Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Ohio State v Michigan

Ohio State clobbers Michigan, is peaking at the right time

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INDIANAPOLIS – Michigan had Trey Burke. Ohio State had Jared Sullinger.

The Buckeyes had Aaron Craft, but the Wolverines had no answer inside.

In a game that was ostensibly decided early in the first-half, No. 7 Ohio State advanced to their fourth consecutive Big Ten Championship game with a convincing 77-55 victory over their hated rival No. 10 Michigan.

Yep, this team might be who we thought they were entering the season.

Coming off a memorable 30-point performance in the quarterfinals against Minnesota, Burke was completely shut down by the Buckeyes pesky guard, finishing with just five points on an abysmal  1-11 shooting.

“Stopping a great player like [Burke], especially how he was feeling after last game, was a team effort,” Craft said after the game. “It’s not about me against him, our big guys did a great job of hedging out on ball screens.”

After a game where he was able to create his own shot and find lanes to the basket, Burke was inhibited from serving as a one-man offensive show for the Wolverines, and that lack of production bled all over his team. The lack of production spurred frustration from the freshman while his childhood buddy, Sullinger, took full advantage of the Wolverines not-so-stymie frontcourt, following up his own 30-point quarterfinal performance with 24 and six rebounds.

In the last four games, Sullinger has averaged 22.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. Just about what we’ve expected from him all season.

Even DeShaun Thomas, who has really come into this own in the past month, was able take on double teams and drop baby hooks over undersized Michigan forwards. He finished with 22 points and, if he continues this output, would make William Buford’s job easier and the Buckeyes far more dangerous.

“Thomas’ versatility is big time,” said Sullinger after the game. “A lot of people see him as a shooter and they will switch off him and we can get a smaller guy on him, but then we can throw it down to him in the post. He can shoot and take it to the rack.”

With tomorrow’s rematch from a week ago against Michigan State looming, the Buckeyes have positioned themselves for an outside chance at earning a No. 1 tournament seed. But even if they down the Spartans (and win their third consecutive Big Ten Tournament Championship) and don’t earn that top like on your printable bracket, That Matta’s team will have no doubt reclaimed the distinction as a true National Championship contender.

Much like the Spartans, this is a well-balanced basketball team, but at their best they are far more dangerous, with weapons at the wing and an All-American center anchoring the frontcourt.

Those five regular season conference losses are in the past. This team is playing their best basketball when it matters most.

Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.

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?