Legends Classic - UCLA v Georgia

Departed center Joshua Smith graced the cover of UCLA’s game program last night

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With the departure of junior center Joshua Smith, UCLA is down to eight scholarship players. But the news of Smith deciding to leave the program came too late for the people in charge of selecting a cover photo for the game program for Wednesday’s game against Cal State Northridge.

Smith graced the cover of the game program but it didn’t have an adverse impact on the Bruins, who whipped the Matadors 82-56.

Since the programs are no doubt printed a few weeks in advance, there’s always a good chance the player gracing the cover is no longer a current member of the team.

According to Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports Smith’s departure is the 11th since the last of UCLA’s three consecutive trips to the Final Four in 2008. To say the least these haven’t been the most stable of times for Ben Howland and his program.

But with Smith gone the Bruins had to make the move that many have been clamoring for: going small and even playing some zone. Howland did both on Wednesday night, as Jordan Adams moved into the starting lineup and the Bruins began the game in a 2-3 zone.

They also played faster, as their 77 possessions was UCLA’s second-highest total (83 in their 80-79 overtime win over UC Irvine) of the season to date. UCLA did turn the ball over 16 times against the Matadors, breaking even in turnover margin, but they also shot 53.1% from the field and 26 of their 34 field goals were assisted.

Norman Powell scored 17 points off the bench to lead the way for UCLA, but the question as to whether or not they have enough interior depth to contend in the Pac-12 remains. To be fair freshman power forward Tony Parker is still dealing with an ankle injury and played just one minute last night and wore a protective boot while on the bench (why he even played that minute is a valid question given this fact).

Once Parker’s back to full strength UCLA will be able to go with an eight-man rotation, which should help them down the road against Pac-12 heavyweights such as Arizona, Colorado and California. Whether or not the Bruins actually contend will depend on how well the players adjust to their new style, as well as whether or not Howland sticks with it.

h/t The Dagger

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report 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?