Matt Gatens has Iowa playing spoiler to ranked teams

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It seems that Iowa has a bit of attendance problem. That’s why, with a Thursday night game against No. 16 Wisconsin being televised on ESPN2, the university offered so many bribes to students to try to get them to the game.

If the free tickets weren’t enough, the first 100 students got free ice cream, the first 500 students got free pizza and a rally towel and the first 2,000 students got a bobble head of Matt Gatens. And while free pizza, free ice cream and a bobble head is generally a memorable experience for any student, Gatens made sure that no one would forget about the night that his bobble head was handed out.

Gatens scored 18 of his 33 points in the first half as the Hawkeyes jumped all over Wisconsin early and held on down the stretch, winning 67-66 when Jordan Taylor banked in a meaningless three at the buzzer. In was the second straight home win over a ranked opponent, as the Hawkeyes were coming off of a 78-66 win over then No. 20 Indiana.

Gatens had 30 points in the win over the Hoosiers, hitting his last seven threes — including a four minute stretch at the end of the second half were he hit four of them. Gatens started the Wisconsin game by hitting his first five threes, meaning that not only did the senior guard go for 63 points in back-to-back upsets, he also knocked down 12 consecutive three pointers.

That’s impressive.

What’s more impressive is that there are actually people talking about the potential of Iowa — yes, Iowa — making the NCAA Tournament. Its not all that unreasonable. They now sit above Minnesota, Northwestern and Illinois in the Big Ten standings. In addition to the two wins they have picked up in the last five days, the Hawkeyes have beaten No. 11 Michigan and won at Wisconsin. That’s good.

The bad?

Iowa has 13 losses right now and an RPI in the 130s heading into Thursday night. For a real chance at earning an at-large bid, Iowa needs to win their last three games of the regular season and make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament.

But the fact that they even warrant discussion is a testament to the season they have had.

Oh, and those fans that got the free bobble heads?

They also go to storm the floor. I’d say that the students that took the university up on their offer got a pretty good deal.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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?