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Is Coach Cal going to bring back this year’s freshmen?


The irony was almost too much to bear.

Kentucky, who had made their way up to John Calipari’s hometown of Moon, PA, for the NIT, got knocked out in the first round by Robert Morris. It was a one-and-done performance in the tournament no one pays attention to that could end up keeping this year’s recruiting class from being one-and-done players headed to the NBA.

Or at least that’s what Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein were saying after the 59-57 loss.

“I don’t know if it’s a question whether I’m going (to the NBA) or not,” Goodwin said. “I don’t think I’m ready to go. It’s no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave. We should come back next year. … If any of us were saying we think we should leave, then we’d all be delusional. None of us need to leave.”

“Yeah, I do,” Poythress said, when asked if he thinks he’s coming back. “I don’t think I’m ready (for the NBA).”

But here’s the thing: it’s not so much whether or not they are ready for the NBA as it is that UK is ready for them to head to the next level. Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin are both being projected as mid-first round picks in the 2013 draft. They may be able to sneak into the back end of the lottery this year. Willie Cauley-Stein is projected as a top ten pick in 2014, but after the way he played after Nerlens Noel’s injury, it’s not difficult to imagine that an NBA team would be willing to use a guaranteed contract on him.

And if they do come back, where are they going to get their minutes from?

Kentucky’s recruiting class, as of this moment, includes both the Harrison twins, James Younger, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. There’s a chance that it could also include either Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle, maybe both. And while it’s starting to seem unlikely, Aaron Gordon might even be thrown into the mix.

Coach Cal doesn’t need depth. In 2010-2011, the seventh-man — Eloy Vargas — averaged 7.7 minutes. In 2011-2012, the seventh-man — Kyle Wiltjer — averaged 11.6 minutes. This season, the eighth-man — Jarrod Polson — averaged 13.8 minutes, and that had much more to do with Cal not trusting Ryan Harrow than it did wanted to play Polson that much.

Cal is going to bring in those five (or six or seven) recruits while also having Wiltjer return for his junior season. Throw Poythress, Goodwin and Cauley-Stein in the mix, and all of a sudden there is too much talent.

Is he going to risk the happiness and the sanity of his team for a group of freshmen that he said “hijacked” the program? Guys that he said he was forced to accept the unacceptable from?

I’ll believe it when the NBA Draft’s early-entry deadline passes and those three have yet to declare.

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?