Saturday’s Things To Know: Louisville, Ole Miss roll as no top ten teams lose

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Blake Hinson, Ole Miss

Freshman guard Blake Hinson picked a terrific day to put together the best basketball game that he has ever played.

Playing on the road against a top 15 team in a rivalry game, Hinson scored a career-high 26 points on 8-for-16 shooting while hitting five threes as the Rebels improved to 13-2 on the season and 3-0 in the SEC with an 81-77 win at No. 14 Mississippi State.

Not bad for a player in just his third career conference game.

“I was super fun,” Hinson said, and I do not doubt that it was.

The bigger story here, however, is that suddenly, out of nowhere, the Rebels look like a team that is going to be very relevant at the top of the SEC this season. This is now their second straight win over a top 15 team — on Wednesday, they beat No. 11 Auburn by 15 points at home — and currently sit in first place in the league, tied with Tennessee. Weird things happen in conference play, and it is probably too early to jump to too many conclusions, but I do think it’s fair to say that there has not been a more pleasant surprise in the SEC this year and there may not be a single coach in the country that is outperforming expectations more than Davis is in his first season in Oxford.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Louisville Cardinals

Louisville entered Saturday just 72 hours removed from losing at Pittsburgh, and with a trip to North Carolina and the Dean Dome coming up, I’m not sure how many people expected much of anything from the Cardinals.

Those people, apparently, were foolish.

Because Louisville went out and absolutely smacked the Tar Heels around. They held Luke Maye to 3-for-14 shooting. They kept Coby White from having any kind of impact, and he didn’t hit a single field goal and finished with as many turnovers as he did points. They limited the Tar Heels to 34.5 percent shooting form the floor and a 3-for-22 mark from deep, and the reward for all of that hard work was an 83-62 win.

It was, believe it or not, the worst home loss that North Carolina has suffered under head coach Roy Williams, and frankly, seeing that happen at the hands of this iteration of the Louisville Cardinals is not something I ever expected to see happen.

So good for Louisville and good for Chris Mack. This win more or less cements a trip to the NCAA tournament so long as the Cardinals find a way to remain above .500 in league play.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Cam Reddish, Duke

Reddish scored 23 points, carrying Duke after Zion Williamson went out with an eye injury and hitting the game-winning three to beat no. 13 Florida State in Tallahassee, 80-78.

More on the Blue Devils below.

EXTRA ONIONS

There were plenty of helpings of onions on Saturday.

Let’s start with D’Marcus Simonds, who traveled while making this game-winning shot and then hopped on twitter to let the world know that, yes, he did travel, and he also committed an offensive foul, too:

Then there was this shot from Texas A&M’s T.J. Starks to beat Alabama on the road:

And this miracle from UTEP:

What a day, folks.

What a day.

SATURDAY’S WINNERS

TOP TEN TEAMS ON THE ROAD: I would have bet any amount of money that, at some point today, one of the seven top ten teams that were playing on the road would lose.

Someone, somewhere, playing a road game in league play would have an off shooting night, get a couple of bad whistles and head home with a loss.

And I would have been very, very wrong.

  • No. 1 Duke beat No. 13 Florida State, and once that three from Cam Reddish went down, I should have known that there was no chance a top ten team was losing.
  • No. 3 Tennessee pulled away from Florida down the stretch before Grant Williams and the rest of the Volunteers went full Marshall Henderson, gator chomping the entire student section:

  • No. 4 Virginia was barely challenged at Clemson, leaving South Carolina with a 20-point win despite barely breaking 60 themselves.
  • No. 5 Gonzaga was tied with San Francisco with less than three minutes left, but a pair of threes created separated and, eventually, the Zags would win 96-83, covering the spread by the time it was all said and done.
  • No. 7 Kansas got 18 points from Lagerald Vick as they went into Waco and picked off Baylor.
  • No. 8 Texas Tech got 22 points from Matt Mooney in a 68-62 win over Texas.
  • And No. 10 Nevada was able to take care of Fresno State on the road despite the fact that Fresno State looks like the second-best team in that league.

