The curse of No. 1 continues as No. 18 Villanova upsets Kansas

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PHILADELPHIA — Jay Wright never doubted the impact that Collin Gillespie could have at Villanova.

Nevermind the fact that Gillespie was an unheralded, three-star recruit from the Philly suburbs that was brought in to be the guy that replaced Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson, two current NBA players with a total of three national title rings between them. Nevermind the fact that people on the outside of the program doubted whether or not this kid would ever be good enough for Villanova to play at the level they expected to play at when he committed.

Wright knew what he had from the moment that Gillespie started practicing with the team.

“Watching him and Jalen Brunson go at it every day,” Wright said. “I can’t remember specific incidences, but I know in my mind, that if we had to give Jalen a rest or move Jalen off of the ball, I was always fine with him, right from the start.

“You see it in practice. When [a freshman] goes at a veteran player, and that veteran player has some trouble, you’re like, ‘OK, this guy’s got it.'”

That “it” shined through when it mattered the most on Saturday afternoon.

Jermaine Samuels finished with 15 points, including a three with less than 20 seconds left on the clock, as No. 18 Villanova became the fifth team this season to knock off the No. 1 team in the country with a 56-55 upset win over Kansas.

Gillespie finished with 12 points on just 5-for-15 shooting for the Wildcats, but he was the guy that made two of the biggest plays of the game down the stretch. It was his assist  that led to Samuels’ game-winning three. One possession earlier, it was Gillespie that picked Devon Dotson’s pocket and finished a layup to cut a 55-51 Kansas lead to just two points.

Gillespie and Samuels combined to score the final 19 points for the Wildcats, who landed a critical home win. Villanova did not enter this great with an overwhelming resume, and this is precisely the kind of win that helps solidify seeding come Selection Sunday.

Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Kansas is the fifth team in college basketball to be ranked No. 1 this season. Michigan State opened the year as No. 1 in the AP Poll, but they dropped after losing to Kentucky in the Champions Classic. The Wildcats were No. 1 until they lost at home to Evansville. That’s when Duke climbed into the No. 1 spot, but that only lasted for two weeks before the Blue Devils lost at home to Stephen F. Austin. Louisville was next, but the Cardinals lost to Texas Tech at the Jimmy V Classic after their first week ranked No. 1.

This does not count Ohio State, who was No. 2 in the country and on track to be the top-ranked team when they lost to Minnesota late last Sunday night.

Gonzaga should, presumably, find themselves at No. 1 come Monday morning. It is the first time in college basketball history that five different No. 1 teams have lost before January.

Saddiq Bey added seven points, seven assists and five boards and forced Dotson into a miss at the buzzer.

Dotson did not have a great final minute. In addition to the turnover that led to Gillispie’s layup, he missed the front end of a one-and-one with the Jayhawks down 56-55 and 15 seconds left on the clock. He also missed a shot that would have tied the game at the buzzer. He finished with 15 points, seven boards and four assists.

“The reason why No. 1 lost today is that they played a team that’s really good in their building and they made plays down the stretch,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said.

“I don’t even know if there is a No. 1.”

“I just think it’s one of those years,” Wright added. “Sometimes there’s a dominant team, [but] I think a lot of it depends on who decides to come back. Remember the year Florida won it and they all came back? Everyone knew right for the beginning [they were No. 1]. If someone does that, you’re going to have a dominant team.”

Villanova lost Eric Paschall and Phil Booth this offseason, but they did bring back a couple of key veteran pieces. And it was those veterans, Gillespie and Samuels, that made the plays, and it should not come as a surprise to anyone that this point that that is the way that a Villanova season is playing out.

It is not secret that Jay Wright’s goal is to get old and stay old. There is a reason why he has not targeted one-and-done freshmen at the same rate as some of the other elite programs around the country. There is a certain level of expectation that comes when playing in the Villanova program, and if you make mistakes, if you’re not fully immersed and fluent in their concepts, then there is no leash. Put another way, freshmen are not going to be allowed to play themselves into being comfortable during games. Bryan Antoine is learning that the hard way right now.

The good news, at least for Villanova fans, is that this means that the veterans that are in the program are going to be able to carry the water.

“The guys that have played in this program, as they get older, they know how to make plays,” Wright said. “They know what it takes at the end of a game, they’ve been in a lot of big games. You can see some of the young guys at the end struggle a little bit, but that’s why we try to keep expereinced players and that’s why these two,” pointing to Gillespie and Samuels, “are really important to this team.”

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.