UConn dominates Syracuse for historic 4th straight title

INDIANAPOLIS – Breanna Stewart and UConn stand alone. Geno Auriemma, too, after another flawless season by the dominating Huskies.

UConn won an unprecedented fourth straight national championship Tuesday night, capping another perfect season by routing Syracuse 82-51. Until now, only the UCLA men's team had won four in a row in Division I, rolling to seven consecutive championships under John Wooden from 1967-73. With Tuesday's victory, Auriemma passed the Wizard of Westwood with his 11th national title.

Stewart said when she came to campus four years ago that she wanted to win four titles. She delivered on that promise by scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in her final college game.

The Huskies (38-0) have been nearly unbeatable since Stewart arrived. They lost four games her freshman year and only one since. The win over Syracuse was the 75th straight for UConn – all by double figures. Stewart and her fellow seniors went 24-0 in NCAA tourney games, too.

The three-time AP Player of the Year has said it is up to others to decide her place in women's college basketball lore. There is no denying she is the most accomplished player ever, winning more titles than fellow UConn greats Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore, who watched from the stands at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Like the other great UConn teams, this version had a killer instinct. The Huskies scored the first nine points of the game. Stewart had 10 points in the first 6 minutes as UConn built a 23-6 lead. When the Orange made a little run to cut its deficit to 25-13, Moriah Jefferson hit a 3-pointer off a nifty play just before the first-quarter buzzer. UConn's big three of Stewart, Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, who have helped the Huskies to an NCAA record 151 wins over their four years, combined for 26 of the 28 points in the period.

They also handled the Orange's press with precision passing that led to easy layups. The Huskies were up 50-23 at the half and extended the lead to 33 early in third quarter before Syracuse scored 16 straight points to get within 60-43 with 2:02 left in the period that brought the Orange fans to their feet. Consecutive layups by Napheesa Collier restored the 20-plus point lead and UConn cruised from there.

Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson left the game for good with 1:46 left. They shared an embrace together before hugging Auriemma. The trio then went down the bench hugging every member of the team.

With the victory, UConn continues its perfect run in NCAA championship games. Auriemma has never lost in 11 title appearances. While the names may change, the results are always the same: UConn is still there holding that trophy in the end. This one gave the Hall of Fame coach a sixth undefeated season.

To win her fourth championship, Stewart had to beat her hometown team. Fourth-seeded Syracuse (30-8) had the best season in school history, advancing to its first NCAA championship game. They hadn't made it out of the first weekend of the tournament until this year.

These two teams hadn't played since the Orange left the Big East for the ACC after the 2013 season. Syracuse has now lost 24 straight against UConn, a skid that dates to 1996.

Cornelia Fondren scored 16 points to lead Syracuse.

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7 bold predictions for the 2016-17 season

The impact of basketball's biggest stars makes the NBA the most predictable of leagues, but there's still room for some bold predictions. Here are seven rather off-the-wall prognostications from theScore's NBA editors.

Cavs fail to earn No. 1 seed

After capturing the franchise’s first championship, the Cavaliers‘ main priority is defending their title, and they enter the campaign as the overwhelming favorite to come out of the East.

But they don’t need home-court advantage to accomplish that. LeBron James has led his team to six straight Finals despite finishing atop the East only twice over that span. Cleveland is talented enough to coast through the regular season, resting its top players so they’re fresh for the playoffs. – Victoria Nguyen

Utah reaches West final

The Jazz missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season in 2015-16, but their point-differential (plus-1.8) and bad luck with injuries (1.689 lost-VORP) suggest they were much better than their record indicated.

If Dante Exum, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert stay healthy, while Rodney Hood and Trey Lyles continue improving, the Jazz have the talent to not only make the playoffs, but to reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2007. – Patrick Britton

Karl-Anthony Towns gets at least 1 MVP vote

The 20-year-old sophomore is already a top-15 talent – a two-way force with the skills of a guard and the interior presence of a traditional big.

With Tom Thibodeau at the helm and Towns leading the NBA’s most impressive collection of young talent – which includes plenty of trade value – the Timberwolves should end the league’s longest postseason drought (2004). That kind of success out West could be enough to earn Towns a first-place vote in a rare season of MVP parity. – Joseph Casciaro

Paul Millsap won’t finish season with Hawks

Millsap can opt out of his contract next summer, the Hawks are far from the sure playoff team they’ve been the past few years, and there’s a sense it could be a disappointing season in the ATL.

