Bubble Banter: All of the weekend’s bubble action in one place

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Now that conference play is just about done and the NCAA tournament is right around the corner, it is time for us to get fully invested in the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament. 
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Ole Miss, Ohio State, Auburn, Wofford, Baylor, Minnesota, St. John’s, Syracuse.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

TCU (NET: 41, SOS: 33): The Horned Frogs are the biggest winners of the day, as they avoided a second half collapse to land their second win of the season over Iowa State (14), 75-72. TCU is not 18-9 overall, and while they are 6-8 in the Big 12, they don’t have a bad loss to their name right now. Losing at Oklahoma State (87) is the only time they’ve lost to a team that isn’t at the very least in the bubble picture. The problem with their resume is that the only Q1 wins that they currently have are against the Cyclones; TCU is 2-6 against Q1 and 5-3 against Q2.

WOFFORD (NET: 24, SOS: 152): The Terriers continued to build on their at-large profile by going into Furman (45) and knocking off the Palladins, 72-62. That’s Wofford’s third Q1 win of the season, and they don’t have a single loss to their name that is “worse” that at Oklahoma. For my money, Wofford will be an at-large as long as they don’t lose at Chattanooga and at Samford.

CLEMSON (NET: 44, SOS: 31): Beating Boston College (123) at home isn’t going to change all that much for the Tigers, but for a team that is currently sitting at one of the First Four Out in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection, that’s a loss that would have been tough to survive.

VCU (NET: 37, SOS: 32): The Rams blew out George Washington, which is exactly what they need to do. With the way their schedule has shaken out — a non-conference win at Texas (35) and over Temple (56) on a neutral — and the lack of quality wins available in the Atlantic 10, VCU is in a spot where they simply cannot afford a loss to any of the teams left on their schedule.

UTAH STATE (NET: 36, SOS: 123): I’m not quite sure how Utah State managed it, but the Aggies found a way to win in overtime after blowing a big lead and finding themselves down late. That’s their fourth straight win and their 11th win in the last 12 games. That’s really what the Aggies need to do until they get a shot at Nevada (22) at home on March 2nd.

FLORIDA (NET: 31, SOS: 29): After going into Baton Rouge and beating LSU (17) in overtime on Wednesday night, the Gators very nearly found a way to ruin all the positive momentum they had built by struggling with Missouri (92) at home. Florida does have 11 losses this season, but 10 of those 11 losses are against Q1 opponents. The problem? They have just three Q1 wins. The question for Florida is going to end up being simple: Does the committee value a resume like this over a resume like Furman’s? Both have one elite win and one Q3 loss. The difference is that the Gators got 13 chances for Q1 wins while Furman only got six.

N.C. STATE (NET: 32, SOS: 208): The Wolfpack could not afford to lose at home to Wake Forest (192), and they didn’t. Kevin Keatts’ team has a resume that looks an awful lot lie a mid-major teams’ resume. They have one Q1 win — at home against an Auburn team that has one win over a tournament team — and one Q3 loss, but the bigger issue is a non-conference SOS that ranks 352nd nationally. I think they have to win at Florida State (24) on Saturday, at this point.

ALABAMA (NET: 51, SOS: 27): The Crimson Tide jumped out to a big, early lead on Vanderbilt (132) and never looked back on Saturday. Alabama does not have a great profile — they are 2-6 against Q1 with a 16-11 record and two Q3 losses — but they do have a win over Kentucky (5) that looks better and better with each blowout win that the Wildcats land.

UCF (NET: 39, SOS: 72): The Knights absolutely obliterated SMU (103) on Sunday, beating them 95-48. That looks great in the box score. It doesn’t help their tournament resume all that much, though. UCF is still 0-3 against Q1 opponents, and while they are 6-2 against Q2, they have no wins over top 50 competition and they lost at home to FAU (153), a Q3 loss. The Knights either need to win at Houston (4) or beat Cincinnati at home (50) if they don’t want to sweat out Selection Sunday.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 66, SOS: 69): It was more of a sweat than it should have been, but the Sun Devils got the job done in the end, winning at home against Cal and avoiding another brutal loss on their resume. As it stands, ASU sits at 4-1 against Q1 opponents with a 4-4 record against Q2, but they’ve lost to Utah (102), Washington State (168) and Princeton (170) at home. No one else near the bubble has three losses that are quite that bad.

