Bubble Banter: So what do we make of LSU, Indiana and Boise State?

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(This post will be updated throughout the day.)

READ MORE: Thursday’s Bubble Banter | Friday’s Bracketology

WINNERS

  • Davidson: I still think that the Wildcats are closer to the bubble’s cut-line than a lot of folks are implying at this point, but that doesn’t change the fact that today’s buzzer-beating win over La Salle should just about lock up their bid. Here’s why: Davidson would have a ways to go to drop to the wrong side of the bubble, but thanks to the bloodbath that was Thursday’s action for bubble teams, there aren’t enough teams close enough to actually threaten the Wildcats with an NIT trip. Think about it like this: Using our latest bracket, we can assume that the Wildcats are, at worst, the sixth-to-last team in the bracket. That means they’d need at least six teams to jump them in order to lose their bid. A loss to either Richmond or VCU won’t hurt all that much, and of the teams behind them, only Indiana, Tulsa, UCLA, Richmond and Rhode Island have yet to get knocked out of their league tournaments. They’re safe.
  • Temple: The Owls did what they needed to do against Memphis, getting a win and advancing to face SMU in the American semifinals. Temple is probably on the right side of the bubble as of today, and while today’s win does help, it certainly doesn’t lock them into a bid. Beating SMU would. A loss on Saturday wouldn’t be a killer, but it would make Selection Sunday quite stressful.
  • Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane got past Houston, which would have been the loss that kept them out of the NCAA tournament. As it stands, Frank Haith is probably on the wrong side of the bubble. I’m not convinced that Tulsa can get in without winning the automatic bid given the way the American bracket shook out; beating Cincinnati or UConn in the semifinals is not the kind of win that drastically changes a profile.
  • Purdue: The Boilermakers likely locked up their bid on Friday by beating Penn State. With two horrid non-conference home losses on their resume and an ugly non-conference strength of schedule, Purdue could not afford another “bad” loss. They were on the right side of the bubble entering the day, and losing to Wisconsin in the semifinals tomorrow won’t change that.
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LOSERS

  • LSU: LSU just couldn’t make it easy, could they? The Tigers lost (choked?) to Auburn in a thriller in the SEC tournament quarterfinals, and it’s a loss that I’m not sure the Tigers can afford. At the very least, they are going to be one of the most intriguing bubble discussions on Sunday. Let’s lay it out for you: LSU has 13 top 100 wins, but only three of those wins are against the top 50. They won at Arkansas and at West Virginia, which are two very impressive road victories, but they also lost to five (!!!) teams ranked outside the top 100 of the RPI, two of whom are ranked outside the top 200. The only reason they don’t have six sub-100 losses is that Tennessee is still, as of today, ranked in the top 100. Their non-conference schedule strength is 186th, and as we saw with SMU last season, that’s a major factor for the committee. It’s going to be a long, long 48 hours for Johnny Jones and company. They’re going to be rooting very strongly against everyone else on the bubble for the rest of the weekend.
  • Indiana: The Hoosiers lost to Maryland on Friday night in the Big Ten quarterfinals, meaning that they are going to end up being one of the most discussed bubble teams out there. Personally, I think they’re in, and I think that most bracket projections will say as much. They were in entering the day, and they lost to a top ten team where they had a shot to take the lead in the final two minutes. The issue would be whether or not the bubble teams behind them win the games they need to move past them in the pecking order, and for the most part, bubble teams have not had a good week (ahem, looking at you, LSU). They need teams like Tulsa, UConn and UCLA to lose. My guess: they’re in on Selection Sunday, but it’s going to be a long couple of days.
  • UCLA: The Bruins badly needed to land a win over No. 5 Arizona in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament on Friday night, and they came up short. That means that UCLA will have to wait it out until Selection Sunday, and for my money, they’re going to end up being on the wrong side of the bubble. They have wins over Oregon and Utah, which are nice, but they have three sub-100 losses, they’re just 5-10 against the top 100 and their only two road wins are at Stanford and at Arizona State. Compare that to LSU, who has 13 top 100 wins and three top 50 wins.
  • Boise State: The Broncos lost to Wyoming on Friday, which is far from a crushing loss. The Pokes are ranked 90th in the RPI, but their numbers are skewed by a couple of losses that they took while their star, Larry Nance Jr., was battling mono. The problem is that Boise State has just three top 50 wins — all top 30, including a win at San Diego State — and three sub-100 losses. They did win the Mountain West regular season title, but their non-conference schedule strength is 176th and they have just one other top 100 win. The complicating factor? This team actually got markedly better when Anthony Drmic made the decision to sit out the season in mid-December. Boise State is in a tough spot, and while they got helped out by the fact that seemingly every team behind them in the bubble pecking order lost, there’s still a good chance that they don’t end up hearing their name called. At this point, I think they’re out.
  • Colorado State: The Rams might be in some trouble after losing to San Diego State in the MWC semifinals. They have just two top 50 wins (Boise State and San Diego State) and they are just 5-5 against the top 100 with an ugly loss at New Mexico. That said, Larry Eustachy is a master of working the RPI, which is why the Rams currently are No. 25 in that ranking. If I had to guess, they’re probably looking at a play-in game.
  • Richmond: The Spiders wouldn’t have been a lock even if they had beaten the Rams on Friday, but they ended losing a thriller in the A-10 quarterfinals, which likely relegates them to the NIT.

STILL TO PLAY

Colorado State vs. San Diego State, 11:30 p.m.

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.