UCLA v Arizona State

Veterans Larry Drew II, Travis Wear help lead UCLA past Arizona State

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There wasn’t much suspense in regards to what Arizona State needed to do in Las Vegas this weekend if they were to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

With their non-conference strength of schedule (ranked 298th) and sluggish finish (four-game losing streak entering the Pac-12 tournament) the Sun Devils needed to grab the Pac-12’s automatic bid if they were to go dancing.

With some help from Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA ended the Sun Devils’ NCAA hopes due in large part to the play of veterans Larry Drew II and Travis Wear.

Wear’s jumper with 11.3 seconds remaining sealed the 80-75 victory for the Pac-12 regular season champions, who advance to take on either Colorado or Arizona in the semifinals on Friday night.

Jordan Bachynski, who established a new Pac-12 record for blocked shots in a season, led Arizona State (21-11) with 22 points and Jahii Carson added 21, seven assists and six rebounds.

Drew II was key throughout for UCLA (24-8), as his 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting (and four assists) kept the Bruins afloat during a stretch early in the second half in which Arizona State led by as many as 15 points and threatened to put the game away.

The performance was simply the latest step in the North Carolina transfer’s progression, something more than a few people doubted would ever happen given the way in which he left Chapel Hill.

“I did notice looking at the stats here, we had five guys in double figures. That always pleases me,” said UCLA head coach Ben Howland after the win. “When we have five guys in double figures, chances are we’re going to win the game. So it was a really good balance today.

“Again, led by Larry. Larry was absolutely incredible today. He’s playing really good basketball for us.”

Wear added 15 points and six rebounds while Muhammad finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, and UCLA closed the game on an 8-1 run as the worn-down Sun Devils missed shots that fell down consistently over the first 30 minutes of the game.

So what does the result reveal in regards to UCLA’s hopes for both this weekend in Las Vegas but also the NCAA tournament? Rebounding, an area in which the Bruins have struggled for much of the season, will be key as their 14 offensive rebounds (15 second-chance points) were another reason why UCLA was able to mount their second-half rally.

But for all the attention given to UCLA’s trio of talented freshmen, veterans such as Drew II and Wear are just as important for Ben Howland’s team. It wasn’t smooth sailing for UCLA but they found a way to win. Survive and advance.

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?