, but they have some work to do before they can feel comfortable. Beat Virginia Tech today and get a win over Notre Dame in the quarterfinals and we can talk. Until then, the Hurricanes are in trouble.

Illinois: The Illini have three really good wins — Maryland, Baylor, at Michigan State — but are just 5-11 against the top 100. They get Michigan in the first round and, with a win, get to take a swing at Wisconsin. They probably need both.

Tulsa: Tulsa swept Temple this year, but that’s really all there is on their resume that is worth discussing. With a poor non-conference strength of schedule and a loss to Oral Roberts on their resume, the Golden Hurricane have some work to do this week. Playing in a league tournament where there aren’t as many quality wins available certainly doesn’t help their cause.

UCLA: This is what the Bruins need to do to get an at-large bid: beat the Arizona State-USC winner in the quarters, then beat Arizona in the semis. If that doesn’t happen, they’re going to the NIT.

 

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.