Bubble Banter: Indiana is back on the bubble

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There is now just under a month left in conference play, so it is time for us to go all-in on 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: Wofford, Baylor, St. John’s, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Ohio State, Auburn and N.C. State.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

UCF (NET: 34, SOS: 73): We wrote all about the Knights’ win here.

INDIANA (NET: 58, SOS: 179): Look, I get it. Indiana is 15-14 on the season. They are 6-12 in the Big Ten. They have been a massive disappointment based off of what the expectations were for this team back in November. But after knocking off No. 6 Michigan State in Bloomington on how many teams in all of college basketball can match these five wins: A sweep of Michigan State (6), Wisconsin (15), Marquette (21), Louisville (25). They also won at Penn State (50) and beat Butler (55) on a neutral.

Overall, Indiana is 6-9 in Q1 games. All 14 of their losses have come against Q1 and Q2 competition. And in a year where we are talking about teams without anything even remotely close to a quality win on their resume, Indiana, at the very least, is in the thick of the conversation.

CREIGHTON (NET: 57, SOS: 27): Creighton landed an enormous win on Sunday, as they went into Milwaukee and picked off Marquette (19), landing by far their best win of the season. The Bluejays are just 15-13 on the season against Division I competition, but if we’re considering Texas and Indiana for at-large bids, then we have to put Creighton into the mix as well. Why? Because they now have a marquee win to add to a profile that is not nearly as bad as you might think. They now have three Q1 wins — Clemson (40) on a neutral and at Georgetown (72) — and currently sit at 9-13 against Q1 and Q2 competition. Their worst loss of the season came at Xavier (70) and they played the No. 11 schedule in all of college basketball.

The Bluejays finish out the season with DePaul and Providence at home. They need to win both of those and probably win at least a game or two in the Big East tournament to really feel comfortable. They have some ground to make up, but in a year where the bubble is this weak, they’re very much in the mix.

TEXAS (NET: 37, SOS: 9): The Longhorns absolutely blitzed a short-handed Iowa State (14) on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak in Big 12 play. Texas, like Indiana, is now sitting in a spot where their ugly record (15-13 overall, 8-8 in Big 12 play) is overshadowed by the number of good wins that they have landed. The Longhorns beat North Carolina (8) on a neutral. They beat Purdue (12), Iowa State (14) and Kansas (17) in Austin. They won at Kansas State (28) by 20. Add those wins to a 5-8 mark against Q1, a 9-11 record against Q1 and Q2 combined and two bad losses — Providence (77) and Radford (130) at home — and you’re looking at a mediocre team with a resume that is top heavy.

UTAH STATE (NET: 33, SOS: 116): This was the win that Utah State needed. Playing at home against the best that the MWC has to offer — No. 12 Nevada (19) — the Aggies landed the marquee win that their resume was missing. The Aggies are now 2-2 against Q1 opponents with a neutral court win over Saint Mary’s (39), and while they do have a couple of losses that bring the resume down — at San Diego State (128) and Fresno State (88) at home — this is a win that should put the Aggies on the right side of the bubble heading into Monday. If they can pick off Colorado State in Fort Collins next Tuesday, they’ll win a share of the MWC regular season title and they should be dancing.

FURMAN (NET: 47, SOS: 200): Furman’s SoCon regular season came to an end on Saturday with a win at Chattanooga, meaning that the Palladins will head into the conference tournament with an outside chance of getting an at-large bid. And frankly, when it comes down to it, the decision that the committee is likely going to be put to is whether or not they like the profile of a team like Furman — or UNC Greensboro, or Lipscomb, or Belmont, or anyone that didn’t stockpile games against Q1 opponents — or a team like the two you see above, Texas and Indiana.

Furman has a marquee win at Villanova. They also have a Q4 loss at home against Samford. Other than that, they’ve lost five Q1 games of which four were league opponents. They finished 21-6 on the season against Division I opponents. They have a non-conference SOS that ranks 281st. It’s hardly a perfect resume, which begs the question — are you more impressed by teams that take advantage of the one or two chances they get to play power conference teams, or by the teams that stockpile good-to-great wins a third of the time they get to play them?

There are no good answers, so my vote would be for the mid-majors.

UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 61, SOS: 118): The Spartans are in basically the same spot as Furman after beating Mercer on Saturday. They don’t have the elite win — their Q1 win is at East Tennessee State (65) — but they also don’t have a bad loss.

VCU (NET: 36, SOS: 39): It wasn’t easy, but VCU got the job done at Richmond, winning a rivalry game, 69-66, and avoiding what would have been their third Q3 loss of the year. The Rams are in pretty good shape at this point, but with every game left on their schedule a potential bad loss, they really want to win out.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 63, SOS: 84): The Sun Devils got a big boost this weekend. Not only did they beat Oregon State (83) on the road to add their seventh Q2 win to their resume, but Utah State (30) beat Nevada, helping boost their NET ranking; ASU beat Utah State on a neutral. The Sun Devils are 3-3 against Q1, but they also have two Q3 losses and two Q4 losses.

TEMPLE (NET: 56, SOS: 67): The Owls did what they needed to do to keep themselves in contention for an at-large bid — they knocked off a bad Tulane team. At this point, I don’t think that they can afford another loss and stay on the right side of the bubble.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 74, SOS: 89): Georgetown moved to 18-11 on the season on Saturday, picking up a double-overtime win over Seton Hall (64) in D.C. The Hoyas profile is not great, but it might be better than you think. They have three Q1 wins and a 9-9 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents, but they also have a pair of Q3 losses — SMU (106) at home and Loyola-Marymount (148) on a neutral court. The more damaging part of their profile might be their non-conference schedule, which ranks 248th. The committee has shown in the past that they punish teams who don’t schedule tough.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 41, SOS: 12): The Sooners smoked West Virginia, which means basically nothing beyond avoiding a bad loss on their resume. Because as it stands, that’s the best thing about Oklahoma’s resume right now. They are 3-9 against Q1 opponents — Wofford (18), Florida on a neutral (29), at TCU (43) — with seven Q2 wins and no bad losses. I think they need a split in their last two games — Kansas (17) and at Kansas State (28).

