No. 1 UConn moves to 35-0 with win in NCAA tournament opener

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One day after fellow No. 1 seed Notre Dame improved its unblemished record to 33-0, No. 1 UConn moved to 35-0 with an 87-44 win over No. 16 Prairie View A&M in its NCAA tournament opener Sunday. Geno Auriemma’s Huskies, the top seed in the Lincoln Region, have won all 35 of their games by double digits with their 11-point win over Baylor on January 13 being the closest result.

Against the SWAC champion Lady Panthers, UConn would lead by as much as 50 in the second half with Breanna Stewart scoring 19 points and grabbing ten rebounds to lead the way offensively. All five starters scored in double figures for the Huskies, who led 44-12 at the half.

Next up for UConn is No. 9 Saint Joseph’s, which beat No. 8 Georgia 67-57 in the first game of the doubleheader in Storrs. The men’s programs met Thursday night in Buffalo, with the Huskies beating the Hawks in overtime.

Saint Joseph’s was one of five lower-seeded teams to win Sunday, with just three such teams were able to pull off the feat Saturday. Two 11-seeds were among the five, with Stanford Region No. 11 Florida beating Dayton 83-69 and Lincoln Region No. 11 James Madison knocking off No. 6 Gonzaga 72-63. CAA Player of the Year Kirby Burkholder put together quite the line for JMU, finishing the game with 28 points, 18 rebounds and four assists.

Both teams will have challenging road tests Tuesday, with the Gators taking on No. 3 Penn State and the CAA champion Dukes playing No. 3 Texas A&M.

The other one-seed in action Sunday was Stanford Region No. 1 South Carolina, which won the SEC regular season title. Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks held off Cal-State Northridge 73-58 in their NCAA tournament opener, with guard Tiffany Mitchell scoring 24 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists and center Alaina Coates providing 13 points and 16 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.

Louisville Region No. 2 West Virginia and No. 3 Louisville were also winners Sunday, with the Mountaineers beating No. 15 Albany 76-61 and the Cardinals throttling No. 14 Idaho, 88-42. And in the game that provided the most suspense, Stanford Region No. 4 North Carolina came back from 18 down to beat UT-Martin, 60-58. Diamond DeShields scored 15 points and dished out four assists for the Tar Heels, and Xylina McDaniel’s putback with 56 seconds remaining proved to be the difference.

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?