Chaz Williams, Eric Mika

Thrilling comeback from No. 16 UMass erases another subpar performance

Leave a comment

At what point do we start to get concerned about No. 16 UMass?

The Minutemen went down to Fairfax, VA, tonight and knocked off George Mason, 88-87, in a thrilling, come-from-behind win.

UMass was trailing for much of the second half, but Chaz Williams made every play in the final minute, leading UMass back from five down with 41.3 seconds left. He forced a turnover with 10 seconds left, missing a layup that was put back in by Derrick Gordon to give UMass the win. All told, Mason turned the ball over three times in the last 30 seconds of the game. That’s not how you will close out upsets over top 25 teams.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened for UMass this season, however. Nine of the 16 games that they’ve played this season have been decided by less than eight points, and the Minutemen are 8-1 in those nine games. That’s good a thing. Winning is a skill. Having the confidence and mental toughness to execute in the most pressure-packed possessions is not an easy thing to do, and UMass has proven that they can do just that.

The teams they are struggling to beat aren’t exactly Final Four contenders, however: Clemson, Nebraska, LSU, Providence, Miami (OH), St. Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure, George Mason.

The only real contender to make the NCAA tournament out of that group is Florida State, who just so happens to be the only team to have knocked off UMass this season.

Chaz Williams is awesome. He had 26 points, eight assists and five steals on Wednesday. UMass has length and athleticism along their front line that would make Kentucky blush. Derrick Gordon has turned into a nice secondary scorer. On paper, they look awesome. Their record does, too.

So why are they struggling to beat teams they shouldn’t be struggling to beat?

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?