Bubble Banter: Purdue, Minnesota are the biggest winners in a wild night

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It was a good day for most of the bubble, although there were a couple of teams that saw their at-large hopes go up in flames.

Bubble Banter!


MEMPHIS (NET: 50, NBC: Play-in game): The Tigers have now won three straight games after taking care of Temple on Wednesday night. If they can take care of South Florida on Saturday, they will enter their biggest game of the season — at Cincinnati (47) — on a three game winning streak. It is worth noting here that Memphis has not beaten a single team in the top 45 in the NET and that their three best wins — Tennessee (70), Cincinnati (47) and N.C. State (69) — are teams that may not make the NCAA tournament. We’re in late-January and Memphis has as many Quad 3 losses as Quad 1 wins.

MINNESOTA (NET: 45, NBC: Off the bubble): The Gophers picked up their fourth (for now) Quad 1 win over Wisconsin (30) at home on Wednesday. They are 12-10 on the season, but all 12 of those losses have come against Quad 1 or 2 opponents. The biggest red flag with Minnesota is that they have just one win away from home on the season — at Ohio State (15).

PURDUE (NET: 38, NBC: Off the bubble): Purdue is, apparently, the best basketball team on the planet when they are playing in Mackey Arena. On Wednesday, they scored 61 first half points in a 104-68 win over a very good Iowa (22) team. The Boilermakers are still in a bit of a precarious spot due to the sheer number of losses they have, but with arguably the toughest schedule in all of college basketball left, they will have chances to make up ground.

FLORIDA (NET: 42, NBC: 10): I’m not entirely sure how they did it, but the Gators erased a 22 point second half deficit in the span of six minutes in a win over Georgia (89) at home. That’s a good win only in the sense that it would have been a resume-draining loss. As it stands, the Gators have home wins over Auburn (17) and Alabama (43), but their only road wins came at South Carolina (73) and Vanderbilt (170) and their three neutral site wins are against teams that look unlikely to get to the tournament. It’s enough to get them a bid, but not a seed that you would expect from a team as good as the Gators were supposed to be.

NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 40, NBC: 11): The Panthers took care of business at Valpo (152) on Wednesday night. Their strong NET and wins at Colorado (18) and over South Carolina (73) on a neutral keep the Panthers in the conversation, but losses at Southern Illinois (139) and Illinois State (208) are killers. UNI cannot lose another game unless it is against Loyola-Chicago (92) in the MVC tournament if they really want a chance at an at-large.

N.C. STATE (NET: 69, NBC: Next four out): The Wolfpack bounced back from three straight losses to beat a short-handed Miami (104) at home. N.C. State has just one win over a top 50 team, but they do have a trio of Quad 1 wins so long as Wisconsin (30) stays in the top 30. Two Quad 3 home losses weigh things down, and they do have to go on the road for their next two games before hosting Duke (6) and Florida State (16) in two weeks.

VIRGINIA (NET: 58, NBC: Play-in game): Suddenly, Virginia looks like a team that is starting to figure some things out. They still can’t score, but scoring doesn’t matter all that much when you hold teams like Clemson (97) to 44 points. The Wahoos have now won three straight and four of their last five with a win over Florida State (16) in the mix. The Wahoos have just two Quad 1 wins to their name, a Quad 3 loss at Boston College (145) and only three more chances at Quad 1 wins left. They’re on the cutline right now and can’t afford slip-ups.

UTAH STATE (NET: 55, NBC: Off the bubble): The Aggies avoided a loss at home to UNLV, but they have a lot of work to do and not many chances to improve their resume. Wins over LSU (19) and Florida (42) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-95 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses?


GEORGETOWN (NET: 48, NBC: First four out): The Hoyas dropped to 13-10 on the season with a loss at home to Seton Hall (19) on Wednesday. Georgetown has now lost four out of five and six out of nine. They have just one loss that is not a Quad 1 loss, but a 2-9 mark against Quad 1 opponents isn’t going to get the job done. They’ve beaten one team in the top 55 in the NET.

SAINT LOUIS (NET: 68, NBC: Off the bubble): The Billikens fell in a classic lookahead spot, hosting a good Duquesne (88) team before heading off to play Dayton (5) on the road. With a 2-5 record against Quad 1 and 2 opponents and now a Quad 3 loss to their name, Saint Louis probably has to win at Dayton on Saturday to have a real shot.

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.