Friday’s Things To Know: Thrillers in the ACC and Big East, lurking bid thieves and Minnesota advances

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Markis McDuffie, Wichita State

Duke’s Zion Williamson has a really good argument to be in this spot, as he went for 31 points and 11 rebounds and scored the game-winning basket in Duke’s ACC semifinal win over North Carolina. But since he was one of the choices Thursday we’ll spread the wealth a bit and go with Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie, who accounted for 34 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots in the Shockers’ 80-74 win over Temple.

There are two potential bid thieves lurking in the American, with both Wichita State and and host Memphis in the semifinals. And with Gregg Marshall’s group having won six straight and 11 of its last 13 games, Cincinnati will be dealing with a team that is playing its best basketball of the season at the right time Saturday afternoon.

FRIDAY’S BUBBLE BANTER

TEAM OF THE DAY: Minnesota

Facing Purdue for the second time in ten days, Richard Pitino’s team had the opportunity to strengthen its standing with regards to an at-large bid. The Golden Gophers did just that, beating the Boilermakers 75-73 to advance to the Big Ten semifinals where they’ll face Michigan Saturday afternoon. Jordan Murphy scored 27 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists, and Minnesota limited Carsen Edwards to 4-for-17 shooting from the field.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Andrew Nembhard, Florida

One of the bubble teams that improved its NCAA tournament profiles Friday was Florida, which beat top-seed LSU 76-73 in the first SEC quarterfinal of the day. Nembhard’s three-pointer with one second remaining, which came 13 seconds after LSU’s Naz Reid tied the game with a triple of his own, was the difference.

FRIDAY’S WINNERS

Florida State: Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles controlled the action for much of their ACC semifinal matchup with Virginia, winning by the final score of 69-59. Florida State controlled the glass, shot 57% from the field and its reserves outscored Virginia’s by a 28-8 margin. Regardless of what happens against Duke Saturday night, keep an eye on where Florida State is seeded on Sunday. This group can do some damage.

Duke: As noted above, Zion Williamson’s put-back was the difference in the Blue Devils’ thrilling win over North Carolina. But it’s worth noting that Duke received valuable contributions from Jordan Goldwire and Antonio Vrankovic when the game could have gotten away from them in the first half. For a team that isn’t the deepest, that could be the most important development moving forward.

San Diego State: For the second consecutive year Nevada has failed to reach the Mountain West final as the top seed, with Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs pulling away for the 65-56 win in Las Vegas. The Aztecs, who won the automatic bid last year, is now one win away from a repeat. Utah State, which whipped Fresno State in the other semifinal, will be the opponent. And if San Diego State wins, a bubble will burst.

Oregon: For all the jokes made about the Pac-12 possibly being a one-bid league earlier this season, the conference is now 40 minutes away from getting three teams in. Dana Altman’s Ducks outlasted 2-seed Arizona State 79-75 in overtime to advance to Saturday’s final, where top-seed Washington will be the opposition.

Iowa State: The Cyclones haven’t been the most consistent team this season, but Steve Prohm’s team advanced to the Big 12 title game with a 63-59 win over top-seed Kansas State. Marial Shayok scored 21 points and Michael Jacobson grabbed 16 rebounds for Iowa State, which will face three-seed Kansas Saturday night in Kansas City.

Michigan and Kentucky: Not only did both teams win their respective conference tournament openers in comfortable fashion, with the Wolverines handling Iowa and the Wildcats beating Alabama, both welcomed back key contributors that missed time due to injury. Michigan’s Charles Matthews played 25 minutes against Iowa, and while he didn’t shoot the ball well (1-for-9 from the field, five points) the redshirt senior’s defense was key. As for Kentucky, Reid Travis accounted for eight points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in 23 minutes of action.

Rhode Island: The Rams’ dream of a third straight NCAA tournament appearance isn’t dead yet, as URI beat Atlantic 10 regular season champion VCU 75-70 in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal. Another winner here: the Atlantic 10, which will be a two-bid league with VCU now in need of an at-large bid.

Admiral Schofield: Instead of listing Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard in the category below, we’ll be positive and list Schofield as a winner for what he did in the second half of the Volunteers’ 83-76 win over the Bulldogs.

FRIDAY’S LOSERS

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers’ stay at the Big Ten tournament came to an end Friday, as Tim Miles’ depleted team ran out of gas down the stretch in a quarterfinal loss to Wisconsin. And let’s just say that athletic director Bill Moos’ statement did not provide much in the way of clarity when it comes to Miles’ status moving forward. He’ll make a decision whenever Nebraska’s season comes to an end, as the team waits to see if it will receive an NIT bid.

Ohio State: Depending upon who’s asked the Buckeyes may have locked up an NCAA tournament bid with their second round win over Indiana on Thursday. Chris Holtmann’s team missed out on an opportunity to remove any doubt Friday, as it fell behind top-seed Michigan State by a significant margin before having its second half rally fall short. Ohio State may be in good shape, but the best thing for a bubble team at this point is to “live to fight another day.”

Temple: Could the American end up receiving five NCAA tournament bids? It’s certainly possible as Memphis and Wichita State are still alive. But Temple, which lost to Wichita State Friday night, will have an uncomfortable wait for Selection Sunday. And with this being Fran Dunphy’s final season at the helm, to not reach the Big Dance at this point would be crushing.

Xavier: The Musketeers survived Creighton on Thursday, and were just one stop away from knocking off Villanova in Friday’s Big East semifinals. But Eric Paschall’s follow tied the game in the final seconds of regulation, and Villanova would go on to win 71-67 in overtime. Travis Steele’s team missed out on what would have been a huge win for their NCAA tournament hopes, which could have used the boost.

Sam Houston State: The Bearkats entered the Southland tournament as the top seed after going 16-2 in conference play, with the league bracket advancing the team directly to the semifinals. Their hopes of an NCAA tournament bid slipped away Friday, as 4-seed New Orleans won 79-76 with Jorge Rosa scoring 18 points to lead the way. Sam Houston State’s loss also means that there’s one less available at-large bid in the Postseason NIT. New Orleans will face 2-seed Abilene Christian, which has yet to reach the NCAA tournament as a Division I member, in Saturday’s final.

The officials in the Seton Hall vs. Marquette game: Three ejections, 57 personal fouls, nine technicals and 85 free throws in a game the Pirates won 81-79. While the game didn’t lack for excitement, it was quite clear early on that the officials needed to do a bit more to keep things under control. They didn’t do that.

FINAL THOUGHT

Practically every year the conversation regarding the NCAA tournament bubble is that it’s the weakest that it’s ever been, and this year is no exception. One team that finds itself in the conversation for an at-large bid is Texas, which dropped to 16-16 with its Big 12 quarterfinal loss to Kansas Thursday night.

Shaka Smart’s team is 9-15 in Quadrant 1/2 games this season, with the Longhorns’ best win coming against North Carolina on a neutral court Thanksgiving night. Ranked 37th in the NET and boasting the fifth-toughest schedule in the country, there are some numbers that work in Texas’ favor. But with a .500 record and a strength of record ranking of 57, there are numbers that work against the Longhorns as well…as is the case for any team.

Will the selection committee make history and select an at-large team with a .500 record for the first time ever? Or will a team like a Belmont (5-3 vs. Quadrant 1/2) or UNCG (4-6), which put up gaudy win totals but also don’t have as many opportunities to pick up Quadrant 1/2 victories, hear its name called on Sunday? This is a question that comes up every March regardless of the metrics used, but the Texas question makes this year’s process even more interesting.

I’m betting that at least one of the exceptional at-large candidates that hail from non-power conferences will be sent to Dayton.

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.