BELMONT (NET: 53, SOS: 217): Belmont has two more landmines to dodge in the regular season after they beat up on SIU-Edwardsville on Saturday night. If they can get to the OVC tournament without taking another loss, and if they can find a way to lose to Murray State and only Murray State in the OVC tournament, then I think that the Bruins have a real chance to get a big. They have ins at Lipscomb, at Murray State and at UCLA.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 38, SOS: 13): Have the Sooners figured things out? After snapping a five-game losing streak last Saturday at TCU (41), they turned that into a winning streak by beating Texas (41) at home this Saturday. The Sooners are 17-10 on the season and 5-9 in the Big 12, but with a couple of good wins — Wofford (24) at home, Florida (31) on a neutral, at TCU (41) — they are in a good spot considering the state of the bubble this year.

TEMPLE (NET: 54, SOS: 63): Temple picked off a Tulsa team that has been playing better of late, but the issue the Owls are currently facing is that there isn’t really a way to drastically improve their profile until the American tournament starts. As it stands, we have them in a play-in game. Essentially every game they play is a must-win at this point.

LOSERS

GEORGETOWN (NET: 69, SOS: 75): The Hoyas had a chance to add another Q1 win on Saturday afternoon, and instead they went into Omaha and lost 82-69 to Creighton (57). The Hoyas are still in a decent spot thanks to last week’s win over Villanova (27) at home, but the Wildcats are barely a Q1 win and Georgetown has also lost to SMU (101) at home and to Loyola Marymount (153) on a neutral. Those are two Q3 losses. Georgetown’s schedule closes out like this: DePaul (111), Seton Hall (64), at DePaul (111), at Marquette (18). I think they need to win out to get an at-large bid.

FURMAN (NET: 45, SOS: 232): The Palladins are going to be a very interesting team come Selection Sunday. They are 19-6 on the season and 11-5 in the SoCon, but because of the strength of that league, four of those five leagues losses are actually Q1 losses. One of those is today’s loss to Wofford (24) at home. There are three other things here to note:

  • 1. Furman won at Villanova (27) back in November.
  • 2. They lost at home to Samford (156), which is a Q3 loss.
  • 3. Their non-conference SOS is 252nd nationally, a number that is not ideal. That’s why 14 of their wins are Q4 wins.

Frankly, I think that it is No. 3 that will end up costing the Palladins an at-large bid.

SETON HALL (NET: 64, SOS: 51): The Pirates lost at St. John’s (49) on Saturday, and in a vacuum, that’s probably not a loss that is going to hurt them. That is a Q1 loss, and given where Seton Hall currently sits on the bubble, they can survive it. The problem? They finish up the year at Georgetown and with Marquette and Villanova at home. That is a tough finish for a team that is already 16-11 overall.

TEXAS (NET: 35, SOS: 9): Playing without Kerwin Roach, Texas went into Norman and lost to Oklahoma (38), 69-67. That’s the seventh Q1 loss for the Longhorns this season. On the season, they’re 15-12 overall with four Q1 wins and an 8-11 mark against the top two quadrants. Throw in a home loss to Radford (130) and Texas is nowhere near safe despite the fact that they have a neutral court win over North Carolina (9), home wins over Purdue (11) and Kansas (15) and a win at Kansas State (28). This team is the perfect example of why the bubble is so soft this season.

NEBRASKA (NET: 46, SOS: 92): Nebraska lost 75-72 at home against Purdue (11). They’re now 14-13 on the season. I have them here because if they end the season with wins at Michigan (7), at Michigan State (8) and over Iowa (30) in Lincoln, they’ll be in. But that’s a big ‘if’.

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.