Ranking the field from Kentucky to Hampton

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While the NCAA tournament selection committee released its official seed list, we’ve decided to rank the teams in the field from one to 68 as we saw fit. While there’s little debating the fact that Kentucky is the top team in the field and Hampton, the lone participant with a losing record (16-17), is 68th, there are a number of changes that can be made in between.

Below are the power rankings of the 68 teams in the field, with a brief statement on each team.

INSTANT ANALYSIS: East | West | South | Midwest

1. Kentucky: The Wildcats enter the tournament as the clear favorites to win it all.
2. Arizona: Winners of 11 straight (nine by double digits), Arizona’s playing its best basketball of the season.
3. Wisconsin: Led by Frank Kaminsky, the Big Ten champions have received even better play from guard Bronson Koenig of late.
4. Duke: Jahlil Okafor, Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones are as good of a three-headed attack as you’ll find in the field.
5. Villanova: Jay Wright’s Big East champions have lost just two games all season long, and they’re built to make a deep run.
6. Virginia: The top two-seed on the committee’s list, Virginia is one of the nation’s best defensive teams.
7. Iowa State: Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones won another Big 12 tournament title, and they’re one of the most entertaining teams in the field.
8. Gonzaga: Mark Few’s team has depth, skill and experience. Will that result in their first Final Four appearance?
9. Kansas: The Jayhawks are to be respected, but Perry Ellis’ health and Cliff Alexander’s absence are issues they’ll have to navigate.
10. Notre Dame: Winners of their first ACC title, the Fighting Irish are led by one of the nation’s best in Jerian Grant.
11. Oklahoma: Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield leads the way for a team that’s actually ranked fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency per kenpom.com.
12. Baylor: Scott Drew’s team is back in the NCAA tournament after going to the Sweet 16 last year, and in Rico Gathers Sr. they have one of the nation’s best rebounders.
13. Maryland: Melo Trimble’s been a huge addition for the Terrapins, but the leadership of Dez Wells and the improvement of Jake Layman have been important as well.
14. North Carolina: After having some issues with consistency during ACC play the Tar Heels are playing well heading into the NCAA tournament.
15. Utah: Larry Krystkowiak’s work in Salt Lake City results in an NCAA tournament berth, and if you like versatile guards you’ll love Delon Wright.
16. West Virginia: “Press Virginia” has Bob Huggins back in the NCAA tournament, but will Juwan Staten be rusty after missing time due to injury?
17. Arkansas: The Razorbacks were the SEC’s second-best team, with SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis and the high-flying Michael Qualls leading Mike Anderson’s deep rotation.
18. Northern Iowa: Forward Seth Tuttle’s a national Player of the Year candidate, but he has plenty of help as Ben Jacobson has a 10-man rotation.
19. Louisville: Rick Pitino’s worked some magic in past postseason appearances, but the offense has been a struggle for the Cardinals this season.
20. SMU: Larry Brown has the Mustangs back in the tournament for the first time since 1993, and they’ve got the pieces needed to make some noise.

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21. Georgetown: The Hoyas haven’t had the best track record in recent NCAA appearances, and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and company will look to avoid a similar fate.
22. Wichita State: One year after entering the tournament undefeated the Shockers are back, and in all honesty they may be underrated.
23. Providence: The tandem of Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton have been exceptional for most of this season, and they’re capable of carrying the Friars to the second weekend.
24. Michigan State: Tom Izzo’s teams have made a habit of making runs deep into the NCAA tournament, and he’s got a senior class that hopes to avoid leaving East Lansing without a Final Four appearance.
25. Butler: Beginning the year as the interim head coach (the tag’s since been removed), Chris Holtmann’s managed to lead the Bulldogs back to the NCAA tournament.
26. VCU: Treveon Graham looked healthier this weekend as the Rams won the A-10 tournament, and that’s a good thing for a group looking to account for the loss of Briante Weber.
27. Xavier: The Musketeers are coming off of a run to the Big East tournament final, and they’re an unselfish group with multiple scoring options.
28. Oregon: Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young has led the way, and freshmen Jordan Bell and Dillon Brooks have been important additions.
29. Iowa: Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff are the best scoring options for Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes.
30. NC State: The Wolfpack have depth at every position with the exception of point guard, which makes the play of Cat Barber important for this team’s hopes this weekend.
31. San Diego State: The offense has been a struggle at times this season, but the Aztecs are good enough defensively to win games even when shots aren’t falling.
32. Cincinnati: Larry Davis has done a very good job as the acting head coach, and he’s got a point guard in Troy Caupain who’s only going to get better in the future.
33. Oklahoma State: Le’Bryan Nash has quietly had a solid senior season, but they need to get Phil Forte III going again from three.
34. Purdue: Matt Painter’s young Boilermakers have improved over the course of the season, with big man A.J. Hammons taking important steps forward in the post.
35. LSU: The Tigers have the talent needed to pull off some big wins, but they’ve also had lapses in focus that have led to some perplexing losses.
36. Ohio State: D’Angelo Russell is talented enough to put the team on his back, but the Buckeyes will need production from their seniors as well.
37. Davidson: The Wildcats won the Atlantic 10 regular season title thanks to their having one of the nation’s best offenses.
38. St. John’s: The Red Storm will be without the suspended Chris Obekpa, but in D’Angelo Harrison they have a guard capable of scoring from anywhere on the court.
39. Georgia: The Bulldogs have managed to reach the tournament despite having to deal with a number of injuries.
40. Dayton: They only go seven deep and don’t have a player taller that 6-foot-6, but Archie Miller’s team has refused to use that lack of depth/size as a crutch.

