No. 1 Duke rallies again, wins PK80 title erasing 17-point deficit vs. No. 7 Florida

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On the strength of 30 points and 15 rebounds from Marvin Bagley III, No. 1 Duke erased a 17-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to take home the title in the PK80 Motion bracket, beating No. 7 Florida 87-84 in yet another thrilling, come-from-behind win.

The Blue Devils picked up three of them in four days in Portland.

They trailed Portland State in the second half on Thursday in their tournament opener before coming back to win. They were down 16 points to Texas on Friday evening in the semifinals of the event before forcing, and winning in, overtime. And they were dead in the water against Florida, down 74-57 with an offense that was sputtering and an inability to find an answer for the high-octane, four-guard offense that the Gators and Mike White run.

Gary Trent Jr. added 15 points for the Blue Devils, including four free throws in the final 1:11 to give the Blue Devils the lead. Grayson Allen finished with 14 points and seven assists.

Jalen Hudson led the way for the Gators with 24 points, 10 boards, three assists and three steals.

Gary Trent Jr (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Here are five things we learned on Sunday night:

1. Marvin Bagley III is the truth: He had 30 points and 15 boards on Sunday night. That came after he posted 34 points and 15 boards against Mo Bamba in the semifinals. He’s now averaging 22.3 points and 12.5 boards through eight games despite the fact that against Michigan State he was yanked midway through the first half after getting his eye scratched.

At this point, you’re a fool if you don’t realize just how good Bagley is in the post. Twice in the last three days he’s carried this Duke team back from a second half deficit of at least 16 points to win by overpowering whoever Texas, a likely tournament team, and Florida, a potential Final Four team, threw at him. He’s got the total package in the paint, but what makes him so damn tantalizing as a prospect is this:

Bagley not only keeps Chiozza from beating him off the bounce and to the rim, he is able to euro-step around a defender and finish awkwardly at the rim while his momentum is taking him a different direction. People that are 6-foot-11 and that have the post skill that he has are not supposed to be able to move like that.

What a player, and what a performance.

2. Don’t let what Gary Trent Jr. did in the final two minutes get swept under the rug: With two minutes left and Duke down 84-81, Trent grabbed a tough defensive rebound in traffic. 49 seconds left, he made a pair of free throws that gave Duke their first lead in the second half. 56 seconds after that, he picked Hudson’s pocket and then proceeded to make another pair of free throws with nine seconds left to put Duke up 87-84. He also was involved defensively on the final possession, when Florida failed to get a clean look at a three.

Trent came into college with the reputation for being a big time scorer and shot-maker. He’s yet to really find his rhythm on that end of the floor — he had 15 points on Sunday and it was probably his best game to date — but those five plays he made were winning plays in key moments on a massive stage. Trent also made the go-ahead three against Michigan State with three minutes left in the Champions Classic on a night were he finished 3-for-14 from the floor.

He may look like a freshman at times, but most freshman don’t shine in big moments like Trent has this season.

3. Florida lost this game, but they might be the most dangerous team in the country: Duke is a very, very good team, and the Gators had them on the ropes. You could probably make the argument that Florida gave this game away — more on that in a second.

But I think the biggest takeaway we should have about the Gators from this week is that they may be the most dangerous team in college basketball. I hesitate to call them the best team in the sport because they have some issues on the defensive end of the floor, but the way that this team can put up mountains of points in no time at all is ridiculous.

They have four guards on their roster — Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen, Egor Koulechov and Jalen Hudson — that are legitimately capable of putting up 30 points on any given night. All four can reel off four or five threes in a row, and all four are extremely difficult to cover 1-on-1; even Koulechov, who is known more for being a spot-up shooter than a slasher, is dangerous because he’s getting guarded by opposing power forwards.

The way that they play, and the freedom and confidence that White gives them offensively, makes them so entertaining.

And so lethal.

They’re going to be undersized every single night, and there will be some ugly nights when those threes aren’t dropping, but when the Gators are playing their best basketball they can run anyone in the country out of the gym.

4. So why did the Gators took the air out of the ball down the stretch? It cost them a win: Florida scored 74 points in the first 30 minutes of the game. They were running and gunning and sitting pretty with a 17-point lead. Then they started to take the air out of the ball to try and drain the clock, and it didn’t work. Duke held their own when they had a chance to set their defense, and the slower tempo allowed them to work the ball into Bagley and Wendell Carter in the post.

Yes, the fact that Duke started scoring consistently slowed down Florida’s transition game. Yes, tired legs probably played a factor. And yes, it makes sense to run clock and reduce the number of possessions remaining when holding a big lead in a game.

I don’t necessarily think White made the wrong decision — process over results and all — but it certainly did not work on this occasion.

5. When do we start getting concerned about the fact that Duke can’t stop digging holes for themselves?: It’s starting to become a thing. They played three games in Portland and had to come back from a hole they dug themselves in all three games.

On the one hand, it’s a great sign that the Blue Devils are able to make the plays that they need to make in big moments in order to complete these comebacks. It’s also promising that they realize even when they are down big that their best option is to pound the ball inside to the big fellas. As Jeff Eisenberg put it on the CBT podcast, they’re learning lessons without losing games. They’re doing the things that freshmen do — make mistakes — but they have the talent and grit to land come-from-behind wins despite those mistakes.

That matters.

But why does it take them 30 minutes to start playing hard?

And why is their defense so inconsistent for the first 25-30 minutes?

The answer: I have no clue.

But I’m starting to wonder if Duke should just start every game by awarding their opponent ten points.

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.