Final Four dream died, but Carsen Edwards still heads home a March legend

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What do you remember about the 2008 NCAA Tournament?

Can you tell me who was in the Final Four? Off the top of your head, do you know who won the title that year?

Kansas fans sure do. Memphis fans probably do as well. But for the rest of America, the lasting image of that NCAA tournament was some skinny 20-year old from Davidson setting the world on fire. That was the year that Stephen Curry became Steph. He put 40 on Gonzaga in the first round. He had 30 against No. 2 seed Georgetown and Roy Hibbert in the second round. No. 3 seed Wisconsin caught 33 in the Sweet 16, setting up a showdown with Bill Self for the right to get to the Final Four.

The Wildcats would end up losing in the Elite Eight despite 25 points from Curry, but that didn’t change the fact that the 2008 tournament was Steph’s tournament.

This year’s tournament is far from over, but it has the distinct feel of being an event we remember for Carsen Edwards going nuclear as much as anything else.

Edwards had 42 points on Saturday night in Purdue’s overtime loss to Virginia. It was the second time in the span of six days that he dropped 42 points, something that had not happened in the NCAA tournament in 15 seasons prior to this year. One of those 42-point performances came against the reigning national champs, Villanova. The other came against the best defensive basketball program in the sport in UVA. In the proces, he became the first player to score at least 25 points in each of the first four games of the NCAA tournament since Steph did it in 2008.

The show that he put on in the Yum! Center on Saturday night is not something that is soon going to be forgotten.

The man they call C-Boogie came to the tourney to dance, and he danced all over anyone that got in his way.

Edwards was probably always going to be drafted whenever he decides to leave school, but what he during over the course of the last nine days might be enough to get his name called in the first round as early as this June. The NBA is always looking for athletic, shot-making microwave scorers that can come off the bench and put up 25 points on a given night, and Edwards should be able to thrive in that role. And while NBA scouts have known for a long time that this kind of shot-making is something that Edwards is capable of, seeing him to it to this degree on this stage against this defense is staggering.

When you consider the context of what Edwards did, you’ll understand.

As I detailed in the video breakdown below, what Purdue wants to do on the offensive end of the floor is to run dribble-handoff actions to create shots for Ryan Cline and chances for Carsen Edwards to turn a corner and get downhill with a defender on his hip. Virginia completely took this away by guarding these DHOs like they would a ball-screen, with the big — Mamadi Diakite and Jack Salt — hedging hard and forcing Edwards and Cline further out than they want to be.

What this forced Purdue to do was to turn their offense into the Carsen Edwards Show, allowing him to work off of ball-screens and, eventually, just clear-out 1-4 low and allow Edwards to go make a play:

Put simply: There is no defense in college basketball that is more difficult to do this against, particularly when the guy guarding you is De’Andre Hunter.

And Edwards scored 26 of his 42 points in the second half.

It was one of the most impressive individual performances that I have seen in an NCAA tournament game, one that I am not going to forget anytime soon.

That certainly won’t be any consolation for Edwards or the Boilermakers, as they head back to West Lafayette instead of north to Minneapolis, and it shouldn’t be. I’m sure Edwards would trade every single one of those points for a win, and there is no doubt that he’d trade anything up to a appendage for one more chance at the final possession, a turnover he committed when Purdue had a chance to tie with 5.9 seconds left.

But it is something that Purdue fans will always be able to remember. And it’s the performance from the first two weekends of the tournament that I will carry with me for the longest amount of time.

67 of the 68 teams in the NCAA tournament are going to head home with a loss.

If you’re not going to win the thing, you might as well leave a legacy as a March legend.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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.