Bubble Banter: All of Wednesday’s bubble action in one spot

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The most recent NBC Sports bracket projection can be found here

WINNERS

GEORGETOWN (NET: 81, SOS: 80): During most seasons, Georgetown’s profile wouldn’t merit inclusion in any sort of bubble discussion. The Hoyas played an incredibly weak non-conference schedule. They were 5-7 in the Big East entering Wednesday night. But after knocking off Villanova at home for a Q1 win, somehow, the Hoyas continue to hold an outside shot at an at-large bid. Standing at 3-4 in Q1 contests and 4-4 in Q2 games, Georgetown has been respectable against the limited quality competition they’ve played. The 2-2 Q3 mark and the non-conference schedule will be a lot to overcome during the next few weeks.

FLORIDA (NET: 33, SOS: 29): Sitting at “First Four Out” status, the Gators might have just played their way in (for now) with a massive overtime road win at No. 13 LSU. Florida’s best Q1 win of the season could not have come at a better time as the Gators now have two such wins within the past five days. Although they’re only 3-10 against Q1 teams, that record looks a lot better than the 1-10 mark Florida was at last week. Riding a three-game winning streak, the next three games on the schedule (Missouri, at Vanderbilt, Georgia) are all winnable for the Gators as they have a chance to build some momentum heading into a final two games that includes a rematch with LSU and a road game at Kentucky. Florida still needs to take care of business the next few weeks, but this is the kind of win they desperately needed at this point in the season.

SYRACUSE (NET: 48, SOS: 24): Putting together a convincing ACC home win over No. 18 Louisville, the Orange helped themselves immensely with another Q1 win. Sitting at a No. 9 seed before this outcome, Syracuse now finds themselves at 3-4 against Q1 teams and a solid 4-2 against Q2 teams. Perhaps most importantly, Syracuse got the Q1 win here that they had to have. The final five games on the Orange’s schedule includes games against three top-ten teams — Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. So this Louisville win is a solid insurance policy heading into a rough final stretch. As long as the Orange don’t fall to Wake, while also ideally taking care of Clemson, they should be able to get in even if they drop a couple.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 68, SOS: 67): Alternating wins and losses for seven consecutive games, the Sun Devils finally settled down and started mini win streak with a home win over Stanford. The win is only of the Q3 variety for Arizona State, but as a team hovering in “Last Four Byes” territory, they’ll take what they can get in the win column. The next Sun Devil game at home against Cal should be a breeze. Three consecutive road games to close the regular season is where things get intriguing for Arizona State as they finish at Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona. Work is still left to do, but Arizona State did what they were supposed to here.

OHIO STATE (NET: 45, SOS: 59): The Buckeyes did what they needed to do in taking care of Northwestern at home for a Q3 win. Snapping a two-game slide with the victory, Ohio State has a brutal Big Ten conference slate to end the regular season, as this is a positive start. With four of their last five games coming against top-25 teams (at Maryland, Iowa, at Purdue, Wisconsin), things are certainly going to be difficult for the Buckeyes. But they’ll also have ample opportunities to take themselves off the bubble as they have a lot of Q1 games left.

N.C. STATE (NET: 31, SOS: 209): Escaping with an overtime win over Boston College, the Wolfpack avoided a potentially disastrous loss to start a mostly easy stretch of schedule to end the season. Only a Q3 win on Wednesday, N.C. State has Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and a road return to Boston College left on the schedule. All of those games probably need to be wins for the Pack to feel safe. The most important game left, however, is the road game at Florida State that offers a Q1 opportunity to potentially solidify an at-large bid.

UTAH STATE (NET: 34, SOS: 122): Putting away New Mexico with a strong second half, Utah State did what they needed to do to earn a Q4 home win. Since the Mountain West is so weak this season, the Aggies are awaiting the opportunity to get another crack at top-ten Nevada as Utah State hosts the Wolf Pack on March 2nd. Until then the Aggies just need to avoid any other losses if they hope to get an at-large spot.

LOSERS

SETON HALL (NET: 60, SOS: 46): Trouble could be on the horizon for the Pirates after a home loss to Xavier. Suffering a Q3 loss at this point in the season could really sting as Seton Hall is now a mediocre 4-3 against that group. The good news for the Pirates is that they still have plenty of games to pick up quality wins. Road games at St. John’s and Georgetown and home games against Marquette and Villanova all spell opportunities for Seton Hall to strengthen the profile before the end of the regular season. But that’s also a very tough four-game stretch that will require Seton Hall to win at least a few of those games.

ARKANSAS (NET: 71, SOS: 46): Four consecutive losses likely takes the Razorbacks off the bubble after a blowout road loss at Auburn. Now only 1-7 against Q1 teams and 2-3 against Q2 teams, Arkansas just doesn’t have the quality wins to get into the Field of 68. If Arkansas has any hope of an at-large, they’ll have to win out to close the regular season — including a road game at Kentucky and home games with Ole Miss and Alabama. For a young team in the midst of a losing streak, that doesn’t seem very likely at this point.

BUTLER (NET: 49, SOS: 28): At “Last Four In” status heading into Wednesday, the Bulldogs dropped a game at No. 11 Marquette in which they led at halftime. Missing out on a critical Q1 road win will sting, as Butler sits at an uninspiring 1-7 against that group of teams. The Bulldogs can’t hang their heads with so many important games ahead. Two against Providence, a road game at Villanova and a home game against Xavier looms as Butler needs all the wins they can get to land in the tournament.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 38, SOS: 234): Falling to Florida Gulf Coast likely means the at-large dream is over for the Bison as they’ve now lost two of their last three games. While Lipscomb is still a big contender to potentially win the autobid out of the Atlantic Sun (along with Liberty), a Q4 loss — with an already-shaky at-large profile — isn’t going to cut it. At this point in the season, Lipscomb just doesn’t have enough Q1 and Q2 opportunities left to play its way back into an at-large position.

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.