Jermaine Marshall, Mitch McGary

No. 4 Michigan upset by Penn State, how worrisome is their defense?


The good folks down in Lawrence, KS, can probably count themselves Penn State fans after Wednesday night.

The Nittany Lions erased a 15 point second half deficit to knock off No. 4 Michigan 84-78 as the Wolverines took over sole possession of first place in the “worst loss of the season” standings.

I’m not talking about point spreads. I’m not talking about upsets. I’m talking about worst losses, and it doesn’t get much worse than this. Penn State was 0-14 in the Big Ten. They were picked to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten before they lost a first team all-Big Ten player in Tim Frazier to a ruptured achilles tendon. Pat Chambers’ club entered the game 200th in the RPI.

In a vacuum, that’s ugly.

But what makes it worse is what the loss means for the Wolverines. They are now two games behind Indiana in the Big Ten standings, failing to capitalize on the Hoosier’s loss to Minnesota last night. Michigan hosts Indiana in the final game of the regular season. They would have had a chance to at least earn a share of the regular season title by winning that game. Not anymore.

This could also end up costing Michigan a No. 1 seed. The Wolverines were already trending in the wrong direction, and adding a horrific loss to their resume clearly does not help. Michigan still has a chance — they host Indiana and Michigan State at home and still have the Big Ten tournament to play — but can a team that blows a 15 point second half lead to Penn State really run the table in the Big Ten with that kind of schedule?

But all that is, in the end, moot.

College basketball is about the NCAA tournament which means that what people aren’t going to remember if Michigan gets a No. 1 seed or wins one of the two Big Ten titles; they’re going to remember whether or not Michigan makes the Final Four or wins the national title.

And as of right now, can we really trust Michigan to be good enough defensively to make the Final Four?

The Big Lead looked at teams that have made the Final Four in the last five seasons. Only two of them had a defensive efficiency that ranked outside the top 30: Butler and VCU in 2011. Michigan is 42nd in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom. According to John Gasaway’s Tuesday Truths column, Michigan has a defense that would rank sixth in the Big Ten.

And all of those numbers?

They were determined before Michigan gave up 84 points — 84 points!!! — to Penn State — Penn State!!!

Those red flags just got a bit bigger.

( MORNING UPDATE: Penn State scored 1.22 PPP against Michigan’s defense last night, which dropped the Wolverines to 59th in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency ratings. This performance has been coming, however; UM has given up 1.10 PPP over their last seven games. This is becoming a huge issue.)

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?