Two certainties in Heels-Huskies: A fast pace and Thomas trash talking

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That last time North Carolina dealt with Isiah Thomas, he couldn’t be stopped in the 1981 national title. The new version has that same ability.

And he’ll let them know about it.

Washington (24-10) and their talented point guard, Isaiah Thomas – who is named after the former Indiana and Detroit Pistons star – are ready to rev up their offense when they face the East’s No. 2 seeded Tar Heels Sunday in Charlotte. Expect a fast, fast game.

And expect Thomas to talk. Have you seen his Twitter account? It’s nothing but playful jabs and trash talk.

“I love it,” Thomas said Saturday. “I mean, our backs are up against the wall. We have very few fans here. It feels like everybody is against us like it’s been the whole season. So it’s nothing new.

“We know it’s going to be a lot of baby blue in the crowd. We’re ready for it. It’s the NCAA tournament.”

He better be ready. North Carolina will have a sizable contingent supporting them. (Or course, any Duke fans waiting for the Devils’ tip-off after the UW-UNC game will almost certainly back the Huskies.)

“We’re two hours away and we know we have a lot of fans here supporting us,” UNC guard Dexter Strickland said. “So the intensity of the crowd will help us get more intensity and play with a better sense of urgency.”

The Heels (27-7) are coming off a 102-87 win over Long Island that saw Roy Williams pleased about the points, but not the 18 turnovers. The Huskies are ready to bring plenty of pressure themselves, which should create a game that has the winner hit at least 90 points.

Thomas isn’t the only one who’s excited for this.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?