Introducing Cinderella: Loyola-Chicago earns first bid since 1985

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ConferenceMissouri Valley

CoachPorter Moser

Record28-5 (15-3 MVC)

Ratings and Rankings:

– Kenpom: 45
– RPI: 23
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding:  With the defections of Creighton and Wichita State, the Missouri Valley is a one-bid league for the foreseeable future, but it’s mostly well-regarded, despite the losses of the powerhouses, and the Ramblers cleared the field by four games. Their December win over Florida in Gainesville goes a ways, too. Right now, it looks like Loyola is headed to a 12, which will likely make them a trendy upset pick in plenty of brackets.

Names you need to knowClayton Custer started his career under Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State, but the Kansas City native transferred out after a freshman season in which he rarely saw the floor. Since then, he blossomed into the MVC player of the year during a senior season in which he averaged 13.7 points, 4.2 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 53.4 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range. Donte Ingram (11.4), Marques Townes (11.4), Aundre Jackson (11.0 and Cameron Krutwig (10.4) give the Ramblers five players averaging in double figures.

Stats you need to knowIf you don’t count CCNY, which dropped to Division III in 1963, Loyola has the fewest-ever NCAA tournament appearances for a program that owns a national championship. The Ramblers won the 1963 NCAA tournament, defeating Duke in the semifinals and Cincinnati in the title game, and made the field in three of the next five years before a 17-year hiatus and their return to the Big Dance in 1985, which was their last appearance.

Big wins, bad lossesThe win on the Gators’ home floor is unquestionably Loyola’s best, and it’s also the only KenPom top-100 win on their resume. Their only top-125 wins were their three against Northern Iowa, which tied for the second-worst record in the MVC. Their worst loss came just 10 days after beating Florida when they lost at Milwaukee, which ranks outside the top-200.

How’d they get here?Since a loss on the last day of January at Bradley, the Ramblers have reeled off 10-straight, including wins over UNI (54-50), Bradley (62-54) and Illinois State (XXXXX).

OutlookWith a veteran team (four of their top five players are upperclassmen) who shoots the lights out (40.1 percent outside the arc and 56.9 percent inside), Loyola has the profile of a team capable of winning a game – or two – should they get the right matchup and catch fire or at least shoot their average. If their opponent allows them to control the tempo, Loyola has a great shot at shortening the game and shooting their way into an upset.

How do I know you?Porter Moser is in his third stint as a head coach and second go-round in the MVC. He started at Arkansas-Little Rock before a four-year run at Illinois State from 2003-07. He then spent four years on the bench alongside Rick Majerus at St. Louis before getting another crack at the MVC with the Ramblers. He’s in his seventh season in Chicago and will be making his first-ever NCAA tournament appearance as a head coach.

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.