Michigan leaps Baylor into second behind Gonzaga in Top 25

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Michigan finally broke the stranglehold of Gonzaga and Baylor atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, taking advantage of the Bears’ loss at Kansas to leap into the No. 2 spot behind the Bulldogs

Michigan finally broke the stranglehold of Gonzaga and Baylor atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll on Monday, taking advantage of the Bears’ loss at Kansas to leap into the No. 2 spot behind the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga continued to hold down the top spot in the Top 25, just as it has all season, receiving 59 of 63 first-place votes among national media members. But the Wolverines picked up the other four to climb into second while the Bears, whose unbeaten season was foiled by the Jayhawks on Saturday night, dropped back to third place.

Illinois climbed one spot to fourth and Iowa gave the Big Ten three teams in the top five.

“We look at it like there’s room for improvement,” said Wolverines coach Juwan Howard, whose team pushed its winning streak to seven with an easy win over Indiana on Saturday. “Our guys have that kind of growth mindset, ‘What can we do better?’ I don’t think there’s ever such a thing as playing a perfect game, (but) one possession at a time, competing for 40 minutes, from start to finish, that’s been our mindset going into ballgames.”

Now the question is whether the Wolverines can hold onto its No. 2 spot. They have a showdown with the Illini on Tuesday night before wrapping up the regular season with a home-and-home series against Michigan State.

“No question, they deserve all of the whatever the word you want to use – accolades, praise. They deserve it all,” Hoosiers coach Archie Miller said. “They have a great spirit about them. That’s one thing you’d probably have to look at Michigan and just look at the way that they vibe and they play, both ends of the floor. They get after you, they play hard for one another, they have a great bounce to them, so you can tell they’re very together. That’s a big part of what they’re doing.”

West Virginia continued its steady climb, up four spots to No. 6 after its third consecutive win. Ohio State fell three spots to seventh after its loss to the Hawkeyes. Alabama, Houston and Villanova rounded out the top 10.

Florida State was next while Arkansas leaped eight spots to No. 12 after running its winning streak to six, including victories over then-No. 10 Missouri and the Crimson Tide. It’s the highest the Razorbacks have been ranked since Feb. 16, 1998.

Also making a big move was No. 13 Kansas, fresh off its win over the Bears; the Jayhawks have won six of seven after their record 12-year streak in the Top 25 came to an end, with the loss coming to then-No. 14 Texas in overtime.

Creighton dropped one spot to No. 14, followed by the Longhorns. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were next, followed by Big 12 rival Texas Tech, with San Diego Staten and Loyola Chicago rounding out the top 20.

Virginia was No. 21, followed by Virginia Tech, Purdue, Colorado and Wisconsin. The newcomer Boilermakers and sliding Badgers give the Big Ten six teams in the Top 25, one fewer than the poll-leading Big 12.

MORE ON THE BEARS

Baylor has struggled since coming off a three-week pause for COVID-19 issues, needing a frantic rally to beat bottom-dwelling Iowa State before falling in Allen Fieldhouse. Bears coach Scott Drew was quick to congratulate the Jayhawks on the win, but he also made it clear that his team is still trying to find its legs after a long break.

“Anyone that’s had COVID would know, when you come back, you’re not 100%,” Drew said. “The people that didn’t and weren’t able to practice or work out, I would say that’s rust. And then the last thing I would say, it’s a chemistry game.”

IN AND OUT

Oklahoma State went from the first team out all the way to No. 17 on the strength of Top 25 wins over the Red Raiders and Sooners last week. Purdue entered at No. 23 after blowing out Penn State for its third consecutive win, and Colorado went from barely on the radar to No. 24 after back-to-back wins over then-No. 19 Southern California and UCLA.

They replaced the Trojans, Tennessee and Missouri. USC has lost three of its last four, the Vols have dropped three of their last five and the Tigers, who were No. 10 at the start of February, have lost four of their last five.

ON THE DOORSTEP

BYU was the first team out of the poll after the Cougars’ fourth straight win solidified their place behind Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference. Florida appeared on seven ballots after not appearing on any last week, and St. Bonaventure found its way onto eight ballots after the Bonnies edged Davidson in back-to-back games and routed George Washington.

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.