BUBBLE BANTER: A loaded Saturday slate could determine a few bids

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This post will be updated throughout the day. 

A week ago, No. 25 Wichita State (KenPom: 11, RPI: 43) was going to be one of the most interesting seeding discussions on Selection Sunday.

But after the second straight Saturday that the Shockers have taken a loss to a league opponent with a sub-100 RPI, Wichita State is no longer a discussion about seeding.

We now have to ask whether or not this group can actually get a bid to the NCAA tournament without earning the automatic bid in the Missouri Valley. They have just one top 90 win (Utah) and two sub-100 losses; by Sunday morning, it will likely be just one, as Northern Iowa should sneak into the top 100 after beating the Shockers in Wichita.

As we all know, Wichita State was on the receiving end of some bad injury luck, losing Fred VanVleet to a hamstring injury during the Advocare Invitational, when the Shockers lost to USC, Alabama and Iowa. But even with VanVleet, Wichita State has not done enough to unequivocally prove themselves as a tournament team.

Another loss would give them three bad losses in the eyes of the selection committee. My advice? Don’t give them a chance to leave you out of the dance.


  • Wisconsin (KenPom: 47, RPI: 54): The Badgers picked up a massive, massive, massive win on Saturday, going into Maryland and knocking off the Terps. Suddenly, the Badgers are one of the most intriguing bubble teams. They have four top 50 wins — including Michigan State and at Maryland — and a 7-6 record against the top 100. But they also have three ugly losses, including a loss to Western Illinois that is one of the worst losses a bubble team has ever suffered. The Badgers are probably on the right side of the cut line as of today, and as long as they keep winning — they’ve won seven in a row, mind you — Greg Gard will be headed to the NCAA tournament in his first year.
  • Texas Tech (KenPom: 57, RPI: 41): The Red Raiders are doing everything they can to prove that they deserve to be in the bubble conversation. After beating Iowa State during the week, Tubby Smith’s club went into Waco and beat the Bears by 18 points. Here’s the deal: Tech still has to play Oklahoma, at Kansas and at West Virginia. Win one of those three games, sweep the other three games on their schedule and get to .500 in the league and I think they have a real shot.
  • LSU (KenPom: 59, RPI: 74): The Tigers got one step closer to locking up an at-large bid on Saturday, as they kept pace with Kentucky atop the SEC with a win over No. 15 Texas A&M. The Tigers are 9-3 overall and have looked like a tournament team since they got Keith Hornsby healthy and Craig Victor eligible. Throw in the fact that their bad losses all came without those two (and, frankly, are not as bad as we thought they would be) and I think that the Tigers, at this point, have done enough to get in as long as they win the games they’re supposed to win.
  • Michigan (KenPom: 48, RPI: 60): The Wolverines picked up a huge win, knocking off Purdue on a day that they got Caris LeVert back. It was their third top 100 win of the season, but the good news for Michigan? It was also their third top 25 win of the season. Michigan also doesn’t have a loss outside the top 50. Four of their last five games come against top 100 competition. Go 3-2 down the stretch and they should be able to enter the Big Ten tournament feeling pretty comfortable.
  • Cal (KenPom: 33, RPI: 29): The Golden Bears picked up their fifth top 50 win and 10th top 100 win beating Oregon State on Saturday night. The only concern on their profile at this point is their struggles away from home given that four of Cal’s last six are on the road.
  • Alabama (KenPom: 84, RPI: 38): Is it time for us to start paying more attention to Alabama? The Crimson Tide won their fourth straight game on Saturday, knocking off Florida. It was their second top 25 win of the week — they beat Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday — and this won came on the road. They’re 5-5 against the top 50 and 6-8 against the top 100 with just one sub-100 loss.
  • Stanford (KenPom: 122, RPI: 82): The Cardinal somehow found a way to keep their name in the hunt for an at-large bid, snapping a four-game losing streak with a win over Oregon at home. Stanford how four top 50 wins, but they’re just 4-10 against the top 50. The good news? Their worse loss is on the road against a top 75 opponent and they have five more games against top 100 foes. Will this be the start of a winning streak or a weird blip in a disappointing season?
  • UConn (KenPom: 22, RPI: 46): UConn is trending for the cut-line, which is what made Saturday’s win over Tulsa so important. The margins are slim when you’re on the bubble, and every top 50 win is valuable.
  • Colorado (KenPom: 61, RPI: 30): The Buffaloes landed another top 100 win on Saturday, beating Washington. They’re 7-7 against the top 100 with three top 35 wins and no bad losses to their name. The Pac-12 is tough, so it’s possible that the Buffaloes could lose all five of their remaining games. Even then, I’m not sure they’d be all that far out of the bubble picture. Going 2-3 in that stretch should be enough.
  • Vanderbilt (KenPom: 34, RPI: 59): Vandy made light work of Auburn on Saturday. Their bid will be earned the last two weeks of the season, when they play at Florida, Kentucky and at Texas A&M.
  • St. Bonaventure (KenPom: 66, RPI: 34): The Bonnies are slowly but surely climbing their way into bubble contention. They have a great RPI, but their win over George Washington was just their fourth top 100 win of the year.
  • Clemson (KenPom: 58, RPI: 88): The Tigers picked up a win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, their seventh top 100 win. The Tigers still have a lot of work to do, however, as they have three bad losses on their profile and one of the 15 worst non-conference schedules in college basketball.
  • Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 37, RPI: 28): The Hawks beat La Salle, but with GW losing against tonight, there’s a chance that St. Joe’s only top 50 win drops out of the top 50. They play Dayton this week. Winning that game could alleviate a lot of stress in Hagan Arena.
  • Creighton (KenPom: 42, RPI: 84): The Bluejays landed a nice road win at Marquette on Saturday, but with an ugly non-conference schedule and just one top 50 win, Creighton still has a lot of work to do. They close at Providence and at Xavier. They might need them both.
  • Cincinnati (KenPom: 30, RPI: 63): The Bearcats avoided a landmine loss to East Carolina. Next week will be critical for them, as they visit Tulsa and host UConn.
  • VCU (KenPom: 41, RPI: 53): Like Cincy, the Rams avoided an awful loss to Saint Louis, keeping them smack in the middle of the bubble conversation.
  • Saint Mary’s (KenPom: 39, RPI: 72): The Gaels beat Loyola Marymount today, but I still don’t think they have a chance to get a bid on Selection Sunday.


