Brandon Paul, Aaron Craft

No. 11 Illinois blows out No. 8 Ohio State at home


Brandon Paul led four players in double figures with 19 points as No. 11 Illinois beat up No. 8 Ohio State 74-55 in Champaign.

The Illini jumped all over Ohio State early, opening up a 25-13 lead in the first nine minutes and never looking back. At one point early in the second half, Illinois was up 56-31. This wasn’t just a win; Illinois thoroughly dominated in every aspect of the game. Calling the Buckeyes embarrassing would be an understatement.

Perhaps the most significant part of the win, however, is that the Illini were able to grow their lead without the benefit of the three-ball. Tracy Abrams hit a three on the second possession of the game, but it wasn’t until the Illini already had a double-digit lead that they hit their second three of the game. Instead, Illinois was able to put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim, both in the half court and in transition. Teams know that John Groce’s club likes to shoot threes, meaning that the defense isn’t going to be as likely to help off of the shooter. Taking advantage of those driving lanes will be key for Illinois this season.

And it should be noted that the Illini didn’t struggle from deep the entire game; they did hit seven of their last 16 after a 1-10 start.

As far as the Buckeyes are concerned, this performance should be very, very troubling.

Losing by 19 on the road is one thing. Losing as a top ten team that looks like they didn’t care about the fact that they were getting embarrassed on national television is a much bigger issue. Which is why this tweet from Mark Titus, a former walk-on with the Buckeyes, caught my eye:

Isn’t that supposed to be Aaron Craft’s job? Isn’t he the one that’s on the floor for his defense and his leadership? Isn’t that one of the biggest reasons that he’s considered by most to be one of the nation’s elite point guards?

Now I’m mostly spitballing here, but I am curious to see how people feel: If Craft isn’t going to be the kind of vocal and emotional leader that can get this group to snap out of a funk on the road, should Thad Matta start playing Shannon Scott more minutes as the primary ball-handler?

Calling Craft a liability offensively is unfair, but it is fair to say that the Buckeyes are going to have problems when he is the second-best scorer on the floor. Craft is a guy you want to be a facilitator and an opportunity scorer, not a guy that should be hunting shots.

Ohio State does not have a ton of offensive firepower outside Deshaun Thomas. Scott is a much more dynamic offensive player than Craft, and while few are as good as Craft is defensively, Scott is not that much of a drop-off.

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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?