Syracuse faces tough slate; Southerland in limbo


Syracuse faces tough slate; Southerland in limbo

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse's Jim Boeheim seems to take everything in stride, no matter what's swirling around his Orange.

For the second time in the past year, Boeheim has lost a player due to eligibility concerns. On Saturday, the university announced just before the Orange's tipoff against Villanova that senior James Southerland was out indefinitely.

A year ago, center Fab Melo missed three games in late January due to an academic issue, then was reinstated. But just before the start of the NCAA tournament, the sophomore was ruled ineligible again. He did not play another college game and was drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Although Boeheim cited privacy issues in declining to elaborate on Southerland's status after the Orange's 11-point win over the Wildcats, he was somewhat more open during a tour of ESPN studios in Connecticut on Monday.

``Kids are going to get in situations and over the years they have,'' Boeheim said. ``We have been fortunate to be very careful. We have two academic advisers, we have several people that work with our players through all kinds of issues and I think that's why we never had that many problems over the years. But when they do strike, obviously, it is troubling.

``We will get through it and, hopefully, James will get through this.''

The sooner the better for the team.

Syracuse (16-1, 4-0 Big East), which moved up one notch to sixth this week in the national rankings, will play at top-ranked Louisville on Saturday. Louisville (15-1) moved up from No. 3 on Monday after losses by Duke and Michigan over the weekend and has won 10 straight games since losing to Duke in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Southerland has blossomed in the sixth-man role that has become so important at Syracuse since he arrived. He watched Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters excel as the first off the bench and embraced it when it was his turn, leading the team in scoring for much of the season after a career-high 35-point outburst that included nine 3-pointers in a win at Arkansas in late November.

Southerland has averaged 26.3 minutes and 13.6 points to rank third on the team in scoring, just behind leader Brandon Triche (14.1). And he's raised his overall game to a much higher level. A streaky shooter, the lanky, 6-foot-8 Southerland also is averaging 5.2 rebounds and has 21 steals and 16 blocks.

With his long reach, and his energy, he has become a key defender in Boeheim's signature 2-3 zone defense.

``Southerland's a big part of our team,'' said C.J. Fair, who was named Big East player of the week Monday, following in the footsteps of Southerland and Triche earlier in the season. ``James stretches the floor. He gets a lot of attention from the defense. When he's not in there, they pack it in and force us to take 3s.

``We miss James out there.''

In Southerland's absence, freshmen Jerami Grant, Dajuan Coleman and redshirt Trevor Cooney stepped up, combining for 25 points, three steals and two blocks in 61 combined minutes against Villanova.

At least Southerland was on the bench in street clothes, occasionally smiling as the Orange rallied for the win after trailing by a basket at halftime.

``James always makes you laugh. He's always doing something funny to get you going,'' Fair said. ``He's still there behind the scenes motivating us. He just can't play.

``I think we can still reach our potential, but James being out is a big blow to our team. Nobody expected this. We just have to find a way to make up for his production.''

So far, so good.

``I guess it will be a day-to-day thing,'' Cooney said. ``You just have to prepare to go out there and play without him if he's not here. If we get him back, it will be just great.''

The team was off Monday, the first day of classes in the spring semester.

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon


Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon

The Redskins will be taking visits from two former NFC East foes in the next few days.

Former Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will visit Redskins Park on Monday. Scandrick, 31, has been with Dallas since them made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. He has eight career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

The Cowboys released Scandrick on Friday in a salary cap move. The Redskins would be attracted to Scandrick’s versatility. He can play either side at corner and, of particular interest to the Redskins, in the slot. That is a position of concern for Washington since they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the deal for quarterback Alex Smith.

The Redskins have been trying to get former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to sign for the past several days, but they can’t come together on money. Scandrick could be a fallback if they need one.

The other visitor will be former Giants defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins, per John Keim of ESPN. Hankins, 25, was a second-round draft pick and played his first four years in New York. Last year he moved on to the Colts as a free agent. They are changing their defense and decided to release Hankins after paying him $10 million last year.

Hankins could bolster a defensive line that still needs young talent. It’s not known if he would be considered a nose tackle in the Redskins’ scheme. The Giants ran a 4-3 defense and in the Colts’ 3-4 he was used as an end.

The Redskins had former Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit earlier this week, but he decided to sign with the Packers.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.