Kentucky, Wisconsin join short list of Final Four rematches

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So we meet again… (AP Photo)

Saturday night when No. 1 Kentucky and No. 1 Wisconsin meet at the Final Four in Indianapolis, it will be the fifth occasion in which two programs have done so in consecutive years. In the prior four instances, the team that won the first meeting has taken care of business in the rematch on three occasions with Duke’s 1991 win over UNLV being the lone exception.

Below are each of the four instances, with the 1961 and 1962 meetings between Cincinnati and Ohio State being the only case in which both meetings took place in the national title game.

1961-62: Cincinnati vs. Ohio State
both national title games (Cincinnati won both)
1961: 70-65 UC
1962: 71-59 UC

This is the only rematch in which both games were played in the national title game, and the Bearcats managed to win both. Ed Jucker’s Bearcats boasted three common starters in the two meetings: Paul Hogue, Tom Thacker and Tony Yates, and in both games the starting five was responsible for every point scored. The two starters in 1961 who wouldn’t be holdovers, Bob Wiesenhahn and Carl Bouldin, scored 17 and 16 points apiece to lead the way in the first of two consecutive title game wins for Cincinnati.

Hogue (22 points) and Thacker (21) led the way the following year, with Ron Bonham (ten points) and George Wilson (six) being the players who replaced Wiesenhahn and Bouldin.

As for Ohio State, future hall of famers Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek started both games as did Melvyn Nowell. Lucas accounted for 27 points and 12 rebounds in the 1961 title game, with Larry Siegfried (14 points) being the only other Buckeye in double figures that night. Gary Bradds led the Buckeyes in scoring in the 1962 title game with 15 points, with Lucas (16 rebounds) and Havlicek scoring 11 apiece. Siegfried and Richie Hoyt started in 1961, with Bradds and Richard Reasbeck moving into their spots the following year.

1967-68: UCLA vs. Houston
both national semifinals (UCLA won both)
1968 game also rematch of regular season game Houston won at the Astrodome
1967: 73-58 UCLA
1968: 101-69 UCLA

The 1967 and 1968 national titles were the first two of what would eventually become seven straight for John Wooden’s program, and they ran into Houston on the way to both. Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was one of four Bruins who started in both games with Lucius Allen, Lynn Shackleford and Mike Warren being the others. Jim Neilsen, who started in the 1967 national semifinal, moved into a reserve role in 1968 with Mike Lynn taking his place in the starting lineup.

Those four common starters for UCLA were responsible for 72 of the team’s 73 points in the 1967 win, with Shackleford scoring a team-high 22, and Alcindor, Lynn and Warren led a balanced effort with 19 apiece (all five starters reached double figures) in 1968.

As for Houston, Elvin Hayes was the most noteworthy starter in both games with his performance in the 1968 regular season meeting at the Astrodome being the difference in a Cougar victory (which UCLA avenged in ruthless fashion at the Final Four). Hayes accounted for 25 points in 24 rebounds in the 1967 Final Four meeting, but was limited to ten points and five rebounds in 1968. Don Chaney, who both played and coached in the NBA, was the only other Cougar to start both Final Four games against UCLA. Melvin Bell, Gary Grider and Leary Lentz started in 1967, with Theodis Lee, Vern Lewis and Kevin Spain moving into their spots the following year.

1990-91: Duke vs. UNLV
1990 title game, 1991 national semifinals (split meetings)
1990: 103-73 UNLV
1991: 79-77 Duke

Of the rematches that have occurred in the history of the Final Four, the two games between the Blue Devils and Runnin’ Rebels may be the most memorable. Jerry Tarkanian’s team won the program’s lone national title in the first meeting, as they steamrolled to the largest margin of victory in the history of the national title game. Four of the five starters for UNLV in the ’90 title game were part of the starting lineup in ’91, with guard Anderson Hunt scoring a team-high 29 points in both games.

Joining him as returning starters were point guard Greg Anthony and forwards Stacey Augmon and Larry Johnson, with David Butler (1990) being replaced by George Ackles (1991) as the fifth starter. As for Duke only two starters in the 1990 title game made the start the following year: point guard Bobby Hurley and forward Christian Laettner.

Seniors Phil Henderson, Alaa Abdelnaby and Robert Brickey all moved on following the 1990 title game, with Grant Hill, Thomas Hill and Greg Koubek moving into those spots. Koubek was a reserve in 1990, and sixth man Brian Davis added an important 15 points off the bench in Duke’s win in 1991. Laettner scored 28 points, the final two coming on a pair of free throws, to lead Duke to the win in the rematch with Hurley (12 points, seven assists) playing much better than he did the year prior in Denver.

2006-07: Florida vs. UCLA
2006 title game, 2007 national semifinals (Florida won both)
2006: 73-57 UF
2007: 76-66 UF

The most recent case of Final Four rematches, Billy Donovan had the same starting lineup for both meetings between the two teams. Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey manned the guard spots, with Corey Brewer on the wing and Al Horford and Joakim Noah being the big men. Noah accounted for 16 points and nine rebounds in the ’06 title game, with Humphrey adding 15 while shooting 4-for-8 from three. In the ’07 Final Four it was Brewer who led the way offensively with 19 points, with Chris Richard scoring 16 off the bench and Horford (17 rebounds) and Noah (11) combining for 28 rebounds.

As for UCLA, only two players started in both games: guard Arron Afflalo and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. In the ’06 title game point guard Jordan Farmar scored a team-high 18 points, with Afflalo and Ryan Hollis (ten rebounds) adding ten points apiece. Afflalo scored 17 points the following year and Josh Shipp a team-best 18, but they were the lone Bruins in double figures in the rematch.

Information from Sports-Reference.com was used in the compilation of this post. 

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.