Even if they’re hovering around .500 ahead of the trade deadline, the brain trust of Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox will listen to inevitable offers from teams like the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, among others. Losing Millsap for nothing isn’t ideal, and at age 32 by the end of the season, he may not be part of Atlanta’s future plans, anyway. – John Chick

Spurs win less than 50 games

Only once in the Tim Duncan era did the Spurs win less than 50 games, and that was a 50-game season that saw San Antonio finish 37-13. Gregg Popovich’s squad won a franchise-best 67 games during the 2016-17 campaign, so falling below 50 will require quite the decline from an organization known for excellence.

But Tim Duncan – the Spurs’ defensive anchor – is retired. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili aren’t spring chickens anymore, the second unit lost several key players over the offseason, and there’s reports that LaMarcus Aldridge may not even survive the year in SA. – Chris Walder

James Harden leads league in scoring and assists

Tiny Archibald’s feat has withstood the test of time over the past four decades, but that’s set to change. Recast as the point guard in Mike D’Antoni’s fast-break offense, Harden will barge his way into the record books.

Three things are working in his favor.

One, Harden can definitely score, as he leads the league in total points since 2013. Two, Harden will dominate the ball in a high-tempo offense that relies on him to create shots for shooters and rim-runners, so he’ll rack up assists (he led the preseason with 10.7 per game). Three, Harden is remarkably durable and also leads the league in minutes played over the last three years. – William Lou

Trail Blazers miss the playoffs

The Blazers are young, fun, and can pour in buckets with the best of them. They’re coming off a feel-good, surprising 44-win season after a total tear-down gave way to an accelerated rebuild.

Here’s the thing: I’m not convinced they’re nearly as good as those results suggest. That team had just about everything go right, from getting career years out of at least five guys, to a ridiculously clean bill of health. They still couldn’t stop anybody, and didn’t address that deficiency in the offseason.

If nothing else, consider this a spite pick for Damian Lillard‘s continued insistence that he gets no respect, even though he has a max contract, a monster Adidas deal, and made the All-NBA second team last year. – Joe Wolfond

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Tom Izzo says Michigan State's November schedule will be 'brutal'

Tom Izzo is preparing for a long, arduous month of November for Michigan State this season.

The veteran of 21 seasons at the helm of the Spartans acknowledged during a press conference Thursday that his team will face a challenge unlike any other in years' past, as Michigan State will play consecutive games against Arizona and Kentucky to open the season, and a matchup against Duke to end the month.

"The schedule in November will be brutal for me, it will be brutal for those of you that are following, and it's going to be brutal for our players. It's 13,600 miles in 22 days," Izzo said. "That is taking on something that we've never really taken on before with everybody's one- and two-ranked team in the country being Duke and Kentucky and we're going to play both of them."

As far as what competing against so many top teams right out of the gate means for the Spartans' season, Izzo is taking a very simple approach to how he is anticipating the first month.

"It means we are going to find out early exactly where we are like we always do," Izzo said.

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Keenan Reynolds, Breanna Stewart honored with Sullivan Award

NEW YORK – Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and UConn forward Breanna Stewart won the AAU James E Sullivan Award on Sunday as the most outstanding U.S. amateur athletes who also demonstrate premier leadership, character, and sportsmanship.

Reynolds led Navy to a school-record 11 wins against two losses and the academy's best end-of-season ranking in more than 50 years at No. 18. He finished his career as the FBS leader in touchdowns (88) and rushing yards by a quarterback (4,559).

“I’m extremely blessed and honored to have won this award,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I would like to thank my family, the coaching staff, my teammates, the Naval Academy Athletic Association, the Naval Academy administration, the Brigade of Midshipmen and the entire Naval Academy family for all the support they have provided me over the last four years. Winning this award is the cherry on top of a great four years.”

Stewart led UConn to four straight national titles. She was absent from the ceremony while partaking in the Huskies’ championship parade.

– With files from theScore

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Report: Yi asks for release from Lakers, will be waived

Yi Jianlian‘s NBA comeback with the Los Angeles Lakers has apparently come to an end before it even officially started.

The Chinese big man has reportedly requested a release from the team that signed him only two months ago, and is expected to be waived on Monday, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.

Stein reports that Yi and his representatives asked the Lakers for his release because the former sixth overall pick did not get the role he expected to have with the team.

The Lakers signed the 28-year-old to a reported $8-million contract – though the deal was said to be guaranteed for only $1 million – in mid-August, shortly after Yi competed in the Olympics.

Yi appeared in six preseason games with the Lakers, averaging three points and 2.5 blocks on 35 percent shooting in less than 11 minutes per games.

After being drafted by Milwaukee in 2007, Yi averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in five seasons with the Bucks, Nets, Wizards, and Mavericks, before heading back to China to play for the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

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South Carolina freshman Rakym Felder arrested, jailed for assault

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina freshman guard Rakym Felder was arrested Sunday and charged with several counts, including assault, resisting arrest, and public disorderly conduct.

