WEEKLY AWARDS: Wes Washpun leads UNI, and Ohio State’s big game

(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
0 Comments

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Wes Washpun, Northern Iowa

For the second time this season, the Panthers have landed a win over a top five team. In November, they beat then-No. 1 North Carolina. On Saturday, they knocked off No. 5 Iowa State. No one in all of college basketball has two wins that are as good as those two wins, and given that the Panthers don’t have any horrid losses on their résumé, this win more or less locks up an at-large bid as long as UNI does the things they’re supposed to do in Missouri Valley play.

The star of the show this weekend was Washpun, who finished with 28 points, 11 assists and seven boards. The scouting report on Iowa State at this point is pretty easy to figure out: they are not great defensively and struggle to contain penetration. Washpun exposed them, and while he was helped by the fact that UNI went 13-for-22 from beyond the arc, it doesn’t change how dominant he was on Saturday.

THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina: It’s been two games since North Carolina lost Kennedy Meeks to a knee injury and Johnson is doing his best to make sure that the Tar Heels don’t miss him. In wins over Tulane and No. 22 UCLA, Johnson averaged 26.0 points and 9.5 boards while shooting 22-for-29 from the floor.
  • Kahlil Felder, Oakland: Felder had 38 points, nine assists and six boards as the Grizzlies knocked off Washington in Seattle on Saturday. He’s now averaging 25.9 points and 8.9 assists on the season.
  • Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga: The good news: Sabonis played his best game as a collegian in a win over Tennessee on Saturday, finishing with 36 points and 16 boards. The bad news: The Zags needed every one of those points and rebounds in a close win over Tennessee.
  • Cat Barber, N.C. State: The 33 points, seven boards and four assists that Barber had in a win over Missouri on Saturday was his second-best game of the week. He also had 26 points, six boards, five assists and the game-winning, buzzer-beating jumper to beat High Point.
  • Isaiah Taylor, Texas: The 12 points and seven assists that Taylor had in a win over Appalachian State was nice and all, but it was the 26-point, six-assist homecoming performance in which he hid a game-winning floater to beat Stanford in Palo Alto that got Taylor on this list.
  • BENCH: London Perrantes (Virginia), Roosevelt Jones (Butler), Troy Williams (Indiana), Ryan Anderson (Arizona), Stefan Moody (Ole Miss)
Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Ohio State’s Jae’Sean Tate (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State was dead in the water this season. They had already lost at home to UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech. They lost in overtime against Memphis. They fell at UConn by 20 points in a game that wasn’t even that competitive. They’re young, they lack leadership at the point guard spot, they don’t have a go-to scorer or a low-post presence, they don’t defend. Through the season’s first 10 games, Ohio State was 5-5 and, more than anything, proving to the world just how much better D’Angelo Russell made the players around him.

And then on Saturday, at the Barclays Center, Ohio State came out and whipped up on No. 4 Kentucky. They led by 16 points in the second half. Kentucky made a run when Jamal Murray caught fire, but the Buckeyes were able to hold them off, in the process landing the kind of marquee win that can be the difference between the NIT and the right side of the bubble.

Will Thad Matta’s crew be able to get a bid?

It’s way too early to make any kind of declarations like that, but the bottom line is that a young, inexperienced team get themselves a shot of confidence that they desperately needed.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Utah: Utah made a statement on Saturday in New York, as they knocked off No. 7 Duke despite the fact that they spent much of the second half playing without Jakob Poeltl, who was in foul trouble all game long. The Utes have been a bit inconsistent this season — that loss at Wichita State doesn’t look great today — but if this wins shows us anything, it’s that this group is capable of being pretty good.
  • Virginia: The ‘Hoos knocked off No. 12 Villanova in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon in yet another sterling, late-game performance from London Perrantes. This team is not as good defensively as they have been in recent years, but are they actually the most dangerous offensive in college basketball? They may be.
  • Butler: Purdue entered the weekend undefeated, looking like the nation’s best defensive team and a real Big Ten contender, and the Bulldogs beat them in impressive fashion at the Crossroads Classic despite getting an 0-for-12 shooting performance from leading scorer Kellen Dunham.
  • Monmouth: The latest Monmouth victims? Georgetown and Rutgers, who joined UCLA, USC and Notre Dame.
  • Texas A&M: The Aggies beat the brakes off of No. 16 Baylor on Saturday. The final score was 80-61, but at one point, Billy Kennedy’s club was up 62-35. It was a mismatch. A&M might actually be the best team in the SEC as of today. Think about that.
  • Indiana: The most important ten minutes of Indiana’s season came on Saturday as the Hoosiers erased a 16-point deficit against Notre Dame. Indiana beat the Irish with their defense, which is not something that has been said before this season.

SET YOUR DVR

  • No. 19 Louisville at No. 4 Kentucky, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 10 Xavier at Wake Forest, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 5 Iowa State at No. 23 Cincinnati, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
  • Vanderbilt at No. 9 Purdue, Tue. 8:00 p.m.
  • Cal at No. 8 Virginia, Tue. 9:00 p.m.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

ncaa
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images
2 Comments

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

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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
0 Comments

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
2 Comments

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

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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.