No. 18 Texas Tech picks off No. 10 Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse

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It feels like we go through this every year.

At some point during the season, maybe after an unexpected loss in non-conference play or an ugly start to the Big 12 schedule, we ask whether or not this is the year where the streak will end, where the Kansas run of 13 straight conference regular season titles will cease.

That point is tonight.

No. 10 Kansas trailed for 40 minutes on Tuesday night, falling behind No. 18 Texas Tech 23-7 within the first ten minutes and never getting closer than six points the rest of the way.

Keenan Evans, who is Texas Tech’s best player, led the way with 15 points and three assists, although he shot just 4-for-16 from the floor. As a team, the Red Raiders were 6-for-24 from three. This wasn’t a case of a team walking into Allen Fieldhouse and shooting the lights out. Texas Tech was the tougher team. They got to the glass, they executed their game-plan better and they were the first to every loose ball. Chris Beard’s club was, quite simply, better, and it wasn’t all that close.

“They have good players and they’re experienced so I would say that helped but I look out there and I see two freshmen wearing us out just as much as the seniors were,” Bill Self said Tuesday night. “Age is irrelevant when it comes to competing and trying.”

Texas Tech is the real deal.

The Red Raiders aren’t a basketball powerhouse so it might take awhile for this to catch on, but they could very well be the best team in the conference. Beard has amassed a roster that has some ridiculous athletes, size all over the roster, a killer at the point in Evans and a team that is just as hungry to prove themselves as Beard is. There are some vagabonds on this roster. There are some underrecruited freshmen on this roster. There are holdovers from the Tubby Smith era that have fully bought into what Beard is selling.

The truth is this: Beard’s club is just good enough offensively that they are going to be able to win a lot of games with their defense. They force turnovers as well as just about anyone. They run opponents off the three-point line as well as just about anyone. They have enough big bodies in the paint – and they rotate well enough defensively – that open looks at the rim are not going to be easy to come by when those opponents do get run off the three-point line.

And that just so happened to matchup perfectly with a Kansas team that wants to spend 40 minutes zipping the ball around the perimeter and hoisting up threes.

I’m not sure I am quite ready to dub Texas Tech the best team in the Big 12, not when Trae Young exists, not when West Virginia is just now hitting their stride and getting Esa Ahmad back in two weeks. Hell, I’m not going to completely write off a Kansas team that added Sam Cunliffe, is still adding Silvio De Dousa and could also end up getting Billy Preston eligible.

That trio, combined with Devonte’ Graham and the Phog, would put the Jayhawks right back in the mix.

But as of today, it is officially time to say that the Jayhawks are no longer the favorite to win the Big 12, and there are a couple of reasons to say that.

For starters, the Phog is not the fortress that it has been in the past. Arizona State walked in and whipped up on Kansas in that building. Texas Tech did the same. Part of the reason that the Jayhawks have been able to keep this streak going as long as they have is that they are damn near unbeatable in their building. When you are locked into nine wins in an 18 game league schedule because the Phog is the Phog, it’s hard for anyone to keep pace.

In a conference where the margins are going to be fine, Texas Tech landing a road win in Lawrence immediately gives them an edge.

Because the league is ridiculous this season.

TCU was undefeated and ranked No. 10 in the country last week and they may be the fifth-best team in the league at this point.

Road wins, particularly those against the top of the league, are not going to be easy to come by.

But the bigger issue is that Kansas just is not all that good.

We’ve talked about the lack of talent on the roster. We’ve talked about their issues on the defensive end of the floor. We’ve talked about the fact that there really is only one player that can create a shot that isn’t a three – Devonte’ Graham – and that he isn’t a guy that loves creating off the dribble.

Everything that I wrote in this ‘What’s Wrong With Kansas?’ story from three weeks ago still holds true today.

But the biggest issue is No. 2 on that list: There is not enough toughness of leadership on this roster.

Frank Mason and Josh Jackson were alphas. They were pitbulls. Competitors. Whatever the cliché du jour is, they were.

“Let’s just call it like it is,” Self said last month. “You’re replacing Frank with somebody who’s not near as competitive as Frank. You’re replacing Josh with somebody who’s not near as competitive as Josh. And you’re replacing Landen with somebody that doesn’t know how to be competitive yet. Those aren’t negatives. Those are just facts. I mean, we had two-and-a-half dogs last year, and Landen was close to being a full one.”

With those two gone, Kansas doesn’t have that guy, and it showed in the body language of the guys on the roster in the second half. By the 10 minute mark, it was clear Kansas was never going to seriously mount a comeback attempt, and the bad news for Jayhawk fans is that none of Preston, De Sousa or Cunliffe are the answer to that problem.

What that means is that whoever the actual favorite to win the Big 12 is, it is not Kansas.

Not this year.

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.