No. 7 UConn advances to fourth NCAA tournament title game


ARLINGTON, Texas — With 9:07 remaining in the first half of Saturday’s national semifinal matchup with No. 1 Florida, No. 7 UConn had managed to score just four points. Leading scorer Shabazz Napier had yet to score, and outside of points at the rim scored by DeAndre Daniels and Amida Brimah the Huskies enjoyed no success on the offensive end of the floor. In need of a boost head coach Kevin Ollie went to a three point guard lineup, inserting freshman Terrence Samuel.

The move turned the tide of the contest, one that UConn would ultimately go on to win by the final score of 63-53. As a result the program will make its fourth national title game appearance Monday night, with this being the first under second-year head coach Kevin Ollie.

Daniels, who has been outstanding all tournament long, paced the Huskies with 20 points to go along with ten rebounds. And despite getting off to that slow start UConn finished the game shooting 56% from the field, taking control of the game and getting many of the quality looks they desired throughout the night.

MORE: UConn beats Florida by … playing like Florida?

Four starters finished the game in double figures, and as a team UConn outscored Florida 36-24 in the paint. While the first meeting between these two teams, a 65-64 UConn win on December 2, can’t be relied for too much it should be noted that the Gators held a 32-14 advantage in paint points on that night.

Florida struggled mightily offensively, shooting 39% from the field and 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. Michael Frazier II was responsible for the lone made three but he was unable to shake free of the UConn defense, attempting just three shots on the night. Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin combined to score just eight points, and that had a major impact on the outcome.

Without the inside-out balance that made the Gators the favorite to cut down the nets this weekend, Billy Donovan’s team was unable to muster up enough offensive production to derail the red-hot Huskies.

“On offense, we just couldn’t really get anything going,” Wilbekin said. “They were being really aggressive and we couldn’t really get into our offense. We weren’t moving the ball as well, and a couple of us were having bad shooting nights.”

As stated earlier the Huskies have made three prior appearances in the title game, winning all three (1999, 2004 and 2011). And given the way Daniels and his teammates have played in reaching this point, UConn is is more than capable of making it 4-for-4.

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?