What’s the matter with No. 13 Oregon?

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A day after the Ducks needed to rally just to keep the final score respectable in a loss to Georgetown, who were four days removed from a home loss to Arkansas State, No. 13 Oregon needed a three from the recently-returned Dillon Brooks in overtime to avoid succumbing to a Tennessee team picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC this season.

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The final score was 69-65, which was unquestionably a better result than the 66-49 loss that the Ducks suffered at the hands of Baylor last week, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of performance that would remind people why Oregon entered the season as one of a handful of national title favorites.

It begs the question: What is wrong with Oregon? The way I see it, there are four problems that Dana Altman has to find a way to deal with:

 

1. Tyler Dorsey and Dana Altman aren’t on the same page: Dorsey entered the season as a guy a lot of people expected to have something close to a breakout season. He was a promising freshman, averaging over 13 points, that can be favorably compared to Joseph Young, who had so much success under Altman. With the pieces that the Ducks lost to graduation and without Brooks in the lineup for the first three games of the season, it only made sense that Dorsey would see a lot of shots and score a lot of points.

Only, it didn’t work out that way.

Dorsey had 21 in the season-opening win against Army, but he’s yet to break double-figures since then. In the last four games, he’s 10-for-37 from the floor (27.0%) and 2-for-13 from three (15.4%) while averaging just 6.5 points. Those two aren’t on the same page, and whether that’s a result of Dorsey being unhappy with his role in the offense or Altman being unable to find a way to utilize his ability, the bottom line is that Dorsey is not the player that we expected him to be.

That’s a problem because …

2. … we under estimated how much losing Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook would hurt: Cook and Benjamin were seniors that stood 6-foot-6, were as athletic as anyone in the country and could guard – and play – multiple positions. They were so important in giving Altman the kind of lineup versatility that made Oregon so effective last season, and the Ducks simply don’t have anyone to fill that role this season.

The other part of it?

Cook was Oregon’s second-leading scorer last season at 14.8 points. Benjamin averaged 7.8 points off the bench. That’s more than 22 points per game that left, 28 percent of Oregon’s scoring from last season, which is why we have to ask …

3. … who is going to get buckets for Oregon?: We thought it was going to be Dorsey. We thought he was going to be the guy that buoyed Oregon’s offense early in the year, and that clearly hasn’t gone according to plan. Chris Boucher is an intriguing talent because of his unique skill-set, but offensively he’s a guy that needs to be set up, either for an open three-pointer or a dunk at the rim. Jordan Bell’s the same way, except he’s not knocking down many threes. Casey Benson isn’t a guy that looks to score, he’s a facilitator through and through. Payton Pritchard is a freshman that needs a year before he’s a focal point offensively. Dylan Ennis might be Oregon’s best offensive weapon right now and he’s a sixth-year senior that missed last season with a foot injury who has never averaged double-figures in his collegiate career.

Oregon is playing pretty good defense this season, much better than what they did last year. But they’re not scoring. Against Baylor, they mustered 49 points (0.817 PPP). Against Georgetown, they scored 61 points (0.859 PPP). Against Tennessee, they finished at 0.851 PPP. Those are the kind of numbers that Virginia’s record-setting defense would allow to good opponents, which should give you an idea of just how bad the Ducks have been.

An answer may be coming, however, because …

4. … Dillon Brooks isn’t right yet: This one is obvious, right?

Brooks missed the first two weeks of the season with a foot injury that had kept him out since July. He had eight points in 13 minutes against the Hoyas and went for 17 points in the win over Tennessee in 25 minutes. He looks a little rusty and a step slow, like he hasn’t played basketball in about four months. He should be back to his normal, all-american self in time.

The question for the Ducks is just how many of these question marks Brooks will answer.

He’ll make them more effective on the offensive end of the floor – that’s what happens when you plug in a guy that can get you 25 points on any given night – but is his presence the difference between a team that can win the Pac-12 and a team that was a possession away from playing Chaminade for last place in the Maui Invitational?

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.

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.