Jim Boeheim

Syracuse's Malachi Richardson (23) drives past Virginia's Anthony Gill (13) during the second half of a college basketball game in the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Syracuse guard Richardson enters NBA Draft, won’t hire agent

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With guards Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney out of eligibility, freshman Malachi Richardson stands to see even more scoring opportunities as a sophomore in 2016-17. Before reaching that point however, the New Jersey native has decided to enter the 2016 NBA Draft but will not hire an agent in order to preserve his college eligibility.

Richardson was a mainstay in the starting lineup for Jim Boeheim’s team, averaging 13.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game on a team that reached the Final Four. It was his second half offensive showing that sparked the Orange’s comeback win over No. 1 Virginia in the Elite Eight, as he hit six three-pointers and scored 23 points on the day.

In addition to Gbinije and Cooney Syracuse has also lost seldom-used point guard Kaleb Joseph, who transferred to Creighton, from its’ backcourt. That leaves Richardson and fellow rising sophomore Franklin Howard as guards who saw playing time this season should the former return to campus. The Orange also add a talented guard in the form of freshman Tyus Battle this summer.

Richardson is one of two Syracuse underclassmen who have important decision to make in regards to the NBA Draft, with 6-foot-8 forward Tyler Lydon being the other.

Final Four Previews: Ranking the head coaches

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With the Final Four just two days away we’ll be taking a look at different aspects of the match-ups, one of which being a ranking for the four head coaches. With two Hall of Famers who have won national titles in one game, and two coaches who have never reached the title game in the other, that makes for interesting subplots in Saturday’s games. Without further ado, here’s the ranking of the four Final Four head coaches.

1. Roy Williams, North Carolina
Overall Record: 782-208
NCAA tournament record: 66-23; seven Final Four appearances, two national titles (2005, 2009)

Williams is one of two members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame who will coach in this weekend’s Final Four, with the other being his semifinal opponent in Jim Boeheim. Williams has led two of the sport’s most storied programs and enjoyed a great deal of success at both, winning 80.5 percent of his games and making three Final Four appearances at Kansas before returning to his alma mater in 2003.

At North Carolina, Williams’ teams have won 77.3 percent of their games, and he led the Tar Heels to national titles in 2005 and 2009. Williams has now led North Carolina to four Final Four appearances, with this year’s trip being the first for the program since 2009. In both 2005 and 2009 the Tar Heels were the favorites at the Final Four, and that will be the case this weekend as well. Can this group win it all? That remains to be seen.

2. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Overall record: 989-346 (not accounting for games vacated by the NCAA)
NCAA tournament record: 53-30; five Final Four appearances, one national title (2003)

Boeheim and Williams, his opponent in the semifinals, have met in a Final Four before. That came back in 2003, when a Hakim Warrick blocked shot preserved the win for Syracuse over Kansas and gave the Orange their first (and only) national title. Boeheim’s led his alma mater to five Final Four appearances, and he’s reached the title game in three of the previous four trips.

Syracuse dropped a heartbreaker to Indiana in the 1987 title game, and nine years later they fell to a Kentucky team that would reach the title game in three straight years (winning in 1996 and 1998). Of the four prior teams Boeheim’s led to the Final Four none had been seeded lower than a four, so this group is a definite outlier given their status as a No. 10 seed.

3. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma
Overall record: 590-360
NCAA tournament record: 20-16; two Final Four appearances

It’s been 22 years since Kruger last led a team to the Final Four, doing so at Florida with a team that included Andrew DeClerq and Dametri Hill. Kruger’s the lone head coach to lead five different teams to the NCAA tournament, with Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV being the other four. After losing in the round of 64 in each of his first two appearances at Oklahoma, Kruger’s Sooners reached the Sweet 16 last season where the lost to Michigan State.

In addition to taking the five aforementioned schools to the NCAA tournament, Kruger’s managed to take each one to at least the Sweet 16. With guards Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard leading the way, Kruger will look to make his first-ever appearance in the national title game.

