Monday Overreactions: Indiana, Kansas prove basketball is a ‘make or miss’ sport

Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
0 Comments

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Chris Clemons, Campbell

Oh boy, did Chris Clemons have himself a week.

It started on Wednesday, when the Campbell Fighting Camels went into Radford to take on the Highlanders, who sat all alone in first place in the Big South with an undefeated league record and a win at Texas to their name this season. What did Clemson do? He scored a cool 39 points, shooting 11-for-22 from the floor and 8-for-15 from three en route to a 68-67 win.

He capped it off in style as well:

That wasn’t the end of it, either.

On Saturday, Clemons followed up his first 39 point performance of the week with … another 39 point performance, one that took him past college basketball legends like Larry Bird and Tyler Hansbrough on the career scoring list. All told, Clemons finished the week with 78 points in two games, shooting 23-for-43 from the floor and 18-for-33 from three with just four turnovers.

Unreal.

For the sake of humanity, we need to find a way to get Clemons into the NCAA tournament. There isn’t a person on the planet that would not enjoy seeing Clemons go out and try to put a 50-burger on whatever No. 2 seed the Camels would draw in the first round.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Baylor Bears

Can someone please explain to me what in the hell is going on down in Waco?

Let me lay this one out for you. Playing without Jake Lindsey this season, Baylor started out the year with losses to Texas Southern, Stephen F. Austin and a bad Wichita State team before kicking off Big 12 play with two losses in three games that coincided with Scott Drew finding out that he will be without Tristan Clark, who was developing into one of the best big men in the conference, for the rest of the season.

And what has happened?

The Bears have turned around and become the hottest team in the conference. They’ve won six straight games. They are sitting in first place in the league, tied with Kansas State and a half-game in front of both Iowa State and Kansas, as a week that saw them beat Oklahoma by 30 points in Norman and then smoke TCU by 26 points at home.

So what’s the secret?

It might be as simple as this: Makai Mason, who scored 40 in the win over TCU, missed nearly two full seasons with foot injuries at Yale and then sat out the first three games of the season this year. He’s grown into his role and seems to have figured things out, as has Mario Kegler, who missed the first six games of the season and is now being asked to carry more of the load with Clark gone. Throw in freshman Jared Butler, who was supposed to be at Alabama this year, and what you get is a team that featured nine newcomers finally figuring each other out.

(Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)

MONDAY OVERREACTIONS

1. INDIANA FINALLY DECIDED THEY WANTED TO PLAY HARD

It’s hard to believe that the same team that we all watched lose seven straight games, capped by digging a 17-0 hole at home against Michigan and losing at Rutgers, could waltz into East Lansing on College Gameday and beat Michigan State, but that is now a reality that we live in.

The Hoosiers knocked off the Spartans, 79-75, in overtime despite the fact that they played without Juwan Morgan for more than two-thirds of the game; he injured his shoulder diving for a loose ball early on. He was replaced by the bigger, more physical De’Ron Davis, who has 12 points, six boards and four assists in 25 minutes, more than he played in all of January combined. Devonte Green was back from his three-game suspension as well, but that does not tell the whole story of what happened here.

Indiana played like they actually gave a damn. That’s the truth. They worked defensively. They were unselfish on the offensive end of the floor. They got back in transition and slowed down Sparty’s high-powered fast break. They pounded the offensive glass and created second-chances. They were tough, they were competitive and they played like a team with something to prove, which is what we have been waiting to see out of this group for weeks.

The truth is that the Hoosiers are not as talented as many seem to believe. Romeo Langford is a top ten pick and Juwan Morgan is a really good college player, but the rest of the roster is really young and many of them are in over their heads playing at this level, at least right now, anyway. This is not a roster full of blue-chippers that can show up and win games with their talent. They are blue-collar grinders that have to embrace playing that way.

And they did on Saturday.

2. INDIANA’S WIN ALSO PROVES BASKETBALL’S OLD AXIOM: ‘IT’S A MAKE OR MISS SPORT’

Indiana had been the worst three-point shooting team in the Big Ten entering Saturday. They had made just 25 percent of their threes in league play, a major problem for a team that often plays with four primarily perimeter pieces.

On Saturday, the Hoosiers shot 10-for-20 from three. Five players made at least one three, and three hit multiple triples. During one stretch of the second half, the Hoosiers knocked down six straight three-balls. Including overtime, they were 7-for-10 from beyond after halftime. All of that was happening while Michigan State, who entered Saturday shooting 74 percent from the charity stripe, made just 8-of-22 free throws. Nick Ward shot 1-for-9 from the free throw line.

All of these things are connected. Individually, shooting is about confidence. Collectively, shooting can be contagious. And I firmly believe that the toughness and confidence that Indiana played with defensively impacted the way they were making shots no the other end of the floor. None of this happened in a vacuum, and none of it should take away from what the Hoosiers were able to accomplish.

They went into East Lansing and beat a top ten team on national television.

But pretending that their atypical three-point shooting and Michigan State’s lemon booty performance from the foul line didn’t happen would be like putting air in a flat tire while ignoring that there is still a nail in the treads.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

3. WHICH IS WHY I’M NOT WORRIED ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE, OR MICHIGAN

I know that this is supposed to be a column where I overreact to things that happened during a college basketball weekend, but I just can’t do it with these two teams.

Indiana is better than what they were in January, and they decided to play that way for the first time in a month when they visited East Lansing as one team shot the lights out and the other might as well have let the front row of the student section shoot free throws for them.

It happens.

And the same can be said about Michigan’s loss at Iowa. The Wolverines got in early foul trouble, their backups got whooped by Iowa’s big men (shoutout to Luka Garza and Ryan Kreiner, they had themselves a day) and Michigan as a team just did not play well. Iowa did, and they got a 15 point win out of it.

If anything, this is a sign to me of why it is so difficult to make it through a Big Ten regular season without a loss regardless of how good a basketball team is. Michigan had a couple early whistles go against them, they were not playing well to begin with and Iowa — a top 25-30 team in their own right — capitalized by pounding them into submission.

That happens, too.

4. MY OPINION WON’T CHANGE ON KANSAS UNLESS THEY PROVE THIS SHOOTING WASN’T A ONE-DAY THING

Kansas is another team that found themselves on the right side of a make or miss sport.

In a 79-63 win over Texas Tech on Saturday, the Jayhawks shot 13-for-30 from three. Lagerald Vick, Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes all made multiple three-pointers. The only perimeter starter that didn’t hit multiple threes for the Jayhawks was Ochai Agbaji, who was the best shooter of the group entering the day. The Red Raiders are as good as anyone in college hoops at running shooters off of the three-point line, and Kansas made 6-of-8 to start the game and open up a big first half lead.

I wrote a ‘What’s Wrong With Kansas?‘ column last week, and one of the points that I made was their perimeter pieces were not scoring enough. They weren’t taking the pressure off of Dedric Lawson, who had two and three defenders hounding him every time he touched the ball. The best way to force teams to guard Lawson one-on-one — a losing proposition for anyone — is to make them pay by burying threes.

I’ll buy back into Kansas as one of college basketball’s elites this season if they prove that this shooting performance was not a one-day thing.

5. BUFFALO LOSING DOESN’T MATTER

The last thing I want to point out is that Buffalo lost a road game to Bowling Green on Friday night.

Typically, a mid-major losing in league play is the kind of thing that can cost them a shot at the tournament. Bowling Green was tied for first with Buffalo in the MAC entering Friday night. They were playing at home. If we’re going to be capable of understanding that Michigan can take a loss on the road in league play because winning on the road is hard, then we have to do the same for Buffalo.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

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

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.