BELMONT (NET: 50, SOS: 222): The Bruins smacked around SEMO on Saturday night. They finished the regular season with a 24-4 record and a 16-2 mark in the OVC. They swept Lipscomb (46), they won at Murray State (52) and they beat UCLA (108) in Pauley Pavilion. They’re 5-1 against Q1 and Q2 opponents, but they also have three Q3 losses. The only way they can get an at-large bid is if they lose to Murray State in the OVC tournament.

MURRAY STATE (NET: 54, SOS: 286): Murray State is in a similar spot to Belmont in that they ended the regular season with a gaudy record in a mediocre league. They also only have a chance of getting an at-large if they lose to Belmont in the OVC tournament. The difference is that I think they are in a much more difficult position. The Racers lost both of the Q1 games they’ve played and their best win is a sweep of Austin Peay (129).

LIPSCOMB (NET: 46, SOS: 206): It’s a longshot for Lipscomb, but there is still a chance thanks to a pair of Q1 wins — at TCU (43) and at Liberty (62). The only way they can get an at-large bid is if they lose to Liberty in the Atlantic Sun title game, but even that might not be enough.

LOSERS

CLEMSON (NET: 43, SOS: 38): Clemson lost another heartbreaker on Saturday, this time falling by two points at home against a North Carolina team that would have been the marquee win that this team is sorely missing. The Tigers are 17-12 overal. They have one top 45 win — Virginia Tech (11) at home without Justin Robinson — and while they don’t have any bad losses, they are 5-12 against Q1 and Q2. That’s not good enough, and with at Notre Dame (102) and Syracuse (44) left on their schedule, this was their last chance in the regular season to land a resume-changing win.

FLORIDA (NET: 31, SOS: 49): Just when we thought that the Gators had finally figured things out, they go and they lose to Georgia (109) at home. Florida had won five straight games prior to Saturday night, but none of those wins were all that impressive. They have just one top 35 win — at LSU (13) — and while they sit at 3-9 against Q1 opponents, two of those three Q1 wins are at Alabama (49) and at Arkansas (74). They also have a pair of Q3 losses — tonight’s loss to Georgia and a loss at home to South Carolina (86).

And here’s the craziest part — Florida was a No. 10 seed in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection entering the weekend.

ALABAMA (NET: 49, SOS: 32): If you want an idea of why Indiana has a really, really good chance of getting into the NCAA tournament, all you need to know is that entering today, most brackets had Alabama on the right side of the bubble. They were a No. 11 seed in our most recent bracket projection. After a loss to No. 13 LSU at home, the Tide are now 17-12 on the season and 8-8 in the SEC. They are 2-9 against Q1 — Kentucky (5) and Mississippi State (20) at home — with a home loss to Georgia State (133) in the mix as well. If that resume isn’t even in a play-in game, is Indiana’s really that much worse?

TCU (NET: 42, SOS: 42): The Horned Frogs got whipped up on by Texas Tech at home on Saturday, dropping them to 18-11 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12. They have a sweep of Iowa State (14) on their resume, and they also beat Florida (29) at home. With no bad losses to their name, that’s enough to keep them on the right side of the bubble fairly comfortably. That said, they’ve now lost five of six and seven of ten and they still get Kansas State (28) and at Texas (36) before the season is over. Can they get a bid at 6-12 in league play?

SETON HALL (NET: 64, SOS: 51): The Pirates lost their third straight game on Saturday, falling in double-overtime at Georgetown (71). As it stands, Seton Hall’s resume is very borderline. They have wins over Kentucky (5) on a neutral and at Maryland (26), and a 4-7 record against Q1 opponents is good. But they also lost at home to DePaul (111) and Saint Louis (121), both Q3 losses. Here’s the best news: the Pirates close the regular season by hosting both Villanova (27) and Marquette (21). They’ll have two more shots to land top 30 Q1 wins.

SAINT MARY’S (NET: 39, SOS: 46): The Gaels missed their chance to land a win that would have gotten them on the right side of the bubble, losing at home to No. 1 Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s has no top 50 wins. They have one Q1 win — at New Mexico State (51) — and are sitting at just 3-8 against Q1 and Q2 opponents with three Q3 losses. Smarter people than me have Saint Mary’s firmly in the bubble mix, and at this point it has me questioning whether or not those people are actually smarter than me.

BUTLER (NET: 52, SOS: 20): The Bulldogs dropped to 15-14 on the season with a 21 point loss at Villanova (27). With games left against Xavier (70) and at Providence (77), they won’t be able to add to their resume in any meaningful way. I think they’re done.

MEMPHIS (NET: 53, SOS: 44): The Tigers had a shot if they had been able to win at Cincinnati (22) on Saturday night, but they were not able to get it done. The Tigers have as many Q1 wins — UCF (30) at home — as they do Q3 losses — Charleston (114) on a neutral — and with nothing other than a home game against Tulsa (98) left, they are going to need to make an American tournament run to have a chance.

DAYTON (NET: 68, SOS: 94): The Flyers likely saw their at-large hopes go up in flames on Friday night, as they lost in overtime at home to Rhode Island (141), their second Q3 loss of the season to go along with precisely zero Q1 wins. It was a longshot to get onto the right side of the cut-line, and this ends it.

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.