Dorian Finney-Smith snaps slump, No. 1 Florida clinches a share of SEC title


For the seventh straight game, No. 1 Florida won a game by ten points or less.

On Tuesday night, it came at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium, where the Commodores erased a double-figure deficit and came within a missed, game-tying three of forcing overtime against the nation’s best team, eventually losing 57-54.

Instead, Florida locked up at least a share of the SEC regular season title with their 20th consecutive win.

The Gators are now 12-2 in single-digit games this season, the two losses coming at Wisconsin and at UConn, their only two losses of the season. And while winning close games certainly isn’t a bad thing, it is a bit disconcerting that the Gators can’t seem to blow out the inferior competition in the SEC.

There is some explanation for that, however.

Florida is not an offensive powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination. They don’t really have a guy on that end of the floor that you have to game-plan around, and they don’t have enough shooting to keep teams from helping on drives and post touches. Basically, it comes down to them simply executing better and Scottie Wilbekin closing out games.

And it’s worked thus far, a fact made all the more impressive with four of their last five games coming on the road, which just so happened to be the single-most important game of the season for each of their opponents.

There’s something to be said for avoiding a letdown each and every night in league play.

There is some good news to pass along from Tuesday night, however. Dorian Finney-Smith’s slump appears to be over. He hit his first three since January 30th on Saturday at Ole Miss and followed that up with a 19-point, nine-rebound performance against Vandy, hitting 6-for-11 from the floor and 3-for-6 from three. He had been 1-for-23 in his last eight games from deep. It was his first double-digit scoring effort in seven games. He plays most of his minutes at the four for the Gators, and given how much they like to use ball-screens, him being a threat in pick-and-pop actions makes Florida that much more dangerous offensively.

His timing couldn’t have been better for a breakout performance, either. The only other Gator to reach double-figures was Patric Young, who finished with 12 points but scored ten of them early in the first half.

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?