Deshawn Stephens, Chase Fieler

Previewing the South Regional: Is Dunk City’s reign over?


Favorite: Florida

Are the Gators the best team left in the South? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does. What I do know, however, is that the Gators will play their first game in the regional against a team that finished in second place in the Atlantic Sun in Florida Gulf Coast. The Gators have the ability to overwhelm opponents, and I expect nothing less from them against FGCU.

That gets Billy Donovan’s club to the Elite 8, where I think that the Gators happen to matchup well with both Kansas and Michigan. Scottie Wilbekin is the kind of ball-hawk in the back court that can give Trey Burke trouble, and I just don’t see Kansas being able to break down the Gator’s defense with Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe running the show.

But they could also win: Michigan

Scott Van Pelt has a saying that he likes to use: How good is your good? When you are playing your best basketball, how good can your team be? We’ve seen how good the Wolverines can be when they start clicking. There’s a reason that they climbed all the way up to No. 1 in the country at one point this season. There’s a reason they ran both VCU and South Dakota State out of The Palace at Auburn Hills when Trey Burke didn’t play well in either game. The key? Glenn Robinson III. He’s played his best this season when going up against mediocre competition. John Beilein needs him to play his best if they are going to advance out of the South.

(Click here to browse through all of our Sweet 16 previews)

Most Important Player: Ben McLemore, Kansas

Glenn Robinson III might fit here as well, but we’ll go with McLemore since he’s not only a guy that many believe will be a top five pick in the draft, but he hands-down the most talented player on the Jayhawk roster. He’s also played terribly through two tournament games. He’s scored 13 points and shooting just 14.3% from the floor in those two games, including an 0-9 performance last Sunday when he scored just two points in the win over North Carolina. If he doesn’t get going, Kansas isn’t going to be making the Final Four.

Story line to watch: Florida Gulf Coast, obviously. Can they keep the dream aline? I know they beat Miami, Georgetown and San Diego State this season, but they also got swept by Lipscomb and finished second in the Atlantic Sun. They also spent the entirety of this week being besieged by a media crush that couldn’t get enough of Dunk City. Two weeks ago, they were a nameless group who happened to have a coach that married a supermodel. Now FGCU is a national sensation. With the media attention comes the pressure. How will the Eagles react to it?

Rank ‘em:

1. Florida
2. Michigan
3. Kansas
4. Florida Gulf Coast

And the winner is?: Michigan

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Wolverines pull it off. I think that Burke has a huge weekend, his supporting cast hits their threes and Mitch McGary continues his outstanding play in this tournament.

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?