Notre Dame Fighting Irish Mike Brey reacts to call as they play Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Big East NCAA men's basketball tournament game in New York

Notre Dame rounding into form with Big East semis looming


Notre Dame has never made it past the Big East tournament’s semifinals, but as they erased an early 17-4 deficit to knock off Marquette 73-65 on Thursday night, the Irish look like they may be able to make some noise in the tournament after all.

The biggest reason why? They are starting to get contributions from up-and-down their lineup.

Eric Atkins and Jack Cooley have struggled through two games in New York. Jerian Grant has played better, but even his 17 points, six boards, six assists, three steals and two blocks on Thursday was tainted with a 4-15 shooting performance.

That’s Mike Brey’s Big Three struggling, and yet here the Irish are, with a grudge match set with Louisville for the right to play for the Big East title.

Much of the credit has to fall on the shoulders of Patrick Connaughton, whose averaging 19.5 points while shooting 12-18 from three and seemingly making every big shot through two games. He’s been aided by big performances from Tom Knight (19 points, nine boards vs. Rutgers) and Garrick Sherman (16 points vs. Marquette).

Put it all together, and the Irish are weaseling their way back to looking like one of the Big East’s best.

That’s praise that doesn’t come easy for a team that has built a reputation for being great in the regular season and awful in March. Whether or not that changes this year is still to be determined, but if the past two days are any indication, the Irish aren’t going to need Herculean performances out of their three stars every night this month.

There is balance on the roster, and that’s big. Why? Because Atkins and Grant played 40 minutes tonight after combining for 72 minutes on Wednesday. And to rest their legs tomorrow, they’ll get to matchup with Louisville’s back court.

Taking some of the responsibility off of those two will take some of the load that they have to bear.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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?