Bubble Banter: Michigan, Providence and Rhode Island land massive wins

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The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds you see listed below come from. This post will be updated throughout the day. 

WINNERS

Michigan (RPI: 51, KenPom: 27, No. 9 seed): Congratulations, Michigan. After smacking around Purdue the Wolverines are locked into a bid.

Providence (RPI: 55, KenPom: 56, play-in game): We always talk about how frustrating it is that no one seems to play their way onto the bubble and then into the NCAA tournament, but I think Providence has done just that. They erased a late, 12-point deficit in a win over Marquette on Saturday afternoon, their fourth straight win on the season. All four came against likely tournament teams, meaning the Friars five top 50 wins, ten top 100 wins and games left against DePaul and St. John’s. But they also have already lost to DePaul, St. John’s and Boston College. The margin for error is thing, but as of today, I think they’re going to end up being in.

Rhode Island (RPI: 47, KenPom: 55, next four out): The Rams landed a massive win on Saturday, picking off VCU at home in a game URI absolutely had to win. They now have a pair of top 25 wins and four total top 100 wins, which I’m not sure is enough to make up for the two sub-100 losses on their résumé. The Rams have two landmines left on their schedule, so for my money, URI is going to have to win land a win over either VCU or Dayton in the league tournament to have a real chance.

Wichita State (RPI: 44, KenPom: 12, No. 10 seed): The Shockers took down Missouri State on the road, meaning that they are going to head into the Missouri Valley tournament having just a single league loss to their name. This team’s status hasn’t changed in weeks: They have just one quality win and none of their non-league wins have turned out to be all that impressive, but they are No. 12 according to KenPom.com. That may be enough to get them in, but Gregg Marshall probably shouldn’t test that theory out.

Illinois State (RPI: 35, KenPom: 43, No. 12 seed): The Redbirds did what they needed to do, knocking off Northern Iowa on the road to enter the MVC tournament with just the one league loss to Wichita State. If those two programs play each other in the title game, there’s a good chance the MVC could end up with two tournament teams.

Vanderbilt (RPI: 45, KenPom: 51, next four out): A blowout win over Mississippi State sets Vandy up for a season-changing week: They play at Kentucky and host Florida. The ‘Dores probably need to win both, considering they already have 13 losses on the season — including one to Missouri — and will take another loss in the SEC tournament, but the chance is there. Two wins, get a bid.

Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 49, No. 9 seed): The Razorbacks, on the other hand, should feel pretty good about their spot on the bubble right now after winning at Auburn on Saturday. I’m not quite ready to call them a lock just yet, but I think one more win somewhere — at Florida, Georgia, first SEC tournament game — gets it done.

Indiana (RPI: 100, KenPom: 46, bubble): The Hoosiers are somehow still in the mix after beating Northwestern at home on Saturday night. This is according to people that are the best in the business at doing this. Personally? I’m not sure there’s much the Hoosiers can do to turn this thing around.

Seton Hall (RPI: 48, KenPom: 57, play-in game): Seton Hall beat DePaul. A loss to DePaul would have likely sent them to the NIT. Go 1-1 next week (Georgetown, at Butler) and Seton Hall is dancing.

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2016, file photo, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall directs his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake, in Des Moines, Iowa. At this time of year college basketball coaches often sound like political candidates looking for votes as they tout their teams' NCAA tournament worthiness. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

LOSERS

TCU (RPI: 53, KenPom: 43, first four out): TCU lost a heart-breaker at home to West Virginia on Saturday afternoon, airballing a wide-open, buzzer-beating three that would have gotten the Horned Frogs a win that could have put them on the right side of the bubble. At this point, with just two top 50 wins and five top 100 wins, TCU is going to have to win out and do some work in the Big 12 tournament to have a chance. They simply do not have enough quality wins to make up for their 12 losses, and beating Kansas State and Oklahoma won’t change that.

VCU (RPI: 25, KenPom: 42, No. 9 seed): VCU lost at Rhode Island on Saturday, which is not a bad loss and certainly isn’t going to keep VCU out of the tournament. What it does, however, is reduce their margin for error. For my money, the Rams need one more win this season to lock up a tournament bid.

Kansas State (RPI: 59, KenPom: 30, play-in game): Playing a game that more-or-less had their NCAA tournament lives on the line, Kansas State went into Norman and lost by 30 points to a bad Oklahoma team that doesn’t have their star point guard after he tore his ACL. That’s not a good look, is it?

Marquette (RPI: 68, KenPom: 31, No. 10 seed): Marquette had a chance to just about lock up a bid at Providence, leading by 12 down the stretch. But they game that game away, meaning that their bid is going to be earned next week, when they get Xavier on the road and Creighton at home. A split should probably be enough — they have three top 30 wins, including Villanova, and seven top 100 wins — with just one bad loss.

Clemson (RPI: 61, KenPom: 37, next four out): The Tigers have lost five games by one or two points and 11 games by six points or less after losing at home to Florida State on Saturday. They had their chances to earn an at-large bid, and frankly, are probably good enough to have done so. But if they’re going to get into the NCAA tournament, they’re going to have to get an automatic bid.

Pitt (RPI: 63, KenPom: 66, next four out): The Panthers probably needed to win at home against North Carolina to put them in real contention. As of now, they very likely need to get the automatic bid.

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.