No. 16 Oregon comes back to beat Wazzu, remains Pac-12 favorite

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That’s the last time that Oregon started out the season 6-0 in conference play. They weren’t playing in the Pac-12 or the Pac-12 then. It was the Pacific Coast Conference. Mac Court wasn’t even built.

But on Tuesday night, the No. 16 Ducks moved to 6-0 in the Pac-12, 17-2 overall, with a 68-61 come-from-behind win over Washington State. Oregon shook off a sluggish start, using a 19-7 run — the last 10 of which were scored by EJ Singler — to erase a 39-29 halftime deficit, eventually taking control down the stretch. Singler scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the second half.

It’s time to start believing. The Ducks are for real. They have a talented, albeit youthful, back court led by Damyeon Dotson and Dominic Artis that compliments their versatile front line nicely. Tony Woods takes up space in the paint, Arsalan Kazemi is the glue guy that does the dirty work, and Singler and Carlos Emory are the talented swingmen that allow the Ducks to go big (by putting them at the two and the three) or small (using them at the three and the four).

It works.

Oregon is as balanced as any team in the country, with five guys averaging between 10.1 points and 11.9 points and a sixth player — Kazemi — who leads the team in rebounding, averaging 9.5 boards, while chipping in with 8.8 points-per-game.

But that’s not why Oregon has become the overwhelming favorite to win the Pac-12 three weeks into league play.

It’s because they’ve beaten both UCLA and Arizona already this season, and they won’t have to face either UCLA or Arizona again.

As of today, the Ducks hold a one game lead in the loss column on both teams. After tonight, that lead will be push to two games over whoever loses when they square off tonight. UCLA and Arizona will square off again on March 2nd, and assuming that home-court advantage holds, the Ducks more-or-less have a two-game advantage in the Pac-12 and don’t have to play their two biggest challengers in the conference again this season.

That’s a good place to be.

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?