Shabazz Napier, Breanna Stewart

Team Geno beats Team Kevin in UConn’s coed “First Night” scrimmage

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UConn has been a powerhouse in both men’s and women’s college basketball for decades now. Both teams enjoy massive popularity in Storrs, but they have sometimes rumored to be at odds with one another – especially when Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma were vying for the spotlight at the same time.

Under Kevin Ollie, however, things are definitely more cordial. At Friday’s “First Night”, as UConn’s version of midnight madness is known, the men and women split up into mixed teams and scrimmaged against one another. According to the school’s website, Team Geno took a hard-fought (that might be an exaggeration) 51-49 victory in the abbreviated twenty minute game.

Team Geno was led to victory by 11 points from Shabazz Napier, who hit three deep shots. His teammate Breanna Stewart had five points and three boards.

Team Kevin got 11 points from NC State transfer Rodney Purvis, and Tyler Olander, who had a rough offseason, attempted to make it up to his teammates by dishing out three assists.

The coed scrimmage was something new for the Huskies, who had never done anything similar in the past. There’s video, so go check it out.

“You can’t sit back and keep doing the same thing over and over again,” Auriemma said after the game. “I think you need to figure out ways to do things differently and create new events. This is just another event that the marketing people came up with that we thought was a great idea. The kids are very excited about this, I’ll tell you that.”

I’m not sure if Tennessee has ever done something like this, but it’s not a bad idea.

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?