Five Takeaways from No. 10 Louisville’s win over No. 6 Kentucky

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Quentin Snider put on for his city.

One of just two Cardinals from Louisville, Snider went for 22 points, six boards and five assists as No. 10 Louisville made a statement with a 73-70 win over their archrival, No. 6 Kentucky.

It was Louisville’s first second marquee win of the season, and it dropped the Wildcats to 2-6 in road openers under John Calipari.

Here are the five things we can takeaway from that game:

1. Louisville is a different team when their guards are making perimeter shots: That’s been the knock on them all season long. Entering Wednesday’s game, the trio of Donovan Mitchell, Quentin Snider and Deng Adel were shooting under 32 percent from three and none of the three were shooting better than 37 percent from the floor, and that’s after they had spent the last couple of weeks actually knocking down jumpers.

On Wednesday, the Cards shot 6-for-14 from beyond the arc, which was, percentage-wise, their best three-point shooting performance of the season. But it was also the most promising because none of the threes they shot were forced and all three of those guards knocked down a pair. They were able to get to the rim and make plays off the bounce, in part because Kentucky had to respect that five of those threes went in in the first half.

Also promising?

On a night where the Cardinals went 5-for-11 from deep in the first half, they attempted just three second half threes.

2. Quentin Snider had himself a day: Entering the season, all the talk surrounding this Louisville team was about how good Mitchell and Adel had the potential to be; some of it was about how they could end up being good enough to make up for the fact that the Cardinals were starting Snider at the point. Entering this game, the talk was about De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, and how in the world were the Louisville guards going to be able to deal with that duo.

And by the middle of the second half on Wednesday, the story was Snider, whose 22 points were a career-high. He was the best player on the floor for either team, which isn’t hyperbole and is about the most shocking thing to come out of this game. That’s not because Snider isn’t good – we’ve seen him have big games before – but more that he’s never found a way to be much more than a tease.

This is what I mean: Last season, Snider went for 20 points on two different occasions. The games were about two weeks apart, and came in the middle of a seven-week stretch where they were the only two games in which he cracked double-figures. Snider had a slow-start to this season, but he’s scored at least nine points in every game for the last month, he’s averaging 16.7 points in his last three and has hit at least two threes in each of his last four games.

And he capped it with this performance.

If he can be a guy that is a consistent source of offense and perimeter shooting, it takes a whole lot of the burden off of Adel and Mitchell.

Speaking of Deng Adel: He had himself a day as well, finishing with a career-high 18 points in what was a breakout performance for the sophomore. He’s been a guy that’s run hot and cold this season. You can see the talent that he has when he plays like he did on Wednesday which is why it’s frustrating to look at his numbers this season and see that he’s shooting 35.5 percent from the floor and 28.9 percent from three.

LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 21: Deng Adel #22 of the Louisville Cardinals dribbles the ball during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at KFC YUM! Center on December 21, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Deng Adel (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

3. Spin zone!: Let’s take this loss for Kentucky in perspective:

  • The Wildcats were playing their first true road game of the season. It was the first true road game in the college career of four of their starters, including their superstar back court.
  • Malik Monk was off. He was 6-for-17 from the floor, 3-for-14 on jumpers and 1-for-9 from three on a night where Louisville’s defense kept him out of a rhythm and forcing tough jumpers off the dribble.
  • Bam Adebayo looked dominant when he got touches, but he also looked like a freshman playing on the road for the first time. He had a couple of sloppy turnovers, he got burned in ball-screen actions on Louisville’s final two field goals and he was 1-for-6 from the free throw in the second half.
  • As a team, Kentucky shot 19-for-29 from the line.
  • As a team, Louisville shot 42.1 percent from three. They entered the game 248th nationally in three-point percentage.

And despite all of that, Kentucky lost by just a single point to a top ten team on the road.

Losing this game damages Kentucky’s chances of getting a No. 1 seed, but it should only reinforce the idea that this team is more than good enough to win a national title.

4. Kentucky won’t hit their peak until they get more out of their supporting cast: I said it after the win against North Carolina and Kentucky fans crushed me for it, but I’ll say it again: Kentucky needs to get more out of players not named Fox or Monk, particularly offensively. They combined to create 87 of Kentucky’s 103 points against North Carolina, which is terrific when they’re rolling and a red flag on the nights they’re not.

It looked, early on, like that was going to be Bam Adebayo’s breakout game. He had 10 points midway through the second half and was 5-for-5 from the floor with a trio of absolutely monstrous dunks, but that dissipated down the stretch as Bam missed free throws and was left in the dust when he switched on Louisville’s guards. He’ll get there, but he’s not quite there yet. Isaiah Briscoe played a really good floor game – he had five boards, three assists and helped shut down Mitchell – but that’s who he is against this level of competition. Kentucky can’t hold out hope he’s going to average 18 points against teams that can match his size and strength.

To me, the answer is either Derek Willis or Mychal Mulder. Both of those guys are snipers from beyond the arc, which will help create more space in the half court. Willis already rotates with Wenyen Gabriel at the four, but Mulder played the first really meaningful minutes of his career against the Cardinals. It worked, as he hit a pair of triples in nine minutes of action.

Whoever it ends up being, Kentucky needs to find another consistent source of points outside of their big two.

LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 21: Bam Adebayo #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on December 21, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Bam Adebayo (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

5. We need to consider Louisville an ACC title contender: They’ve been terrific defensively all season long. There’s a reason they entered Wednesday night as the No. 1 team in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, and they’re not going to drop after holding the Wildcats before 1.0 points-per-possession. But with the way that their guards played on Wednesday – and the way that trio has been playing of late – maybe they’re not as much of a liability as we thought.

But that’s not the only reason.

Duke is in something close to disarray right now. Grayson Allen is tripping people again, Luke Kennard is telling reporters that the team isn’t about winning and Harry Giles III has yet to get himself into a rhythm. North Carolina looks to be damn good, but there’s nothing about them that says they’re markedly better than Louisville, if at all.

And Louisville has that defense, and man, is that defense good.

Rick Pitino has so many different looks that he uses. Sometimes it’s a man-to-man press. Sometimes it’s a 2-2-1 press. Sometimes they trap in the back court. Sometimes they fall back into a man and sometimes it’s a 2-3 zone. Sometimes that half court defense changes midway through a possession. Sometimes the Cardinals are playing man on one side of the court and zone on the other.

It’s not easy to figure out, and that’s before you factor in the crazy amount of length and athleticism that the Cardinals have up and down their lineup.

This is a good team that seems to be peaking at the right time.

 

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.