It was the rare day where an upset of a top ten team was nowhere to be found. This will not be the norm.

KANSAS STATE: At 8:16 p.m. ET on Wednesday I texted a prominent college basketball writer and asked if this was going to be the year where Bruce Weber would get fired. At that exact moment in time, the Wildcats were trailing West Virginia 42-21 at home in the second half.

Things looked bad.

Since I sent that text, Kansas State proceeded to outscore West Virginia 50-27 to win that game by two points, and then they went into Ames and knocked off No. 20 Iowa State, 58-57, in the gym that Kansas couldn’t find a way to beat the Cyclones. That’s one way to stick it to the idiots that are questioning job security.

KRISTIAN DOOLITTLE: Doolitte finished with 24 points and 10 boards to lead No. 23 Oklahoma as they knocked off No. 25 TCU, 76-74, in Norman. The Sooners trailed at the half, but with this win they keep pace with the rest of the league as they make a run at Kansas and a Big 12 regular season title.

SATURDAY’S LOSERS

OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes lost their third straight game on Saturday, falling at Iowa after losing at Rutgers and at home against Michigan State the last two games. Chris Holtmann can work magic as a head coach, but eventually the youth on their roster was going to catch up with it.

IOWA STATE: The Dauster Curse strikes again! Every time I get on board with a team, they immediately fall off of a cliff. This is proven. It’s a scientific fact. Last week, I called Iowa State a top ten team. This week, they lost at Baylor and they lost at home to Kansas State, who look like two of the bottom four teams in the Big 12.

I guess I’d like to walk that one back.

ST. JOHN’S: I know that the Johnnies were playing without Shamorie Ponds, but that doesn’t make a home loss to DePaul any more palatable. It’s not going to have all that much of an effect on their NCAA tournament standing — St. John’s is going to be dancing, and Ponds’ absence will be factored in by the committee — but this drops them two games behind Villanova atop the Big East standings.

But no one cares about regular season titles these days anyway.

SYRACUSE: The Orange lost by 14 points on Saturday. At home. To Georgia Tech. That’s not good, not when they have already lost to Buffalo, Old Dominion, Oregon and UConn. And guess what? They play at Duke on Monday. Good luck!

FINAL THOUGHT

Saturday was all the evidence that you needed that Duke is the best team in college basketball this season.

The Blue Devils were on the road playing against a top 15 team in a gym that has been their bugaboo for the last decade or so, and they played the entire second half without the player that just about everyone with a pulse believes will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and the National Player of the Year this year.

And it didn’t really matter.

Florida State looked pretty good, but R.J. Barrett (32 points) and Cam Reddish (23 points and the game-winning three) looked even better. It’s an embarrassment of riches, really. Lose the No. 1 overall pick and suddenly the third consensus top five pick, the one that has struggled for the last month of the season, figures things out and drops 23.

I’m sure that is a nice security blanket to have.

Reddish is actually the most interesting part of the Duke season. He is immensely talented — there are still people out there that think he has the highest ceiling of the three Duke freshmen — but he’s been in a funk for the last five weeks. He played just 16 minutes against Clemson and 20 minutes against Texas Tech and at Wake Forest. He entered Saturday shooting 25.4 percent from the floor and 18.4 percent from three over his last six games. It has not been pretty.

Saturday, however, was different. Without Zion Williamson on the floor, space and touches opened up, and Reddish pounced.

The question now is how he responds. Does this get him more involved in the offense? Does this mean that he’ll start knocking down the shots that he gets? Does this get Coach K to run more stuff for him?

Because the truth is that the issue here isn’t talent, it’s role. With Williamson, Barrett and Tre Jones on the roster, there are three players that play with the ball in their hands, and that’s actually what Reddish does best. It’s been an adjustment, one he has yet to truly figure out.

Was this the moment he woke up?

Because if it is, Duke just became scary.

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.