Gonzaga win WCC, finishes 32-1 as attention turns to No. 1 seed

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
0 Comments

Gonzaga did their job.

The No. 1 seed in the WCC tournament and the No. 4 team in the country took care of business against No. 19 Saint Mary’s, picking up their third straight double-digit win over the Gaels in a 74-56 win in Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

And with that, Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament résumé is complete.

They are 32-1 on the season. They went 20-1 against WCC opponents, including posting a 3-0 mark against the Gaels. They have a win over Arizona. They have a win over Florida. They have a win over Iowa State. All three of those wins came on a neutral floor. Considering what Gonzaga is stacked up against in terms of their ability to schedule, and factoring in that Tennessee, Washington and San Diego State all put together seasons that were different levels of disappointing, it’s about as impressive of a profile as the Zags are capable of putting together.

So now they wait.

As of today, the Zags are a No. 1 seed in the latest NBC Sports Bracketology, but like a golfer in the clubhouse with a one-stroke lead while Jordan Speith just started on the back-nine, the Zags can do nothing but sit back and watch how this plays out.

Because there are three teams in the Pac-12 gunning for that No. 1 spot.

That’s really all the Zags have to worry about at this point. If one of Oregon, Arizona or UCLA puts together a run to the Pac-12 tournament title, they’ll have a pretty strong argument for being the No. 1 seed out West. All three have similar enough résumés that there really isn’t one specific team that they have to worry about. UCLA has the best set of wins, including road wins against Kentucky and Arizona and five total top ten wins if they beat Arizona and Oregon en route to the title, but their non-conference schedule was weak. Oregon has the most top 100 wins and a share of the league title, but they struggled early without Dillon Brooks and lost to Colorado with him. Arizona has no bad losses and played a good schedule, but they have the fewest elite wins of the three.

And there’s nothing else Gonzaga can do beyond rooting as hard as they can that those teams lose.

But here’s the thing: Gonzaga is guaranteed a top two seed in the West. However you slice it, they are going to be in a good spot to get to a Final Four.

The more interesting case in the WCC might be the seeding of Saint Mary’s. The Gaels ranked 19th nationally and 19th in the RPI. They are 28-4 on the season and, by just about any metric available, are a really good team. Case in point: KenPom has them 12th nationally, right behind Baylor and in front of the likes of Duke, UCLA and Oregon.

They haven’t really done much to prove that on the floor, though. They won at Dayton, which is probably more impressive than you realize, and they beat the MWC champs Nevada in the season-opener. They have a win at Stanford — meh — and smothered everyone in the WCC not named Gonzaga. But they were also smoked by the Zags all three times they played them and also took a home loss to UT-Arlington.

Going 28-1 against everyone not named Gonzaga is impressive, but they are like Gonzaga Light in the sense that there isn’t all that much there to like.

What this could mean is that the Gaels fall all the way to the 8-9 game, which would put whichever No. 1 seed they draw into a tough situation.

There are going to be a number of really interesting seeding decisions for the committee to make — Wichita State and SMU among them — but Saint Mary’s may top that list, even with Gonzaga in the picture.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
2 Comments

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

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
0 Comments

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.