The Little Dances: Championship Week Day 13 Peview

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The NCAA Tournament doesn’t get going until March 19, but for the real college hoops fans, the days leading up to Selection Sunday is when the madness really begins. Over the next two weeks teams will fight for the postseason lives. Bubbles will burst and tickets will be punched, and Cinderellas will be born. This is the real March Madness.

Today is the day we bid farewell to the past and welcome in the madness. It’s Selection Sunday, the most joyous and painful day of the season. But before the brackets are released, the final four automatic bids need to be distributed.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Here’s what to watch for on Sunday.

Game of the Day: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
The final game in what has been arguably the greatest Big Ten season of the past decade will be decided by two finalists that not many expected to make it to Chicago. But both teams are deserving of playing for the opportunity to cut down the nets. This will be a low-scoring, beat ’em up, drag ’em out slugfest. But Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz are all big-game players. After this game finishes, Selection Sunday ceremonies commence.

– Watch this too: North Carolina vs. Miami
A win over the Tar Heels today would be the third of the season for Miami and would give them their first ACC tournament championship in school history. North Carolina enters the contest having won eight of their last nine games. A win would be vindicating for the Tar Heels, who were written off half way through the season for not having the chemistry or personnel to compete at a high level.

Player to Watch: Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
College basketball’s resident bad boy has the Rebels one win away from a NCAA tournament appearance. Ole Miss desperately needs this win, as they still sit firmly on the tournament bubble. Henderson has scored 50 points through the first two SEC tournament games, and is averaging 24 ppg over the past four games. If Henderson can lead the Rebels to a SEC tournament championship, his perceived status as being a loose cannon will largely be forgotten and he will etch his name into college basketball lore.

He’s good too: Dwayne Evans, Saint Louis
The junior forward has scored 49 points in the Billikens first two Atlantic 10 tournament games and will be called on to handle a brunt of VCU’s havoc defense on the interior. But Evans does more than just score. He’s a defensive stalwart and a unusual match-up assignment for defenses. Saint Louis is playing their best basketball of the season, and its due largely to the play of Dwayne Evans.

Sunday’s Schedule:

Atlantic Coast Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – North Carolina (3) vs. Miami (1)

Atlantic 10 Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – VCU (2) vs. Saint Louis (1)

Big Ten Conference Semifinals
3:30 p.m. – Wisconsin (4) vs. Ohio State (2)

Southeastern Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – Ole Miss (3) vs. Florida (1)

You can find Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

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?