NCAA Basketball Tournament - Gonzaga v Ohio State

Gonzaga looks to be the early Old Spice Classic favorite

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The bracket for the 2012 Old Spice Classic was released on Thursday, and while the games scheduled for Orlando offer quality there’s a chance the best game could be the one that isn’t part of the bracket.

That would be West Virginia’s trip to Spokane to take on Gonzaga on November 12, which is also a part of ESPN’s 24-hour marathon to celebrate the start of the season.

Here’s a quick look at the Old Spice Classic, which will be played on November 22, 23 and 25.

Old Spice Classic Schedule (all times Eastern)

November 22
Noon West Virginia vs. Marist (ESPN2)
2 PM Vanderbilt vs. Davidson (ESPN2)
7 PM UTEP vs. Oklahoma (ESPN2)
9 PM Clemson vs. Gonzaga (ESPN)

November 23
12:30 PM Semifinal #1 (ESPN)
3 PM Consolation #1 (ESPNU)
5:30 PM Consolation #2 (ESPN2)
7:30 PM Semifinal #2 (ESPN2)

November 25
11:30 AM 5th place game (ESPNU)
2 PM 7th place game (ESPN3)
4:30 PM 3rd place game (ESPNU)
7 PM Championship game (ESPN2)

Best quarterfinal: Vanderbilt vs. Davidson
Unfortunately that WVU/Gonzaga game can’t be counted as a quarterfinal, but the Commodores and Wildcats should be entertaining as well. Vanderbilt does lose a lot with Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins all in the NBA (lost six seniors total), but Kevin Stallings has some talented youngsters at his disposal.

Kedren Johnson, Rod Odom and Dai-Jon Parker are three of those players, and they’re going to have their hands full (and then some) with a Davidson team poised to repeat as SoCon champs.

Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks were one of the least-publicized front court tandems in America last season, and 6-4 guard J.P. Kuhlman is another outstanding player for Bob McKillop’s squad.

Best individual match-up (that we know will happen): Elias Harris (Gonzaga) vs. Devin Booker (Clemson)
With Clemson losing their top two scorers from last season Booker will need to be a major cog in the attack on both ends of the floor. Whether or not he’s able to do so once the Tigers reach ACC play will likely be known after their weekend in Orlando.

As for Harris, if he can remain healthy the senior is more than capable of going out with a bang. While some criticized Harris for his play last season, a look at his numbers shows an improvement from his sophomore year. Gonzaga has many weapons, but a Harris at his best makes the Bulldogs a much tougher team to beat.

Best individual match-up (that you want to see): Cohen (Davidson) vs. Aaric Murray (West Virginia)
Murray was one of the best big men in the Atlantic 10 while at La Salle, and while he may not be as versatile as the departed Kevin Jones he’ll have an impact on the Mountaineers.

Cohen was mentioned above, and he’s one of the key figures Davidson will need to play well should they match up with a West Virginia team that has some size in the paint.

Winner: Gonzaga
This isn’t the greatest in-season tournament field, with a number of the teams having some major questions to answer about themselves. The closest thing to a “finished” product is Gonzaga, who have the talent needed to account for the losses of Robert Sacre’ and Marquise Carter.

Clemson could be tricky and a possible semifinal match-up with Oklahoma could be as well, but Gonzaga’s biggest challenge likely comes in the title game. Is it West Virginia? Davidson? Either way it’s difficult to pick against the Zags in this one.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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?