  • South Carolina (KenPom: 43, RPI: 21): The good news for South Carolina? The RPI, which is the DNA of the selection process, does not factor in margin of victory. So that 27-point loss they took to Kentucky at home on Saturday afternoon? It looks the same as a one point loss in the formula. But with a gaudy record that lacks quality wins, getting embarrassed on national television at home is not a good way to make an impression.
  • Butler (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58): In and of itself, losing to Xavier at home is not a bad loss for Butler. What hurts is the opportunity cost: That was their best chance on landing another elite win for their résumé. With just one top 50 win to their name and only one top 50 opponent left (at Villanova), the Bulldogs are going to have some issues at the top of their profile on Selection Sunday.
  • Gonzaga (KenPom: 31, RPI: 64): The Zags lost at SMU on Saturday. As I wrote here, that’s a devastating loss for their tournament hopes.
  • George Washington (KenPom: 88, RPI: 44): The Colonials lost their second straight game on Saturday, falling at St. Bonaventure in another game between Atlantic 10 bubble teams. The Colonials are in a troubling spot at this point. There are no more potential top 50 wins left on their schedule — at the moment, Davidson and VCU are both just outside the top 50 — and they are anything but a lock for the dance right now.
  • Tulsa (KenPom: 50, RPI: 48): Tulsa lost to UConn on the road on Saturday, a loss that doesn’t hurt all that much in and of itself — it was a top 50 road game, after all — but is a killer because it was the last chance for the Golden Hurricane pick up a top 50 win this season. If Frank Haith’s club was in a better position entering the day it wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but they still have work left to do.
  • Florida (KenPom: 28, RPI: 24): Florida looked like they were in a pretty good spot to earn an at-large bid after beating West Virginia two weeks ago, but they’ve gone 2-2 since then and now sit with just a 2-7 record against the top 50. Their RPI is great and their non-conference strength of schedule is second nationally. They’re not exactly in trouble yet, but landing at least one more good win (at South Carolina, Kentucky) would be quite helpful.
  • Oregon State (KenPom: 73, RPI: 31): There’s no shame in losing at Cal, especially now that Cal has Tyrone Wallace back. The Beavers have six top 50 wins and eight top 100 wins. They’re still in a good spot.
  • Washington (KenPom: 77, RPI: 61): Losing to Colorado on Saturday hurt not because a road loss to a top 30 team is a bad thing, but because they had a real shot to win that game without Colorado State Josh Scott on the floor. They’re likely headed directly for the bubble.
  • Marquette (KenPom: 104, RPI: 95): Marquette, who lost at home to Creighton, might need to win out at this point. Their non-conference schedule does them no favors.
  • Georgetown (KenPom: 60, RPI: 78): The Hoyas lost to Providence on Saturday. At this point, we can basically write off Georgetown from the bubble conversation.
  • Valparaiso (KenPom: 22, RPI: 49): I think Valpo is one of the top 40 teams in college basketball. But with three losses to sub-150 opponents, the only way they’ll have a chance to prove it in the NCAA tournament will be by winning the Horizon’s automatic bid.
  • Kansas State (KenPom: 49, RPI: 52): The Wildcats had a shot at an at-large bid simply they had some good wins left on their schedule and no bad losses on their résumé. They lost to Oklahoma State today. That’s a bad loss.


NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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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

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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


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.