Miami v Duke

Ryan Kelly’s career day shows why he makes Duke a title contender


We heard just before the game today that Ryan Kelly would play for Duke against Miami, but we had no idea that meant he’d put up a career-high 36 points in a  79-76 upset of Miami, the ACC’s top team.

It’s easy to think that Kelly’s importance to Duke has been exaggerated as he sat, nursing a foot injury that has kept him sidelined since January 8. His performance at Cameron Indoor today proves he is every bit the key player his teammates have made him out to be. Kelly hit his first shot – a three-pointer – after just two and a half minutes of play, and he never looked back or looked anything less than fully healthy the rest of the way.

To recap: Kelly was 10-14 overall, 7-9 from deep, and 9-12 from the stripe. He snatched seven boards – six on the defensive end of the floor – and came up with a big steal in the final minute as Miami was setting up for a potential go-ahead shot. Kelly defended everyone from Shane Larkin to Kenny Kadji on a night when most thought he’d make a token appearance as part of a cautious recovery effort.

The stat line tells the tale of why Duke became beatable while Kelly was out, and again looks like a title contender with him on the court. When Miami doubled Mason Plumlee early in the game, Kelly drained the long ball. When the ‘Canes started edging out to harass Kelly’s perimeter shots, Plumlee was able to dunk, board and hit the putbacks he can get easily on single coverage. Defensively, Kelly employed his long arms and quickness to bother shots all over the floor, and he snagged a crucial steal in the final minute that ended an attempt by Miami to tie the game or take the lead.

It’s not a stretch to say that Ryan Kelly is the crucial piece in Duke’s title hopes right now. He’s not the star – tonight’s scoring explosion notwithstanding – but he’s the guy who gives the stars an extra inch or two to operate, and denies that same real estate to opponents. That can be the difference between ending play in March and ending play in April.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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?