Pittsburgh forward Taylor loses ball while guarded by Wichita State forwards Early and Hall during first half of their second round NCAA tournament basketball game in Salt Lake City

Shockers heed Big Dog’s advice, pound Pitt

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Gregg Marshall stood and addressed his Wichita State team today, making reference to a legendary Shocker as he attempted to pump them up for their NCAA tournament game against Pitt. He told the black-and-gold clad group that Antoine Carr had contacted him earlier that same day and told him that his team should “play angry”.

The Shockers did that, with Carl Hall (11 points, 6 rebounds) channeling the Big Dog, and Cleanthony Early (21 points, 7 rebounds) as a milder version of Xavier McDaniel in a 73-55 rout of the departing Big East power. The more mobile Wichita State big men went over, under, around and through behemoth Panther Steven Adams (13 points, 11 rebounds) on the way to a “second round” win over Jamie Dixon’s tough club.

As good as the Wichita State big men were, the best indicator that the Shockers may be ready to advance deeper into this tournament came from the perimeter. Not only did Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead (22 points, 5 assists, 3 steals) run the team efficiently, he was also the game’s leading scorer, hitting on a variety of drives and jump shots. In addition, Armstead and backcourt mates Tekele Cotton, Demetric Williams and Ron Baker harassed Pitt’s star guard Tray Woodall into a miserable performance: Two points, one assist, five turnovers and a very early exit on five fouls.

Looking ahead, the Shockers are likely to have a much tougher time with No. 1 seed Gonzaga (making the relatively safe assumption that the Zags will get past 16-seed Southern), a team that fields mobile and experienced big men in Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris. The perimeter defense will be vulnerable to slicing and dicing by Gary Bell and sharpshooting Kevin Pangos.

The Bulldogs will have the personnel advantage in the round of 32, but Gregg Marshall’s Big Dogs will never be an easy out, as long as they continue to “play angry.”

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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?