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Sweet 16 Preview: No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky

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On Wednesday and Thursday, we will be breaking down all eight of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here is our look at No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky:

RELATED: Sweet 16 Power Rankings | Top 16 Players | Eight Critical Individual Matchups

WHEN: Friday, 9:45 p.m.

WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis (Midwest Region)

MAJOR STORY LINES: Louisville is looking to make their third straight Final Four and repeat as national champs, and they have a real chance of making that happen. Kentucky was the preseason No. 1 in the country, spent the first four months of the season underperforming and limiting expectations, and then they went out and played up to their potential for the first time all season while handing Wichita State their first loss of the year.

And, you know, it’s Louisville vs. Kentucky.

KEY STATS: Louisville is currently sitting at No. 3 in KenPom’s rankings in large part due to the fact that their defense is No. 2 in adjusted efficiency. And the reason their defense is that good is because they rank second nationally in defensive turnover percentage. Kentucky can be turnover prone at times, particularly Andrew Harrison. If Louisville is going to win, they are going to need Russ Smith, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier to wreak havoc on Kentucky’s guards, turning this into an uptempo game.

SWEET 16 PREVIEWS: Stanford-Dayton Wisconsin-Baylor | Florida-UCLA | Arizona-SDSU

Iowa State-UConn | Michigan-Tennessee | Virginia-Michigan State | Louisville-Kentucky

KEY PLAYERS: The most important matchup is going to be between the two back courts, but the most entertaining battle is going to be waged between Julius Randle and Montrezl Harrell. Randle was arguably the most talented player in the SEC this past season, a powerhouse power forward that is capable of utter domination in the paint. Harrell isn’t as highly-regarded by NBA types as Randle is, but he’s got a shot at being a lottery a pick largely because he is capable of … utter domination in the paint. This will be fun.

POINT SPREAD: It started at Louisville (-5.5) and is down to Louisville (-4) in some places.


1. Stephen Van Treese and Kentucky’s board work: Louisville does not have a big front line. Kentucky’s front line is as big and athletic as many NBA teams. Van Treese doesn’t need to be dominant, but he absolutely must have an impact on this game, especially on the glass. Louisville is 264th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. Kentucky is second in offensive rebounding percentage. That’s a major, major concern.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the winner will likely be determined by whether or not Louisville gets more points off of turnovers than Kentucky gets off of second chance points.

2. Three-point shooting: Louisville is known for playing a lot of zone while Kentucky has made a 2-3 zone a priority late in the season. Who can take advantage of the looks they good over the zone? Kentucky shoots 32.7% from three. Louisville shoots 37.0%.

3. Which Russ Smith shows up?: Russ was a first-team all-american this season, and rightfully so. But he shot 6-for-19 from the floor and committed 13 turnovers in the first two games of the tournament while collecting just two steals. Those numbers simply won’t cut it.


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
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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?