Mike Tobey

Virginia clinches important first-round bye in win over Maryland

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Beating Maryland for the fifth consecutive time, which Virginia managed to do in overtime by the final score of 61-58, wasn’t going to do much for the resume of Tony Bennett’s team.

But the result does guarantee the Cavaliers (21-10, 11-7) a first-round bye in next week’s ACC tournament, which could prove to be very important in their quest for more quality victories before Selection Sunday.

Joe Harris was cold offensively, shooting 4-of-18 from the field, but Virginia received solid performances from Akil Mitchell (17 points, ten rebounds) and Mike Tobey (13 points, six rebounds). Tobey’s layup with five seconds remaining tied the score at 54, sending the game into overtime.

With a loss Virginia would have received the five-seed, which not only means no first-round bye but more importantly would mean a matchup with Virginia Tech in the first round. And while that game would do little for Virginia’s resume if the Cavaliers were to win, a loss would in all likelihood be the final nail in the coffin for a team that already has seven losses to teams currently outside of the RPI Top 100.

Instead Virginia gets the winner of N.C. State/Virginia Tech, with the Wolfpack being the favorite despite being taken to overtime by the Hokies back on February 16 (90-86 Wolfpack win).

In theory that would give the Cavaliers a better shot at the higher caliber opponent in the quarterfinals, but with an N.C. State team that just lost to Florida State being a part fo the equation at the very least Virginia is one win away from the ACC semifinals instead of two.

With their best offensive player struggling to get anything going Virginia found a way to win a game they trailed by as many as 17 points. Beating Maryland doesn’t lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament for Virginia but it keeps them in the conversation, and that’s the least a bubble team can ask for at this point in the season.

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?