The 68 Things We Cannot Wait To See In College Basketball This Season

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College basketball officially kicks off on Friday night. Here are the 68 things we’re looking forward to the most this season.

1. How David Padgett deals with the spotlight in his first head coaching job. This is a difficult situation, but he’s got a lot of talent to work with and a solid staff to lean on. – Raphielle Johnson

2. The nonsense that the NCAA comes up with to try and fix college basketball while ignoring the obvious, easy, necessary answer: End Amateurism.- Rob Dauster

3. Bonzie Colson getting buckets like only Bonzie Colson can. – Travis Hines

4. Will Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton play more like be the motivated potential No. 1 pick he can be or the passive center that barely gave an effort during some games during high school. – Scott Phillips

5. What weird controversy will find Grayson Allen. – TH

6. The unknown. The best part about college basketball are the story lines that pop up out of nowhere. – RD

7. Where Rhode Island head coach Danny Hurley ends up after he leads his team to the Sweet 16. – RD

8. Aaron Holiday. He’s so much better than simply being Lonzo Ball’s understudy, and we’ll see it this season. – RD

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9. J.P. Macura and the art of talking trash. – TH

10. Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura. You’ll understand why soon enough. – RD

11. BYU’s Yoeli Childs. Ditto. – RD

12. Miles Bridges dunking on anyone and everyone. – TH

13. Seton Hall’s team of veterans prove that you don’t have to have one-and-dones to win. – RD

14. Mohamed Bamba’s impact at Texas. Don’t know if I’d put the Longhorns in the category of Big 12 title contender, but they aren’t far off thanks to Bamba’s arrival. – RJ

15. The backcourt of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Lovett at St. John’s. – TH

16. How will Kentucky adjust to being a team that lacks a significant veteran contributor from the season prior. This is unlike any team John Calipari’s had in his tenure there. – RJ

17. That Duke/Michigan State matchup in the Champions Classic. Could be the game of the year until we get to March. – RJ

18. How Kansas and Bill Self puts this roster together. Do they have anyone that can play the four? – TH

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19. Montana State’s Tyler Hall shooting three-pointers with a Steph Curry-level green light (he attempted 8.8 per game last season and made 42 percent of them.) – SP

20. People at the Final Four in San Antonio pretending that the River Walk is interesting. – TH

21. People realizing that Svi Mykhailiuk, a senior on Kansas, is four months older than Billty Preston, a freshman. – RD

22. Cincinnati proving that you can be a great college basketball team without having any preseason hype. – RD

23. The Jaylen Adams/Matt Mobley backcourt at St. Bonaventure. Do yourselves a favor and check those guys out at least a couple times this season. – RJ

24. Minnesota’s Isaiah Washington and JellyFam taking over college hoops. – SP

25. The growth of Carsen and Vince Edwards, and Purdue repeated explaining that, no, they are not actually related. – RD

26. Michael Porter Jr. being awesome and leading Missouri back to the NCAA tournament. – TH

27. Chris Mullin vs. Patrick Ewing on the sidelines. Given how fierce that rivalry was when they were players in the Big East, this should be fun. – RJ

28. The joy of listening to Bill Walton calling late-night Pac-12 games. – SP

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29. The Ivy League conference tournament since the league is loaded this season. – SP

30. Kentucky’s growth this season. They’re going to take some lumps early, but they should be a contender come March. – RD

31. Angel Delgado bullying everyone in the paint. – RD

32. The ridiculous backcourt battles in the Big East. – SP

33. What happens next in the FBI investigation since people are being indicted. What will they tell? Who’s next? – RJ

34. TCU taking the next step and actually reaching the NCAA tournament. – TH

35. How Dana Altman will decide to use Troy Brown in his offense. – RD

36. The Mountain West’s never-ending battle to return to national relevancy. Can they be a two-bid league again? – RD

37. Will the SEC actually be improved? On paper there are good reasons to believe so, but can’t blame people for wanting to see it before they buy in. – RJ

38. Seeing if Ethan Happ can carry Wisconsin to another top-four Big Ten finish with this young roster. – TH

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39. Seeing if perpetually-underrated Conference USA can get a win in the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year. – SP

40. The American title race. Cincinnati and Wichita State would be my favorites, but SMU, UCF, UConn, Temple and Houston will all be heard from as well. I’d be shocked if the winner had fewer than four league losses. – RJ

41. Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga battling it out in the WCC. BYU should be in mix as well, and don’t sleep on San Francisco, but that feels like a two-horse race. – RJ

42. How Northwestern handles success and expectation after their first trip to the NCAA tournament. – TH

43. Seeing how much UCF’s Tacko Fall has improved since last season. – SP

44. How Jim Boeheim handles a potentially tough season at Syracuse. – TH

45. The “Go-Go Gadget” arms of Texas freshman center Mohamed Bamba. – SP

46. Duke’s Wendell Carter. He’s a damn-good player with absolutely no preseason buzz. – RD

47. The race for who will become the presumptive No. 1 NBA draft pick: Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton. – TH

48. If there’s a serious challenger to Arizona in the Pac-12, or if Arizona and Allonzo Trier thrive despite the FBI investigation. – TH

49. Wichita State competing for the first time in the AAC after moving out of the Missouri Valley. – TH

50. Auburn’s search for a new head coach once Bruce Pearl is run out of town. – RD

51. Trevon Duval’s progression at Duke. For all the talent on that roster, really think he holds the key to a national championship. If he runs the show as well as his talent leads many to believe he can, they’ll be in San Antonio at minimum. – RJ

52. DeAndre Ayton at Arizona. That team’s loaded, but he’s the toughest matchup on that roster. And given how last season ended, those veterans should be plenty motivated as well. – RJ

53. The ever-increasing slate of good college hoops being played on Thanksgiving thanks to this year’s PK80. – SP

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54. Mike Daum at South Dakota State. There aren’t many guys his size who can score inside and out while threatening to be a 50/40/90 guy in college basketball. He’s special. – RJ

55. A healthy season of Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright playing together at USC. – SP

56. Watching Grand Canyon try to make the NCAA tournament during their first season of eligibility. – SP

57. Provindence shocking everyone when they play their way into being a top 20 team in the country. – RD

58. Vermont winning a game in the NCAA tournament and thus confirming that T.J. Sorrentine is no longer hitting them from the parking lot for the Catamounts. – RD

59. Devonte’ Graham getting his own chance to shine at Kansas with the departure of Frank Mason. – SP

60. Will coaches that staunchly support playing two bigs – Cuonzo Martin, Roy Williams – learn to embrace small-ball the way that Bill Self did? – RD

61. Giddy Potts become a mid-major darling. Who doesn’t love chunky little guys that fire up threes? – RD

62. DePaul and Illinois playing for the first time in 60 years. – SP

63. The Big East race. I really think it’s going to be closer than some people think. Seton Hall, Xavier and Providence are all capable of winning the league, and Villanova’s still Villanova. – RJ

64. A healthy Oregon State. That’s a tournament team with everyone on the court, especially Tres Tinkle. – RJ

65. How UCLA deals with initiating an international incident, and whether or not the Ball Family rips the program apart at the seams. – TH

66. What South Carolina does for an encore. They lost a lot from the Final Four team, but you know Frank Martin’s guys are going to compete. – RJ

67. Oklahoma freshman Trae Young pulling up from unfathomable distances for three-pointers. – SP

68. How Jim Larranaga puts all those quality guards to good use down at Miami. The Hurricanes have the tools to win the ACC. – RJ

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.