Mason Plumlee, Elliott Eliason, Andre Hollins

Duke beats Minnesota, becomes the nation’s No. 1 team?


The knock on Duke coming into the season was that Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry were quality pieces, but that they weren’t be good enough to be the feature players on a team that would legitimately be able to contend for a national title.

The two seniors are making that line of thinking seem foolish early on this season.

Just nine days after No.5 Duke knocked off Kentucky in the Champions Classic behind 41 combined points from Curry and Plumlee, the Blue Devils rolled over Minnesota 89-71 in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis out in the Bahamas.

Curry had 25. Plumlee had 20 and added 17 boards and three assists. Perhaps most importantly for Plumlee, he was 8-10 from the charity stripe. That’s been the place he’s struggled the most throughout his career.

It’s too early to make the claim that Duke is “for real”. The Kentucky team that they beat is incredibly young and struggled to handle Morehead State in Rupp Arena. This Minnesota team was predicted by almost everyone to be a potential tournament team, but that was with the understanding that Trevor Mbakwe would be back to 100%. He’s not, and the Gophers don’t have the depth to overcome an all-american turning into a role player.

In other words, I’m not yet convinced that Duke is worlds better than we thought, and I’m definitely not ready to drink whatever it is Ken Pomeroy cracked open on Thanksgiving simply because Duke beating Kentucky in November isn’t much more impressive than Indiana beating Georgetown. And I also don’t think that beating down a Minnesota team that is playing a long way from 100% on a night they happen to shoot 8-10 from three is the best game to base your opinion of this team around.

I will say this, however: after watching Duke through the first two weeks of the season, I’m really glad that I wrote their preview with the theme that the Blue Devils are better than they were given credit for.

The Blue Devils get VCU (*not Missouri, my bad) tomorrow. If all goes to plan, they’ll get Louisville in the title game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

If Duke wins both of those games, than I may be asking Kenpom to pour me a glass.

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?