Louisville’s NCAA tournament chances in doubt after another Virginia loss

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NEW YORK — And now the waiting game begins.

For the second time in a week, the Louisville Cardinals lost to Virginia, the ACC’s regular season champs, in a game that they had to win if the dream of getting to an NCAA tournament in the worst year in the program’s history was going to come to fruition.

And while this Thursday’s 75-58 loss wasn’t as painful as last Thursday’s 67-66 defeat — a loss that came on a banked-in three at the buzzer of a game the Cardinals led 66-62 at home when they fouled a three-point shooter with 0.9 seconds left on the clock — it is what may have put the final nail in their tournament coffin.

The Cardinals entered Thursday sitting at No. 39 in the RPI, and while three really aren’t many negatives on their résumé — beyond, you know, the 14 losses — the issue is that they quite literally have not beaten anyone good. They are 0-11 against the RPI top 50. Their three Quadrant 1 wins came on the road against Florida State, Miami and Notre Dame. If there was anything that the Selection Committee showed us when they unveiled the top four seeds last month, it’s that they do value quality wins. They need you to prove you can beat good teams.

Can you really be that good if you can’t find a way to get a win over someone better than Florida State?

“Without a doubt,” interim head coach David Padgett said. “Unfortunately that’s not my decision. If you look at our overall body work we haven’t done anything wrong. I think that’s getting lost in the shuffle. People used to put a lot of weight in bad losses.”

“Maybe we haven’t done as much right, but not doing anything wrong is doing something right.”

We’ll find out if he’s right in roughly 72 hours.

Until then, Louisville fans are going to be sweating out every game played involving a bubble team. As of today, BartTorvik.com projects the Cardinals as having an 88.5 percent chance of getting into the NCAA tournament. That, however, doesn’t factor in the games that have yet to be played. Notre Dame probably jumps over the Cardinals with a win over Duke today. Oklahoma State has a chance to land a tourney-clinching win against Kansas. The same with Marquette against Villanova. And Baylor against West Virginia. And Texas against Texas Tech.

Then compare their profile to that of, say, Oklahoma, who has just as many losses and six Quadrant 1 wins to boot.

I saw all that to say this: The next three days are not going to be fun.

But the last three weeks have not been much fun for this program or the people that support it. Their 2013 national title banner came down. Six months ago, their Hall of Fame head coach was fired because he couldn’t withstand a pay for play scheme that the FBI unearthed during an investigation into corruption in college basketball that came on the heels of the NCAA handing down penalties for a scandal involving strippers, hookers and recruits in the basketball dorms.

That happens two and a half years ago.

It has been a long road for the Cardinals to get here.

And the question now is where it will lead, because the future of this program is very much unclear.

Let’s start with the obvious: They have an interim head coach, one that may or may not return next season. They are going to go through a coaching search, but having just finished with an NCAA investigation and with the potential of facing another one because of the money that was allegedly funneled to recruit Brian Bowen by Adidas at the request of Pitino, there is no real clarity on when Louisville will return to being Louisville again.

Even if they are able to hire, say, Xavier head coach Chris Mack or Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall.

And that is assuming that the Cardinals get a coach of that caliber. There’s no guarantee that Mack or Marshall will say yes, at which point Louisville could find themselves faced with a choice between wildly overpaying for a guy that only kind of want, or rolling with Padgett in the short-term as a low-cost option to try and get them through the doldrums.

Their 2018 recruiting class has already been torched. How many guys currently on the roster are going to want to deal with the drama or risk potentially having to play through another postseason ban? This team has been through more than any team in recent memory, which is part of Padgett’s pitch to the Selection Committee.

“Their head coach that they came here to play for got relieved of his duties three days before practice starts,” Padgett said. “I coached the team by myself for three weeks. I’m not able to hire assistant coaches for the first month of the season. We have to deal with the distractions of a scandal that happened before most of them were even here. It just kind of goes on and on.”

“But hey, the way these guys, for being 18 to 22 years old, have handled it is absolutely remarkable. Whatever happens on Sunday, they deserve a ton of credit for that publicly, because so many times this year they could have just folded up and said, this is not why we came here. They could have felt sorry for themselves. And not one single time throughout the last four or five months did they do that. And I mean that with all sincerity. It’s been the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen.”

Louisville is one of college basketball’s biggest and best brands.

They’ll be back at some point.

But regardless of whether or not there is good news at the end of this three-day window, whether or not Louisville ends up in the 2018 NCAA tournament, the waiting game for this fanbase has only just begun.

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.