Wisconsin, Kentucky enter Saturday’s matchup with impressive advanced statistics

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One of the big conversations in college basketball this season has been the decrease in scoring, and whether or not looking to increase pace would result in scoring numbers getting back to where they once were. The three smaller tournaments are testing the impact of a 30-second shot clock on the game, but the fact of the matter is that more possessions doesn’t automatically mean more points. It’s all about what teams do with the possessions they’re afforded within a game.

One team that fits the bill is No. 1 Wisconsin, which will take on No. 1 Kentucky Saturday night at the Final Four in Indianapolis. Bo Ryan’s Badgers are averaging 72.8 points per game, and they’ve done so despite ranking 345th in adjusted tempo per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Wisconsin’s a highly efficient group offensively, and with stars Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker leading the way they lead the country with an adjusted offensive efficiency of 127.5.

How impressive is that number? Since Pomeroy began publishing his advanced stats in 2002, Wisconsin’s adjusted offensive efficiency is the highest of any team during this era and it isn’t all that close either. Outside of Michigan last season and Wake Forest in 2005, no team has posted an adjusted offensive efficiency better than 124.0, much less the 127.5 that Wisconsin has heading into the Final Four.

Also of note is the fact that more than four points separates Wisconsin from the second-best offensive team in the country this season in Notre Dame (123.1). That difference of 4.4 is the highest of the era, with Ohio State’s 3.4 point edge over Notre Dame in 2011 being the second-highest.

However, it should be noted that on only three occasions has the top-rated team in adjusted offensive efficiency won the national title, with Duke being the most recent in 2010. The list of national leaders in adjusted offensive efficiency going back to 2002 (national champions denoted with an asterisk):

2014: Michigan (124.1)
2013: Michigan (120.3)
2012: Missouri (123.9)
2011: Ohio State (123.3)
2010: Duke (120.0)*
2009: North Carolina (122.4)*
2008: North Carolina (120.4)
2007: Florida (121.5)*
2006: Gonzaga (118.0)
2005: Wake Forest (124.0)
2004: Wake Forest (121.0)
2003: Texas (120.2)
2002: Duke (117.7)

Wisconsin’s been an elite offensive team this season, but they’re going to have their hands full with a Kentucky team that has been lauded as one of the best in the history of the shot clock era. In regards to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers, this current group of Wildcats, who lead the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency (85.6), rates among the best in the history of his website.

Kentucky’s one of three teams to post an adjusted defensive efficiency of 85.6 during the Pomeroy era, with Calipari’s last team at Memphis being the only one to produce an even better number (85.1). Below are the annual leaders in that category, but it should be noted that just one team managed to win the national title in that particular season (Kansas, 2008).

2014: Arizona (88.5)
2013: Wisconsin (85.6)
2012: Louisville (85.6)
2011: Florida State (87.5)
2010: USC (86.2)
2009: Memphis (85.1)
2008: Kansas (87.1)*
2007: Kansas (88.4)
2006: Iowa (86.8)
2005: Washington State (86.8)
2004: Pittsburgh (86.8)
2003: Mississippi State (87.2)
2002: Duke (87.3)

With Kentucky ranked in the top five in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, their chances of cutting down the nets are pretty good (talent notwithstanding). Since 2002 only five national champions have not been ranked in the top ten in both of those categories. Syracuse was the first exception in 2003, with North Carolina (2005 and 2009) and UConn (2011 and 2014) being the others.

What do all of these numbers mean in regards to Saturday’s matchup in Indianapolis? Not sure if the boxing adage of “styles make fights” can be applied here, but the matchup of an elite offensive team and an elite defensive team (which also happens to be ranked fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency) will certainly be an entertaining one.

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.

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.