The ACC’s poor March performance is proof the conference was overrated

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There is no real way around it: The first weekend of the NCAA tournament was a total and complete disaster for the ACC.

Of the nine ACC teams that qualified for the Big Dance, only one of them remains: No. 1 seed North Carolina, who needed a late 12-0 run that was aided by a questionable no-call on a late collision involving Joel Berry II just to get past No. 8 seed Arkansas.

The ACC is the only power conference that has just a single team left in the tournament; the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC all have three teams remaining while the the Big East has two.

But that doesn’t really get to the core of just how bad it was for the ACC this weekend:

  • The ACC went 7-8 in the first weekend, with those eight losses coming by an average of 13.9 points. For comparison’s sake, the four No. 13 seeds lost by an average of 10.b points and the four No. 14 seeds lost by an average of 14.3 points.
  • There were 10 games decided by 20 or more points during the first weekend. Four of them involved No. 16 seeds getting beatdown. Three of them — No. 5 Virginia losing to No. 4 Florida, No. 3 Florida State losing to No. 11 Xavier and No. 8 Miami losing to No. 9 Michigan State — involved ACC teams losing.
  • There were only four top four seeds that lost this weekend, and three of them — No. 2 Duke, No. 2 Louisville and No. 3 Florida State — were from the ACC.
  • The ACC went 2-13 against the spread.

All this is coming from a conference that was, throughout the season, mentioned as not only the best in college basketball, but one of the best, top to bottom, of all-time.

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And, it should go without saying, that was not the case.

Generally speaking, it’s not really fair to judge a team based off of what happens in a knockout tournament like this, let alone judge an entire conference. Villanova’s run this season wasn’t any less impressive because they ran into an under-seeded Wisconsin team that matched up with them about as well as humanly possible. Those things happen in March, and it’s silly to make massive generalizations of an entire season based off of 40 minutes of basketball.

But this wasn’t just 40 minutes of basketball.

This was nine members of one conference all doing the same thing: playing below the level they should have played.

The question is ‘Why?’

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Well, part of it is that the conference won a bunch of games in November and December, which meant that teams like Wake Forest, Miami and Virginia Tech were propped up by the strength of the league. When Georgia Tech and Clemson aren’t bad losses on paper, the leagues computer numbers are going to be inflated.

That, in turn, made Notre Dame, Florida State and Virginia look better than they were. Don’t get me wrong, those three teams had incredible seasons. Notre Dame’s best big man stands 6-foot-5. Virginia had very limited perimeter weapons and lost the only front court piece that they had that could score in the post. Florida State was talented, but they were about as trustworthy as a used car salesman.

To be frank, it’s not all that shocking that those three teams failed to make it out of the first weekend.

The surprises came with Duke and Louisville.

The issue with Duke is that, at the end of the day, they were just a flawed basketball team. They didn’t have a point guard and they didn’t guard, and South Carolina had the pieces to be able to expose that. It wasn’t due to a lack of chemistry or internal strife or a power struggle for “control of the team.” Getting nothing out of Chase Jeter and Marques Bolden, and having Harry Giles III spend the year as a shell of his former self hurt, but I’m not sure what any of those three guys would have been able to do to help Duke run offense on Sunday night in a de-facto road game.

We probably should have seen that one coming.

If anyone from the league was on the wrong end of some poor madness luck, it was probably Louisville. The Cardinals ran into a Michigan team that hasn’t lost since their plane skidded off the runway en route to the Big Ten tournament in Washington D.C. The Cardinals dominated the glass, held Michigan to six threes and kept Derrick Walton Jr. from going off and still managed to lose despite holding a lead for much of the second half.

It happens, especially when you’re a team whose point guard play is subpar.

That was supposed to be a top three team in the ACC.

If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the league, than I don’t know if anything will.

And now we head to the Sweet 16 with just one ACC member left to carry the torch for the conference.

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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.