Felder, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard from New York, is being held at Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Richland County, according to the facility’s website.

A team spokeswoman said coach Frank Martin was aware of Felder’s arrest and was gathering more information. Per South Carolina athletic department policy, Felder is suspended indefinitely.

Felder was charged by the Columbia police with simple assault and battery, resisting arrest, public disorderly conduct, failure to stop on police command, a pedestrian on a controlled access highway, and use of another's or altered license or identification card.

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Breanna Stewart taken 1st overall in WNBA draft

Not only did UConn dominate the NCAA tournament, it owned the WNBA draft.

After the Seattle Storm selected Breanna Stewart first overall, her Huskies teammates Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck went to the San Antonio Stars and Connecticut Sun respectively on Thursday night.

"When you look at our senior class, it speaks for itself going one, two, three,'' Stewart told reporters. "Lots of comparisons between past UConn teams and this one. When we do things that make history, that's saying it all.''

The WNBA's top two picks have come from the same school three times, but 2016 marks the first time three players from the same program were selected at the top of the draft.

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Curry defends Green, Warriors after 'ridiculous' reports of discord

When there’s a team that looks as infallible as this year’s Golden State Warriors, it’s natural to look for any little crack in the veneer, any bit of vulnerability one can find.

So NBA fans outside the Bay Area would be forgiven for latching onto a peak-behind-the-curtain story from ESPN's Ethan Strauss earlier this week, which suggested it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for the team that's gone 140-24 with two Western Conference crowns and an NBA title over the last two years.

Strauss' story focused mainly on Draymond Green, whose tempestuousness, volatility, and demanding nature reportedly rubbed some teammates and coaches the wrong way during the Warriors' historic (and ultimately crushing) 2015-16 campaign.

Kevin Durant's stunning decision to join the 73-win juggernaut that had just knocked his Oklahoma City Thunder out of the West finals in a seven-game epic only turned up the volume on the Warriors scrutiny.

But for all the external noise, Steph Curry says the locker room is pretty well-insulated.

“Honestly, none of that stuff has crept in,” the reigning two-time MVP told USA Today’s Sam Amick. “We have to respond. Obviously the article about Draymond, we all thought it was ridiculous and kind of looking through a keyhole at somebody’s life that you don’t really know about.”

Curry wasn’t the only Warrior to take exception to the article. Klay Thompson, who was cited as a player particularly vexed by Green’s behavior, was distraught – though, curiously, not over the depiction of his relationship with his teammate. Instead, Thompson took issue with an anonymous quote from a team official saying the Warriors had “played like a bunch of cowards” in Green’s absence in Game 5 of this year’s Finals.

Whatever the perception, Curry insists that his courtside view of the Warriors’ showtime act reveals a healthy team.

"We see every single day what goes on, what a guy like Draymond brings to the table for us, how he makes us better, how KD does that for us, what Klay does for us, all the way down the list," Curry said.

"And we appreciate everybody's role. We appreciate what our common goal is. When we get back in the locker room, and practice, and when we're by ourselves, the mood is pretty solid, something that I'm pretty confident will allow us to have maturity when it comes to the noise around us and how we handle it and not letting that affect how we play on the court and how we see each other and let that get in the way. I'm going to do my part in trying to lead that charge, and make sure it's all about basketball."

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Utah adds 4-star power forward Branden Carlson

Four-star power forward Branden Carlson has decided to remain in-state by committing to play at Utah.

Carlson chose the Utes over offers from BYU, Stanford, UCLA, and UNLV, among others.

The 6-foot-9, 200-pound big man made his announcement via Twitter:

The South Jordan, Utah native was rated No. 36 for his position nationally, and was the top recruit in his home state.

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Loyola investigating Swoopes after mass player exodus

Loyola University Chicago is investigating women's head coach Sheryl Swoopes after multiple players said they wanted out of the program.

Out of the Ramblers 12 returning players, 10 are transferring or have asked for a release from their scholarships, according to Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune. In addition to this year’s mass exodus, five players also reportedly left last season.

“Any time there are allegations of student-athlete mistreatment, it is more than concerning,” athletic director Jermaine Truax said. “The welfare of our student-athletes is paramount. Thus, the Loyola University Chicago Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has asked for an independent and comprehensive University investigation into the women’s basketball program.”

Without specifying the nature of the allegations, a Loyola student newspaper is reporting Swoopes made "players uncomfortable and overstepped professional bounds," Ryan reported.

Truax added that Swoopes is aware of the investigation and is cooperating fully.

Swoopes is widely regarded as one of the best women's basketball players ever and was recently inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

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