PRESEASON BRACKETOLOGY: What does the tournament field look like in November?

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The journey to March Madness begins Friday and the North Carolina Tar Heels open as the top overall seed in our preseason bracket projection.  Carolina is joined on the top line by Kentucky, Maryland, and Kansas.

With that out of the way, let’s acknowledge the preseason bracket for what it is: A series of educated guesses.  Some guesses will be on target (or close) and others will miss their mark completely.  That’s the beauty of college hoops, much of what happens is unpredictable.

One of the many interesting teams is Louisville.  How will off-court issues affect the Cardinals?  How will several new faces blend together?  There’s enough talent to suggest the Cards will be a lock to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.  There are also enough questions to have doubts about how Louisville will navigate a deep field in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  The fallout?  Louisville is one of the final at-large teams in our preseason projected field.  It could go either way.

The same holds true for other projected bubble teams just outside the opening Field of 68 – from Florida to Ohio State to UNLV.  There a few mild surprises as projected conference champions.  Depending on your point of view, these include Columbia (Ivy), Chattanooga (Southern), and Weber State (Big Sky).

Fortunately, games tip soon and all of these things will be decided on the court.

UPDATED: November 9, 2015

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. In the event of a tie in the loss column, RPI if first tiebreaker used. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU). Several new bracketing principles were introduced in the past two years. You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Louisville vs. Davidson | Midwest Region
  • Providence vs. Tulsa | West Region
  • MT. ST. MARY’S vs. WEBER ST | East Region
  • HAMPTON vs. TX-SOUTHERN | South Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTPhiladelphia SOUTH Louisville                               
Raleigh St. Louis
1) NORTH CAROLINA 1) KENTUCKY
16) MT. ST. MARY’S / WEBER ST 16) HAMPTON / TX-S’THERN
8) RHODE ISLAND 8) NC State
9) Texas 9) Dayton
Denver Denver
5) Oregon 5) Notre Dame
12) OLD DOMINION 12) BYU
4) Indiana 4) Arizona
13) CENTRAL MICHIGAN 13) BELMONT
Brooklyn Oklahoma City
6) Miami-FL 6) Baylor
11) Georgia 11) VALPARAISO
3) VILLANOVA 3) WICHITA STATE
14) COLUMBIA 14) CHATTANOOGA
Oklahoma City Des Moines
7) Wisconsin 7) Texas AM
10) UCLA 10) Xavier
2) Oklahoma 2) Michigan State
15) NEW MEXICO ST 15) SO DAKOTA ST
WEST – Anaheim MIDWEST – Chicago
St. Louis Raleigh
1) KANSAS 1) MARYLAND
16) STONY BROOK 16) NO FLORIDA
8) LSU 8) Butler
9) SAN DIEGO STATE 9) Florida State
Spokane Providence
5) Purdue 5) Vanderbilt
12) Providence / Tulsa 12) Louisville / Davidson
4) GONZAGA 4) CONNECTICUT
13) UL-LAFAYETTE 13) IONA
Spokane Des Moines
6) Michigan 6) Utah
11) West Virginia 11) S.F. AUSTIN
3) CALIFORNIA 3) Iowa State
14) UC-IRVINE 14) HOFSTRA
Providence Brooklyn
7) Cincinnati 7) Georgetown
10) Boise State 10) Iowa
2) Virginia 2) Duke
15) BUCKNELL 15) CO CAROLINA

NOTES on the BRACKET: North Carolina is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Kentucky, Maryland, and Kanas.

Last Four teams in (at large): Providence, Louisville, Tulsa, Davidson

First Four teams out (at large): Florida, Oregon State, Syracuse, Ohio State

Next four teams out (at large): UAB, Marquette, VCU, Illinois

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (8): North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Notre Dame, Miami-FL, NC State, Florida State, Louisville

Big 10 (7): Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa

Big 12 (6): Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Baylor, Texas, West Virginia

Big East (5): Villanova, Georgetown, Butler, Xavier, Providence

Pac 12 (5): California, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, UCLA

SEC (5): Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Texas AM, LSU, Georgia

Atlantic 10 (3): Rhode Island, Dayton, Davidson

American (3): Connecticut, Cincinnati, Tulsa

Mountain West (2): San Diego State, Boise State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

Conference USA (1): Old Dominion

ONE BID LEAGUES: UL-Lafayette (SBELT), Columbia (IVY), Weber State (BSKY), Valparaiso (HORIZON), S.F. Austin (SLND), Chattanooga (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Central Michigan (MAC), Iona (MAAC), North Florida (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Coastal Carolina (BSO), Hampton (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Stony Brook (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Mt. St. Mary’s (NEC), Texas-Southern (SWAC)

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.