LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Patriot, A-Sun top seeds eliminated from conference tourneys

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Louisiana Tech 97, Marshall 94

Two of the top teams in Conference USA played right down to the wire in Huntington, with a Derric Jean three from half-court as time expired giving the Bulldogs the win. Alex Hamilton scored 38 points for Louisiana Tech, which is now in a second-place tie with Middle Tennessee with one game remaining. James Kelly led the Thundering Herd with 27 points.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 18 Arizona 64, No. 25 California 61: A Gabe York three-pointer with 17.4 seconds remaining gave the Wildcats the lead for good as they finished the game on an 11-0 run. York scored all 19 of his points in the second half, and Ryan Anderson (18 points, ten rebounds) and Kaleb Tarczewski (ten points, 12 rebounds) both posted double-doubles for the Wildcats. Ivan Rabb led Cal with 15 points and 13 boards, but fellow freshman Jaylen Brown struggled with foul trouble for most of the night.

No. 24 SMU 80, Connecticut 54: The Mustangs capped the home portion of their schedule with a blowout win over UConn in Dallas. While the Mustangs can’t go to the NCAA tournament, the Huskies are trending in the wrong direction at the worst possible time. UConn shot 34 percent from the field and they struggled defensively as well, as SMU shot 51.6 percent with Sterling Brown leading four in double figures with 20 points.

Georgia 74, South Carolina: Also limping down the stretch is South Carolina, which has now lost four of its last six games. Kenny Gaines led the victorious Bulldogs with 20 points and J.J. Frazier added 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Mindaugas Kacinas scored a game-high 21 for the Gamecocks, but as a team they shot just 34.2 percent from the field.

STARRED

Alex Hamilton, Louisiana Tech: Hamilton scored 38 points and dished out six assists in the Bulldogs’ 97-94 win at Marshall.

Tim Kempton, Lehigh: The two-time Patriot League POY finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds in the Mountain Hawks’ 65-63 win over Navy.

Phil Valenti, Canisius: Valenti scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Golden Griffins’ 102-97 triple overtime win over Niagara.

Ethan Telfair, Idaho State: 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the Bengals’ 75-71 win at Eastern Washington.

STRUGGLED

North Florida: The Ospreys, who score 43.5 percent of their points on three-pointers this season, shot 8-for-31 from distance in their 89-56 loss to FGCU.

Duane Notice, South Carolina: Three points on 1-for-7 shooting in the Gamecocks’ home loss to Georgia.

Amida Brimah, UConn: One point and four rebounds in the Huskies’ 80-54 loss at No. 24 SMU.

DJ Sylvester, UC Riverside: Sylvester shot 1-for-10 from the field, scoring four points, in the Highlanders’ 81-55 loss at UCSB.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 14 Maryland took care of business on Senior Night, as they beat Illinois 81-55. Melo Trimble and Jake Layman scored 18 points apiece, and Jared Nickens and Robert Carter Jr. added 14 each for Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins. Illinois shot just 38.5 percent from the field.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • Temple remained tied for first in the American with a 72-62 home win over Memphis. Josh Brown finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and Jaylen Bond accounted for 15 points and ten boards for the Owls.
  • The top seed in the Patriot League fell, as nine-seed Holy Cross beat Bucknell 77-72 in double overtime. The Bison weren’t the only team to lose in the quarters, as three-seed American won at three-seed Boston University. Also advancing were two-seed Lehigh and four-seed Army West Point.
  • Defending Atlantic Sun champion picked a bad night to go cold from deep, as they shot 8-for-31 from three in an 89-56 loss to FGCU. The Eagles will host seven-seed Stetson in the championship game Sunday. Stetson, which beat Lipscomb 96-75, is ineligible for postseason play so if they win then North Florida goes to the NCAA tournament since they won the A-Sun regular season title.
  • In the first round of the Big South tournament, a DeSean Murray put-back as time expired gave ten-seed Presbyterian a 65-64 win over Radford. Also advancing were six-seed Gardner-Webb and eight-seed Longwood.
  • Stephen F. Austin extended its win streak to 17, as they whipped Northwestern State 95-55. Brad Underwood’s Lumberjacks have lost just one game to Southland competition since he took over in 2013.
  • Having already clinched the MEAC regular season title, Hampton fell 83-63 to Norfolk State. The Pirates, who played many of their key contributors limited minutes, had won their last five games.
  • Little Rock fell 69-63 at Appalachian State in their regular season finale. Chris Beard’s Trojans will be the top seed in next week’s Sun Belt tournament.
  • Keep an eye on Houston in the American tournament next week. The Cougars beat Cincinnati 69-56, finishing the regular season with six wins in their final seven games. Their non-conference schedule makes getting an at-large tough for Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars, but they have the talent needed to win the auto bid in Orlando.
  • Rider, Canisius and Manhattan advanced to the quarterfinals of the MAAC tournament, with the Golden Griffins needing triple overtime to beat rival Niagara 102-97. Rider will take on top-seed Monmouth and Canisius gets two-seed Iona Friday, with Manhattan facing three-seed (and host) Siena Saturday.
  • Loyola-Chicago and Missouri State advanced at Arch Madness, with the Ramblers beating Bradley 74-66 and the Bears edging out Drake 69-67. Loyola will play top-seed Wichita State Friday, with Missouri State getting two-seed Evansville.
  • Eight-seed Austin Peay continued its run in the OVC tournament with a 74-72 win over four-seed Tennessee Tech. The Governors play top seed Belmont in Friday’s semifinals, with three-seed Morehead State (a winner of six-seed Murray State) facing two-seed UT Martin in the other matchup.
  • Montana and Weber State are once again tied atop the Big Sky, as Montana beat North Dakota 71-46 and Weber State lost 62-58 at Idaho. Weber State has the head-to-head tiebreaker going into the final day of regular season play (Saturday). The silver lining for Weber State in their loss: Joel Bolomboy returned after missing two games due to injury.
  • Hawai’i got off to a slow start at UC Davis but came back to pick up the 67-65 win. As a result Eran Ganot’s Rainbow Warriors clinched the outright Big West regular season title, with Quincy Smith and Sai Tummala combining to score 29 points.

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

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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.