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41. Texas: The Longhorns played a lot of games against quality competition but didn’t win many of them. Will the switch flip on for Rick Barnes’ team?
42. Indiana: The Hoosiers wound up getting into the field comfortably, and their guards are good enough to cause an opponent fits.
43. BYU: Tyler Haws is the scorer and Kyle Collinsworth is the versatile guard who’s tallied an NCAA record six triple-doubles this season.
44. Ole Miss: Andy Kennedy’s Rebels are back in the tournament after missing out last season, and they’ll need improved play from Jarvis Summers to hang around for a bit.
45. Boise State: Led by Derrick Marks the Broncos won their first Mountain West regular season title this year.
46. Wofford: Mike Young’s Terriers reached the tournament last season, and led by guard Karl Cochran they’re better equipped to win in the tournament.
47. Buffalo: Bobby Hurley experienced a lot of success in the NCAA tournament as a player, and now he’s led the Bulls to their first-ever appearance.
48. UCLA: The Bruins were a highly controversial choice but they’re here, and if Tony Parker is productive inside they’ll have a shot at winning.
49. Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks eliminated VCU last March, and they’ll be a trendy pick to pull off another upset this time around.
50. Wyoming: The Cowboys don’t play particularly fast and they’ve has some issues with turnovers, but Josh Adams and Larry Nance Jr. are entertaining players to watch.
51. Valparaiso: Bryce Drew’s Crusaders, led by sophomore forward Alec Peters, are a serious threat to spring an upset this week.
52. Eastern Washington: Tyler Harvey’s one of the nation’s best scorers, but it should be noted that this team has four players averaging double figures.
53. UC Irvine: The Anteaters have the tallest player in the field in 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, and they’re good enough defensively to cause some trouble.
54. Harvard: Despite enduring struggles on offense at different points in the season the Crimson are back for a fourth consecutive year.
55. Georgia State: Don’t be fooled by Sunday’s Sun Belt title game, R.J. Hunter and company can put points on the board
56. New Mexico State: The Aggies have made the last four NCAA tournaments, and given their talent the committee likely under-seeded them.
57. Northeastern: Bill Coen’s program, currently led by Scott Eatherton and Quincy Ford, is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1991.
58. Albany: Will Brown’s Great Danes are one of the best stories in the field, and they’re making their consecutive trip to the tournament.
59. UAB: The Blazers are another good story, as Jerod Haase’s team has given joy to a fan base that could use it given developments within the athletic department in recent months.
60. Belmont: The Bruins are back for the second time in three years, and Rick Byrd’s team has little trouble putting points on the board.
61. Texas Southern: The Tigers won’t be afraid to compete, and they won games at Michigan State and Kansas State this season.
62. North Dakota State: Lawrence Alexander and company return for another NCAA tournament, but they don’t have the front court pieces like they did a year ago (Taylor Braun and Marshall Bjorklund).
63. Coastal Carolina: Senior guards Warren Gillis and Josh Cameron lead the way for a team with four double-digit scorers.
64. Lafayette: The Leopards grabbed the Patriot League auto bid despite being the four-seed in that tournament, and guard Nick Lindner was outstanding during that three-game run.
65. North Florida: Led by Dallas Moore and Beau Beech, the Ospreys are making their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
66. Manhattan: The Jaspers aren’t as well-positioned to pull an upset as they were last season, but they are better positioned to pick up a win since they’ll take on Hampton in Dayton.
67. Robert Morris: Andy Toole’s Colonials have knocked on the door in recent years, and this time they managed to get into the tournament.
68. Hampton: Edward Joyner Jr.’s team had its issues in conference play, but they got hot at the right time.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

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.