68 Things We Can’t Wait To See This Season

Kentucky's Jamal Murray (AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Here are the 68 things that we are looking forward to the most from the 2015-16 season:

  1. Maryland finally facing Georgetown in a game that actually counts. If only it wasn’t overshadowed by the Champions Classic.
  2. Speaking of which, the Champions Classic. Duke-Kentucky and Kansas-Michigan State. It doesn’t get much better than that until …
  3. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The highlight? Maryland at North Carolina and Indiana at Duke on back-to-back nights.
  4. Is Kentucky’s Jamal Murray the real deal?
  5. Can Kentucky’s guards actually co-exist?
  6. What about Skal Labissiere? Can he actually produce this season? Will he see the ball enough?
  7. Can Ben Simmons make LSU relevant?
  8. Shaka Smart at Texas. Can Havoc work in the Big 12?
  9. Derrick Jones. No explanation needed.
  10. How much of an impact will the new rules actually have? Will scoring increase? Is it going to come at the expense of game-flow?
  11. Can Mark Turgeon actually make Maryland a contender?
  12. Just how good is a healthy Marcus Paige? It’s going to take us another couple of weeks to figure that about.
  13. Bob Huggins’ sweatsuit.
  14. John Calipari’s Armani suits.
  15. Everyone’s talking Skal and Simmons, but what about Duke’s Brandon Ingram?
  16. Speaking of freshmen, Cheick Diallo’s eligibility. Will he play?
  17. Speaking of Kansas, which Wayne Selden do we see this season?
  18. Can Cuonzo Martin lead Cal to a Pac-12 title?
  19. The impact that Ben Howland, Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes have on SEC hoops. They’re already making a difference in a league that’s on the upswing.
  20. The Kris Dunn show.
  21. Kyle Collinsworth triple-double watch.
  22. Relevant hoops at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym.
  23. Is Oklahoma really worth the hype?
  24. Tum Tum running things up in East Lansing.
  25. Hilton Magic. Is Steve Prohm the man that can unseat Kansas?
  26. Who does Bo Ryan have waiting to spring on us at Wisconsin?
  27. A deep postseason run from Tony Bennett to justify his playing style.
  28. How in the hell does Grayson Allen follow up the last college game we saw?
  29. The last hurrah for Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet.
  30. The Demetrius Jackson Show.
  31. Ben Howland’s return to the college game, and what happens when he puts the ball in Malik Newman’s hands.
  32. Will Indiana’s defense be good enough to make them relevant in the Big Ten title race?
  33. And can the Hoosiers withstand the external pressures with a fan base calling for their coach’s job?
  34. Speaking of external pressures, what about Louisville? With the scandal going on around them, can a team of new pieces find any kind of success?
  35. Will Kansas extend their string of Big 12 titles to 12?
  36. Will Arizona’s many newcomers defend at the level Sean Miller will demand of them?
  37. UCLA has a ton of talent on their roster, but can Steve Alford find a way to put it all together before the start of the NCAA tournament?
  38. Can anyone take control in a wide-open Pac-12 race?
  39. How do Cal and LSU handle the hype that will come with their talented newcomers?
  40. The rest of the national media play catch-up when they realize just how good Henry Ellenson is.
  41. How many rebounds is Rico Gathers going to get? And will he end up declaring for the NBA, NFL or WWE Draft?
  42. How will Gonzaga account for the loss of Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley on the perimeter?
  43. Just how good is Daniel Hamilton going to be for UConn this season, and will Sterling Gibbs follow in Kemba and Shabazz’s footsteps?
  44. And will Kyle Wiltjer actually factor into the National Player of the Year race?
  45. Can North Carolina function with the pressure of being a national favorite with the NCAA cloud hanging over them?
  46. Can Villanova get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament?
  47. A much tighter Big East race than it’s been the last two seasons.
  48. Marquette incorporating a talented freshman class and whether or not that can get them back to the tournament.
  49. Can UAB repeat their run to and through the opening round of the NCAA tournament?
  50. Purdue’s front court. Is it enough to get them back to the NCAA tournament?
  51. UC Irvine’s Mamadou N’Diaye vs. UCF’s Tacko Fall (assuming he gets eligible). That’s two dudes that are 7-foot-6.
  52. Speaking of tall guys, how will Jakob Poeltl develop in his sophomore season?
  53. Miami is going to sell out season tickets this season. Are those fans going to see an ACC title contender?
  54. SMU playing for nothing but pride and winning the American.
  55. How hoarse Tom Izzo will be if his team makes it back to the Final Four again.
  56. Oregon State’s Gary Payton II getting reinforcements.
  57. The 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon.
  58. Will Florida State’s talented newcomers allow them to live up to the hype?
  59. What will N.C. State do for an encore after getting to the Sweet 16?
  60. Mick Cronin’s return to the sidelines at Cincinnati. Can they be a top 25 team?
  61. How North Florida deals with being the target in the A-Sun. They have the pieces needed to repeat.
  62. Rhode Island’s emergence as a favorite in the Atlantic 10. You’ll like Hassan Martin. I promise.
  63. Press Virginia.
  64. Can Seton Hall avoid another implosion?
  65. This Ryan Anderson character. Just how good is he?
  66. Ever heard the name Jalan West? You should.
  67. A wide open season where there is no consensus best team or best player, which leads to a crazy tournament and …
  68. … something that tops this:

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.