Shabazz Napier, Austin Nichols

AAC Tournament: No. 21 UConn embarrasses No. 19 Memphis

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Niels Giffey scored 24 points and added nine boards and a pair of blocks to lead No. 21 UConn to a 72-53 win over No. 19 Memphis in Memphis in the quarterfinals of the AAC tournament on Thursday night.

Giffey was 6-for-8 from beyond the arc — the majority of which were wide-open threes — and hit three in a row in the first half to help bust the game wide-open.

The inability of Memphis to locate Giffey was the most concerning aspect of a downright embarrassing performance by the Tigers. The AAC tournament is being held on their home floor, the FedEx Forum in Memphis. The arena was packed on Thursday night. And the Tigers “stunk, capital S T U N K”, as head coach Josh Pastner put it during an interview with ESPN. They shot 26.4% from the floor and just 5-for-18 from three.

Pastner was right, it seems.

In the grand scheme of things, the outcome of this game doesn’t mean all that much to either team. Memphis might fall a single seed line as a result. UConn isn’t climbing all that much considering we’re just four days removed from a 33-point loss at Louisville.

The concern, however, is that a beatdown like this has a hangover. The college basketball season is long. Memphis players have been practicing since the end of September. They’ve been traversing the country playing games since November. That will wear on anyone, especially an athlete, and a mentally and physically tired team isn’t going to bounce back as easily.

Pastner now has a week to figure out why is team sleep-walked through the inaugural AAC tournament in his home arena and how he can convince them to bring more energy and fire to an NCAA tournament game on a neutral court.

UConn will advance to face Cincinnati in the semifinals on Friday night.

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?