Monday’s Overreactions: Kansas is better than Gonzaga, Memphis is real, UNC is not

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Payton Pritchard, Oregon

I’m not sure if Payton Pritchard should be the favorite for National Player of the Year, but at this point, he certainly is a favorite. On Saturday, in a 71-70 overtime win over Michigan in Ann Arbor, Pritchard had 23 points, four assists, three steals and three rebounds, but that doesn’t really do justice to the performance that he had that day.

Pritchard scored the final nine points for Oregon in regulation. He scored six of their eight points in overtime. He did it all while going toe-to-toe with Zavier Simpson, one of the best on-ball defenders in the sport, as Dana Altman opted to turn his offense into the Payton Pritchard Show.

As of today, Pritchard is averaging 19.2 points, 5.9 assists and 4.1 boards while shooting 51.1 percent from the floor and 38.6 percent from three for a top ten team that is going to climb in this week’s poll. That’s the stuff that Players of the Year are made of.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Memphis Tigers

I think it’s probably hyperbolic to say that Memphis had the most impressive win of the season on Saturday.

Stephen F. Austin won in Cameron Indoor. Evansville won in Rupp. Ohio State won in the Dean Dome by 25 points. There have been some absolutely bonkers things happening in college basketball this season, and included among them have been some truly terrific wins.

What I will say is that there has not been a result that has changed my opinion more about the winning team than the win that No. 13 Memphis just landed in Knoxville on Saturday against No. 19 Tennessee.

The reason I say that is because of everything that went wrong leading up to and during this game.

Let’s start with the obvious. Not only were the Tigers playing without James Wiseman, who might be the best player in the country this year, but they were without another starter – and their best shooter – in Lester Quinones. They started four freshmen playing in a rivalry game on the road for the first time against a top 20 team, and they got sucked into play that team’s pace. They missed 13 of their first 14 shots, trailed by 12 points in the first half and, with nine minutes left before the break, had managed to score all of five points.

Everything about the way this game played out makes me think Memphis should have lost by 20.

And they won.

Maybe these freshmen are better than we thought they would be?



I’ve made this point plenty over the years, but I was reminded of it on Saturday, as Gonzaga went into the McKale Center, knocked off No. 15 Arizona in convincing fashion and put themselves in a position to receive plenty of No. 1 votes in this week’s AP Poll: The proof of Gonzaga’s status as college basketball royalty is their ability to lose players to the NBA earlier than expected and still find a way to manage as a very legitimate contender for a national title.

Last offseason, the Zags lost Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Zach Norvell and Josh Perkins. That’s four starters, three of whom left early for the NBA draft. At least two, and maybe three, depending on your feelings on Rui, of those early entrants were something of a surprise. And yet, it hasn’t slowed Gonzaga down one bit. Like I said, they very well may be the best team in college basketball this season. This comes just two years after Mark Few pulled off a similar feat, surviving the loss of Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins earlier than expected and still trotting out a team that was a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

This is something that Villanova has struggled with since winning the 2018 national title. This is something that Virginia is struggling with after winning the 2019 national title. Those are two of the most successful and consistent programs we’ve seen this decade.

So while I’m not exactly breaking news here, I think that it is important to point this out.

Gonzaga’s ability to maintain through the talent erosion that permeates college hoops is remarkable.


Having said all that about Gonzaga, I still think that the Jayhawks are the best team in the country.

And I know that the Zags, and arguably Ohio State, still have the better resume. I get that. But if you forced me to pick one of those teams to win on a neutral court, I think that I’m still taking Kansas. The Jayhawks may have the best point guard in college basketball in Devon Dotson. They have arguably the most unstoppable force in the sport in Udoka Azubuike. They have myriad wings – Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett, Tristan Enaruna, Isaiah Moss – and the size to play with two bigs. They can give a two point guard looked with Dotson and Garrett on the floor together.

To be clear, I made this argument on the Monday Overreactions podcast last week as well. I’m in on this Kansas team.


Has there been anything more surprising than seeing a Georgetown resurgence come with the departure of James Akinjo, Josh LeBlanc, Myron Gardner and Galen Alexander?

The former two left the program three games ago. The latter left on Friday. In the three games that have elapsed since then, the Hoyas are 3-0 on the season with wins at Oklahoma State, at SMU and over Syracuse at home. Mac McClung is averaging 26.3 points during that stretch and Jim Boeheim is telling everyone that the Hoyas are better now that they got rid of the kid that never passed.

I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement. Akinjo was ball-dominant. From what I’ve been told by sources and people around that program is that Akinjo did not get along all that well with Patrick Ewing or with McClung, and that getting those four out of the locker room has improved the culture and the team environment.

The Hoyas are going to be shorthanded this season. There are just seven scholarship players on the roster, and while the ideal world would be that Akinjo, LeBlanc and the rest of those guys would be able to fit in with that roster – more talent is never a bad thing – I think that losing them might end up being addition by subtraction.


Look, it is going to happen a lot this season.

That’s just the way that this is going to work. The top teams are not as good as top teams in recent years. This isn’t a perfect gauge, but it does provide some context: Ohio State’s adjusted efficiency margin on KenPom right now is +27.07. There were eight teams last season that had a higher AdjEM, and last year was not exactly considered a great season for college hoops.

Would we have been all that surprised if a top ten-ish team lost on the road in league play last year?

Probably not.

And it’s the way that this is probably going to work more often moving forward. We are getting more conference games earlier in the season, as leagues push to 20 games. We are getting top teams playing tougher schedule. We are seeing a push to get some of the big time matchups on neutral courts.

Better competition earlier in the year means more teams are going to be taking losses early.

That, to be frank, is probably a good thing for the sport, even if it means the undefeated runs we see become less frequent.


The Tar Heels have now lost three in a row and four of their last five games. They are going to be playing without Cole Anthony for a while, it seems, and they have a pretty tough schedule coming up. They play at Gonzaga on Wednesday, they get UCLA on a neutral on Saturday and then they host Yale next Monday before diving into ACC play.

Without Anthony, this team simply cannot score. They are bad offensively with him. They are, frankly, not that much more talented that a mid-major without him. The win over Oregon on a neutral is going to carry some weight on Selection Sunday, but there is a lot to be worried about with this group.

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


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.