Akron Zeke Marshall

Akron takes control of the MAC with thrilling, OT win over Ohio

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In what may end up going down as the best game that no one saw this season — it did happen to coincide with the thrilling, 79-78 Georgetown win over UConn, which is a clear example of why college basketball is so irrevocably broken — Akron somehow managed to outlast Ohio in overtime, 88-81, to take a two-game lead in the MAC standings and keep their slim bubble hopes alive.

The Zips scored the first nine points of the game and then watched as Ohio used a 34-7 run to open up a 34-16 lead late in the first half. After trimming the lead to 11 points at the half, Akron used a 19-4 run to open up the second half, and that’s when the fun started.

The Zips and the Bobcats are two very good basketball teams, and throughout the final 12 minutes of the game, everyone tuned in got a chance to see two mid-major heavyweights trade punches. Every time Akron pushed their lead to six or eight points, Ohio had an answer, whether it was a DJ Cooper three or a three-point play from Travis Wilkins. On the final possession of regulation, Walter Offutt missed a three that would have won the game, but Jon Smith was there for the tip-in as time expired, and we headed to overtime.

Akron pulled away in the extra period, which may actually have been the best case scenario for MAC fans.

The Zips still have an outside chance at earning an at-large bid. It’s a long shot, but it’s there. If they can make a run to the league’s tournament title game where they end up losing to Ohio, they’ll have a puncher’s chance at getting a bid. I’d love to see them in. With the size of their front line — namely Zeke Marshall — and the play of Alex Abreu at the point, Akron can pull off an upset on the nights that their threes go down.

Ohio isn’t getting an at-large bid. If the MAC wants two teams in the dance, this is what had to happen.

We’ll see how things play out, but the one thing that we can all agree on is that a rematch of Akron and Ohio with an NCAA tournament bid on the line would be a lot of fun.

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?