Arkansas is one of the nation’s best teams when playing on their home court. They run an overwhelming, pressuring defense and feed off of the raucous Bud Walton Arena crowd. Kentucky struggles in road environments and has a point guard rotation make up of Ryan Harrow and former walk-on Jarrod Polson.
Did anyone really expect the Wildcats to win this game?
Now think about this: Arkansas forced UK into 18 turnovers, crushed the Wildcats on the offensive glass in the second half and took 69 shots from the floor to Kentucky’s 43. The Razorbacks did everything that we thought they would do, and Kentucky still managed to keep Mike Anderson’s club from running them out of the gym, losing 73-60. At one point, with Jon Hood and Polson both on the floor, Kentucky had a chance to cut what was a 16 point lead to single digits with two wide-open Julius Mays threes.
He missed them both, but that’s besides the point.
On an afternoon when Arkansas did everything that they want to do against a team that simply matched up horribly with them, the Razorbacks couldn’t run away late. Kentucky was never going to win this game, and they managed to lose while putting up a pretty good fight.
But at this point in the season, “moral victories” aren’t worth anything; real wins are, particularly when you’re a team that has a resume that desperately needs to be improved. Losing to a bubble team like Arkansas certainly doesn’t help in that department.
Kentucky’s far from dead in the water, but they no longer have a margin for error. Win at Georgia, beat Florida at home and then win a game in the SEC tournament, and they’ll have a good shot at getting in. Lose anyone of those games, and they’re going to be in trouble.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
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 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?