Bubble Banter: Rhode Island and Tennessee land key victories

Getty Images

It was a fairly slow night on the bubble, as just seven teams were in action.

But as you might expect, there were some fireworks. Here’s what you need to know:


RHODE ISLAND (NET: 40, NBC: 10): URI took care of business against UMass (178) at home, which only matters because a loss would have been a crippling, Quad 4 loss. The Rams have just one Quad 1 win — at VCU — but they are 6-4 against the top two Quads. They do have an ugly loss at Brown (227) which is why Rhode Island is in a spot where they probably cannot afford to take a loss to anyone other than Dayton (5), who they play twice, the rest of the season.

TENNESSEE (NET: 70, NBC: Off the bubble): Just when it looked like we could write the Vols off, they turn around and erase a 15 point deficit at Alabama (41) to pick up their third Quad 1 win of the season. They are still just 13-9 overall with three Quad 2 losses and a Quad 3 loss, but the Vols still play eight Quad 1 games, and that doesn’t include Florida at home. They can survive this if they get hot.

XAVIER (NET: 47, NBC: Play-in game): Xavier followed up their resume-defining win at Seton Hall (16) by going into Chicago and picking off DePaul (59). The Musketeers have now won back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 22nd, and they are both Quad 1 wins. As it stands, they are now 3-7 against Quad 1 opponents and 6-8 against the top two quads. They suddenly have the resume of a team that might have some room to spare. What a weeks for Travis Steele.


MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 37, NBC: 11): The Bulldogs whiffed on a chance bolster their resume with a win at Kentucky (27) on Tuesday night, which isn’t a problem in and of itself. The issue is that the Bulldogs don’t have any games left against Kentucky, LSU or Auburn. Other than Arkansas (35) on the road, there isn’t a likely tournament team left on their schedule.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 49, NBC: 10): The Sooners are in a good spot despite losing to Texas Tech (29) on the road on Tuesday. They have solid computer numbers, they are 7-8 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents with wins over Mississippi State (37) at home, Minnesota (44) on a neutral and at Texas (60). But none of that really matters, because their season will be determined by the next 14 days: West Virginia (9), Iowa State (73), at Kansas (4), Baylor (2).

ALABAMA (NET: 41, NBC: Off the bubble): The Crimson Tide blew a 15 point lead at home in losing to Tennessee (70) on Tuesday night. With just one Quad 1 win to their name, the Crimson Tide need all the help they can get right now, and losing their third straight game like this is the opposite of that. It’s also a red flag that Alabama’s only wins away from home are Belmont (116) and Southern Miss (275) on neutrals and Vanderbilt (168) and Samford (308) on the road. The good news? Penn (151) has played their way into being a Quad 3 loss. With Auburn (18) and LSU (22) next week, winning at Georgia (90) on Saturday is a must-win.

DEPAUL (NET: 59, NBC: Off the bubble): The Blue Demons fell to 12-10 overall and 1-9 in the Big East with a loss at home to Xavier (47) on Tuesday. I want to make DePaul a thing, but they just are not cooperating. This will be the last time they show up in the bubble conversation unless they make some kind of run, and soon.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

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

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.