4. Jay Wright, Villanova
Overall record: 474-242
NCAA tournament record: 18-12; two Final Four appearances

After missing the NCAA tournament in each of his first three seasons at the helm at Villanova, Wright’s led the Wildcats to the Big Dance in 11 of the last 12 seasons. Add in two NCAA tournament appearances while the head coach at Hofstra (2000 and 2001), and Wright has a total of 13 trips to the tournament to his credit. From 2005-2009 Villanova reached at least the second weekend of the NCAA tournament in four of the five seasons, which included a trip to the Final Four in 2009.

After that run Villanova hit a bit of a cold stretch, not getting out of the first weekend in any of their five appearances from 2010 to 2015 and missing the tournament completely in 2012. Wright and the Wildcats got over the hump this year, and Las Vegas odds have them second in line behind North Carolina when it comes to their chances of winning the national title.

Syracuse pays homage to legend with special warmup shirt

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Back in September it was revealed that former Syracuse guard Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, who was not only one of the program’s greatest players but also a key figure in the growth of the Big East during its infancy, was undergoing treatment for a malignant brain tumor. The full process has been understandably difficult for Washington and his family, not only physically and emotionally but financially as well.

With that in mind a GoFundMe campaign was started by Washington’s longtime friend Brandon Steiner to help the family with the rising medical costs, which included Washington needing a nurse’s aide for 24-hour supervision according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. The campaign has raised nearly $39,000 to this point, with a goal of $93,000 being set.

Before the team’s basketball game against Notre Dame Thursday night players took to the Carrier Dome court for warmups in special T-shirts honoring Washington, with his nickname in the same cursive print used on Syracuse’s uniforms during Pearl’s time at the school.

Former Big East foes set to renew acquaintances?

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In the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, Syracuse and Connecticut met for the first time since the programs left the Big East in 2013. Of course the game, which the Orange won, made many nostalgic for the days when that game would be a conference matchup with far higher stakes. And apparently, fans may not have to wait too long for the next meeting between the two programs.

Obviously UConn head coach Kevin Ollie used the word “hopefully” when discussing the possibility of there being a UConn/Syracuse matchup on next season’s schedule, so nothing’s set in stone. But hopefully the two sides can some to an agreement…maybe a home and home with a neutral site meeting at Madison Square Garden?

That wouldn’t be a bad deal at all, especially when considering the number of important meetings in the series. Both programs have made efforts to get former conference foes on their respective non-conference schedules, with Syracuse having already played Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova since their move to the ACC.

UConn will play the first game in its home and home series with Georgetown this weekend, and adding another former Big East to the mix would help their non-conference résumé in future years given the strength of the American Athletic Conference compared to its last conference home.

Jim Boeheim’s NCAA suspension to begin Saturday

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press

Saturday marks the renewal of one of the sport’s best rivalries, as former Big East foes Syracuse and Georgetown will meet in the nation’s capital. Unfortunately, one of the most influential figures in this rivalry won’t be present.

Thursday morning the NCAA announced that Jim Boeheim’s nine-game suspension as part of the sanctions handed down for NCAA rules violations will begin with Saturday’s game. This is a change from the initial ruling that Boeheim would have to sit out the Orange’s first nine ACC games. That decision did not fall in line with the penalty handed down to SMU’s Larry Brown, who’s in the midst of his own nine-game suspension.

With that being the case the NCAA decided that like Brown, Boeheim’s suspension should not have been limited to conference games. While the fact that he’ll only miss three conference games can be viewed as a positive, the short notice of this ruling isn’t particularly fair to Boeheim or his program.

That being said, one could also make that argument in regards to the school’s timing for announcing their self-imposed postseason ban last February.

Assistant coach and head coach designate Mike Hopkins will take the reigns for Syracuse, and the earliest Boeheim can return to coaching in games will be for the Orange’s game against North Carolina January 9. During the suspension Boeheim is prohibited from having any contact with his players or coaches.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
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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.