Saturday’s Things To Know: The Big East is drunk, SDSU is undefeated, LSU’s awesome?

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It was another wild Saturday in college basketball, and since we know that you couldn’t sit in front of a TV and watch every game like we did, we have you covered.

Here are the ten things that you need to know after Saturday’s action.


Xavier jumped out to a 30-6 lead on No. 10 Seton Hall within the first 12 minutes on Saturday. What does this mean for Xavier’s bubble chances? Should we be overly concerned about Seton Hall now? I have all the answers, and they’re in this column.


Denzel Mahoney scored 21 points off the bench while Ty-shon Alexander and Mitchell Ballock combined to shoot 9-for-13 from three as Creighton went into the Wells Fargo Center and jumped all over No. 10 Villanova, 76-61. They were up 31-14 before Villanova woke up and the Wildcats never got closer than three the rest of the way.

There’s a lot to digest from this game, the most important point being that Villanova missed on a golden opportunity to draw even with Seton Hall atop the Big East regular season standings. That is going to sting.

But the bigger story here is that Creighton proved just how dangerous they can be. Creighton has, historically, had quite a bit of success against Villanova because of the way that they want to play. The Bluejays can spread the floor and they can matchup with Villanova’s positionless style of play, and when their “bigs” — in this case, Mahoney — can win their matchup, the Bluejays become tough to beat.

This is proof of how dangerous they can be.


As if all of that wasn’t enough, No. 16 Butler — the third of three Big East ranked teams to play at home on Saturday — lost to Providence, 65-61. The Bulldogs have now lost four of their last six games and are now sitting three games out of first place in the Big East standings. Providence, on the other hand, is doing everything they can to try and play their way back onto the bubble. They still have quite a bit of work to do, but landing a road win against the best team in the conference is certainly a good place to start.


In what was perhaps the toughest test that they are going to face the rest of the season, the No. 4 Aztecs erased a 10-point second half deficit thanks to a 24 point second half explosion from Matt Mitchell in an 80-68 win over Utah State at home.

There’s still a chance that SDSU can take an odd loss on the road to someone in the league, but there really is no one in the conference that should be able to do that. What that means is that we are staring at an undefeated SDSU team heading into the NCAA tournament, and I am so here for that storyline. This season is bereft of the kind of stories that will get a casual fan locked into college hoops, and the chance for someone to go undefeated certainly would qualify.

They’re barely halfway there, so it’s too early to take any of this too seriously, but if you’re asking me if 40-0 is possible, I absolutely think it’s less than a pipe dream. The Aztecs can really, really guard and they have two guys — Mitchell and Malachi Flynn — that can completely take a game over and win it on their own.

This is a fun, and very good, team.


The Badgers had quite an eventful week. On Monday night, they blew a 12 point lead in the final seven minutes in a loss at Iowa. During that loss, starting guard Brad Davison was given a game-changing flagrant foul for hitting an Iowa player below the belt. Davison was eventually suspended for his conduct, and that suspension was announced by the Big Ten just hours after another starting guard, Kobe King, announced that he would be transferring out of the program.

Oh, and then on Saturday Wisconsin went out and beat up on No. 14 Michigan State in the Kohl Center.

That is quite the roller coaster ride.

Wisconsin needed this win for team morale if nothing else, but I’ll contend that Michigan State blew this game. Xavier Tillman finished 2-for-8 around the rim, and four of those misses were shots that he makes 90 percent of the time. And that doesn’t count the number of times that he dropped passes that would have been layups. The Spartans had Wisconsin’s lead down to three points twice during the second half. There was a three-minute stretch where the lead sat at 61-57 in the final minutes. As well as Wisconsin played early on, as impressive as it was that they built an 18-point lead, I left that game thinking Michigan State should have won.


Entering Saturday, this felt like it was going to be the battle to determine who the favorite to win the SEC would be, and while the Tigers left as the winner, it did not feel like much was settled.

Ashton Hagans and Nick Richards struggled. Auburn grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and got to the line 44 times. Auburn didn’t pull away until the final five minutes of the game. I’m not sure how anyone can walk away thinking either of those teams is definitively better than the other.

But you might be justified in thinking that neither of them are the best team in the SEC, because …


You may not have noticed since they have been flying under the radar, but No. 22 LSU improved to 17-4 on Saturday by knocking off Ole Miss, 73-63. The Tigers improved to 8-0 in the SEC and have now won 10 straight games overall, and they are doing all of this as the reigning SEC regular season champions. All told, Will Wade’s club is 45-11 in the last two seasons combined with a 24-2 mark in the SEC, which is incredibly impressive. As much has been written about John Calipari, Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes, it’s inarguable that Will Wade has been the best coach in that conference during this stretch.

And the reason I say that is because of everything else that he has had to deal with. LSU has been right in the middle of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college athletics. There are reports that Wade was caught on a wire-tap discussing a “strong-ass offer” to land Javonte Smart, a player currently on LSU’s roster. He lost Naz Reid and Tremont Waters this summer. He had a player murdered before the start of last season.

The people in that program have been through more than they should have to deal with, and through it all they haven’t stopped winning.

It’s time we gave them their due for it.


In one of the most powerful and unforgettable moments of the college basketball season to date, Tulsa’s Elijah Joiner hit a buzzer-beating, game-winning three to cap off a 22-point, five-assist performance as the Golden Hurricane knocked off No. 23 Wichita State, 54-51. What made the moment so special was that it was the first time Joiner’s father had seen him play in person, and he broke down in tears after the game because of it.

That was the most important part of what happened in Tulsa on Saturday.

But strictly from a basketball perspective, the best part of the day for Tulsa came when Cincinnati erased a 12 point second half deficit to knock off No. 21 Houston, because it meant that the Golden Hurricane moved into sole possession of first place in the American. Frank Haith is working miracles.


The North Carolina Tar Heels got their super star freshman point guard back from injury on Saturday.

He had a huge second half and scored 26 points at home against Boston College. The only problem? North Carolina happened to lose, 71-70, on a questionable foul call in the final minutes.

Looks like their hopes of getting onto the right side of the bubble have gone up in smoke.


The Cardinal were arguably the single biggest bubble winner on Saturday. We talk all about them, their resume and the resume of every other team in danger of missing the NCAA tournament right here.

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.

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.