Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin reacts during the first half of the men's NCAA East Regional basketball game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in Boston

Mick Cronin: The Big East’s losses are ‘good for Cincinnati’

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For the most part, I think I can safely say that the general consensus in regards to the teams leaving the Big East is that it is bad for the league.

Look at who the conference is losing — Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, Notre Dame. Those are four programs that annually compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament, including one of the nation’s best programs and most rabid fanbases in Syracuse.

Yes, there are still a number of quality programs left, and yes, adding Temple and Memphis will help mitigate some of the losses, but that doesn’t change the fact that two of the most storied programs in the conference are headed out the door.

I’ve argued that the Big East can withstand these losses, and I do believe that, but that doesn’t mean it will be the same Big East that we grew up on.

Mick Cronin, however, has a quite different take on the changes in conference structure. He spoke to about the shake-up over the weekend:

“People say, ‘Well, the Big East isn’t the same Big East.’ That’s good for Cincinnati,” Cronin told Friday at the Brayden Carr Foundation clinic at Rutgers.


But Cronin believes his team will never get the respect it’s due as long as the Big East bluebloods remain.

“Even though you win and you finish ahead of Georgetown last year, you beat them twice, and in the final national poll they’re ranked ahead of you,” Cronin said. “And then they get beat in the first round. But name-brand connotation, Big East basketball, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? ‘Big Monday,’ Georgetown vs. Syracuse. It’s nobody’s fault, it just is what it is. So the changing of the Big East, it just gives us a chance to plant our flag deeper. And for any team, for the rest of us, that when you do win there’s room in the print for the story because there’s just so many other good teams. And people want to read about the other Big East teams. They don’t even think about you.”

On the one hand, he’s got a point. Cincinnati does not carry the same name-brand recognition as a program like Syracuse or Georgetown does. And that probably does hurt his team in the polls. All things equal, the people that don’t do their research will probably always give the benefit of the doubt to the team they are familiar with, and most are more familiar with the Hoyas and the Orange than they are with the Bearcats.

But on the other hand, there is a reason for that.

Since they’ve entered the Big East, Cincinnati hasn’t exactly been a powerhouse program. They ended a five-year tournament drought in 2011 before making it back to the NCAA tournament last season. And to his credit, Cronin’s done an admirable job rebuilding the Bearcats. They’ll once again be competing for the league title this season, just like they did a season ago.

That doesn’t change the fact that most people still associate this team with either a) the dominance they had under Bob Huggins as a member of Conference USA or b) the brawl they had with Xavier last season.

Respect has to be earned, and Cronin’s program has — and will, if it continues to progress in the same trajectory — earn plenty of respect over the coming years.

But it would have done so even if those four programs hadn’t left the conference.

In the new-look Big East, Cincinnati will simply be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

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?