UAB v Creighton

Gregory Echenique proves his value in No. 16 Creighton’s win

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Creighton is the nation’s second-best three-point shooting team, knocking down triples at a 43.3% clip. Nearly 40% of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. One of the reasons that the Bluejays collect assists on 62.5% of their made shots is that they are so good at moving the ball around the perimeter and creating open looks from deep.

It’s not a secret that this team is built around two things: Doug McDermott and shooting threes.

So it may come as a surprise to you that the key to Creighton’s season is a senior that has never taken a three-pointer wearing a Bluejays uniform.

Gregory Echenique is a monster. He’s 6-foot-9 and built like bulldozer, but he’s quicker and more explosive than you would expect from a guy with his kind of girth. Put more simply, Echenique has the combination of size and athleticism that you rarely see down in the Missouri Valley; there is a reason he was able to average double-figures at Rutgers before transferring.

That was evident on Saturday as Echenique finished with 16 points, nine boards and four blocks as the No. 16 Bluejays knocked off Indiana State 79-66 to move to 3-0 in the Missouri Valley.

Doug McDermott added 25 points and nine boards and Austin Chatman chipped in with 13 points and nine assists, but it was Echenique’s presence that makes the difference. No one on Indiana State — no one in the country, regardless of level — can score easily in the post against the big Venezuelan. That much cannot be said about McDermott or Ethan Wragge.

Neither of those two can rebound, carve out space or block shots at the same level as Echenique. His ability to be a scoring threat on the block takes some of the pressure off of Creighton’s shooters; if teams allow him to go one-on-one on the block, he can hurt them. If they help, someone is going to get an open three.

Echenique isn’t Creighton’s best player, but he may be their most valuable and irreplaceable.

You can find Rob 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?