UConn, Notre Dame remain undefeated, advance to Elite Eight

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NCAA Women’s Tournament Bracket

The women’s NCAA tournament features two teams expected by many to play for the national title on Tuesday, April 8. in No. 1 UConn and No. 1 Notre Dame. They’ve been the two best teams in the country all season long, and it’ll take an exemplary effort to keep either team from reaching the game’s biggest night in Nashville. Saturday both teams took another step towards their goal of winning a national title, advancing to the Elite Eight with double-digit victories.

Geno Auriemma’s Huskies, the top overall seed, struggled with No. 12 BYU in a Lincoln Region semifinal and led the Cougars by just one point at the half. Whatever Auriemma said to his players in the locker room had an effect, as UConn limited BYU to 31% shooting in the second half of their 70-51 victory.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, leading four double-digit scorers, and UConn turned 20 offensive rebounds into 27 second-chance points (18-point advantage). Kim Beeston scored 16 points and Morgan Bailey added 14 for BYU, which beat No. 5 NC State and No. 4 Nebraska last weekend to reach this point. Next up for 37-0 UConn is No. 3 Texas A&M, as the Aggies limited No. 7 DePaul to 24 first-half points in their 84-65 victory over the Blue Demons. Courtney Walker paced the Aggies with 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting.

As for Notre Dame, Muffet McGraw’s Fighting Irish built up a 14-point halftime lead and that proved to be the cushion they needed in an 89-72 win over No. 5 Oklahoma State. Natalie Achonwa accounted for 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five blocks to lead the way, with Jewell Loyd adding 20 points and 12 rebounds and Kayla McBride 18 points for the 35-0 ACC champions.

Next up for Notre Dame is the South Bend regional final against No. 2 Baylor, which is also the last team to beat the Fighting Irish at Purcell Pavilion. Job one for Notre Dame on Monday night will be to slow down high-scoring guard Odyssey Sims, who led the Lady Bears to a 90-72 win over No. 3 Kentucky with 25 points and seven assists. Sims has now scored 1,021 points this season, becoming the second woman in Division I history to score 1,000 points in a single season (Jackie Stiles was the first in 2001).

Not to be overlooked in Baylor’s win is the play of Nina Davis, who added 2o points and eight rebounds. Kentucky shot just 34.8% from the field and guard Jennifer O’Neill, who leads the team in scoring with an average of 12.6 points per game, missed all 12 of her shots and scored all eight of her points at the foul line. And in a glance at Monday’s game in South Bend, Baylor is 4-0 all-time against Notre Dame with their last win coming on December 5, 2012, and the Fighting Irish have won 27 straight home games since.

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?