Skylar Diggins, Kamiko Williams

Notre Dame women beat Tennessee, UConn on the road in same season

1 Comment

Notre Dame went into Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night and beat Tennessee 77-67.

The win itself was a good one. The no. 2-ranked Lady Irish beat the Lady Vols on the road in a win that will improve their chances at a no. 1 seed come March.

But more than that, the victory completed a feat no team in the NCAA era has ever been able to accomplish.

Notre Dame went into Storrs, Conn. and beat the Lady Huskies 73-72 on Jan. 5. That win, coupled with Monday night’s win, makes Notre Dame the first team since the NCAA began sponsoring women’s basketball that a team has beaten both those powerhouse programs on the road in the same season.

Skylar Diggins scored a career-high 33 points in the game for the Lady Irish, who improved to 19-1. Tennessee fell to 16-4.

It was banner night for Notre Dame on the same night Tennessee raised a banner itself, for legendary coach Pat Summitt. The long-time Lady Vols head coach, along with a number of former players, was on-hand to watch it go into the rafters. Summitt, who already has the court named after her, won 1,098 games, a record over men’s and women’s college basketball and eight national championships in her 38 years as head coach in Knoxville.

“This is one of the toughest places to play with all those fans out there,” Diggins told The Associated Press. “It was a great moment for Coach Summitt, with all those players like Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings on the sidelines. It was a very emotional night tonight, and I thought we did a good job of handling it because they had a lot to play for.”

This was definitely an incredible feat for Notre Dame. As it would be for any team. UConn and Tennessee have carried women’s college basketball over the years thanks to great coaches in Summitt and Geno Auriemma and to beat them both in the same season speaks volumes about coach Muffet McGraw and the job she’s done. Especially with a face-of-the-program player like Diggins.

A loss is never fun, but I’d be willing to be that Summitt had a great deal of respect for what she saw on Monday night.

David Harten is the founder of The Backboard Chronicles. Follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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?