Northeastern takes care of George Mason, extending CAA lead to three games

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With preseason favorites Drexel and Delaware getting off to slow starts, it seemed as if the Colonial Athletic Association race would be one destined to involve a number of teams.

But at this point the most intriguing race may be that for second place, as Bill Coen’s Northeastern Huskies moved to 8-0 in CAA play and are three games up on the competition following their 71-51 victory over George Mason.

Quincy Ford and Joel Smith scored 15 points apiece for Northeastern (12-7, 8-0), who hasn’t lost since December 29 at UAB (that loss capped a stretch of six losses in seven games), and the Huskies limited George Mason to 33.9% shooting from the field.

Vertail Vaughns scored 13 points to lead the way offensively for the Patriots (12-8, 5-3), who remained close in the first half by scoring ten points off of seven Northeastern turnovers. The Huskies turned the tables in the second half, scoring 13 points off of seven George Mason turnovers and shooting 56.5% from the field.

After a Sherrod Wright three-pointer cut Northeastern’s lead to four (49-45) with 6:35 remaining the Huskies finished the game on a 22-6 run, closing the door on the Patriots and possibly the rest of the CAA in the process.

Entering Sunday’s contest the Huskies won five of their seven CAA games by five points or less (thanks to @defiantlydutch for that statistic), meaning that a visit from their closest competition gave Northeastern the opportunity to make a statement.

Smith (16.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.1 apg) and Jonathan Lee (13.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.4 apg) have been the experienced hands leading the way, with underclassmen Ford (13.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Reggie Spencer (10.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg) producing as well. And freshman forward Dinko Marshavelski added 11 points off the bench against George Mason.

The Huskies are balanced, they share the basketball (1st in the CAA in assists/game) and they’ve been efficient offensively, currently leading the CAA in offensive efficiency, field goal and three-point percentage.

That recipe’s been enough to put Northeastern in firm control of the CAA race, despite the fact that they’ve had issues defensively (ranking 10th in both field goal and three-point percentage defense). Their fans hope that Northeastern can turn this start into the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 1991.

Photo credit: Northeastern University (Quincy Ford)

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?