Wichita State

Final Four Preview: What you need to know about Wichita State

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The most surprising thing about Wichita State’s run to the Final Four isn’t that they were able to overcome a 5-5 finish to the regular season after starting out the year 15-1.

The most surprising part is that the Shockers were talented enough to make that kind of a run early in the season.

Gregg Marshall lost all five starters off of his 2012 team. You know who else lost five starters from last season? Kentucky. Look what happened to them. There’s a difference between those two programs: Wichita State returned Carl Hall, added a Juco transfer in Cleanthony Early as well as Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead, who sat out last season as a redshirt, so it’s not like this was a completely green group.

But still.

How many people would have guessed that Wichita State, and not Kentucky, would have been the team that made the Final Four after losing their starting five?

How they got here: The Shockers beat No. 8 Pitt by 18 before knocking off the No. 1 seed in the West Region, Gonzaga, with a thrilling, come-from-behind win in the round of 32. The Shockers followed that up with a blowout win over No. 13 La Salle before hanging against No. 2 Ohio State after nearly blowing a 20 point lead.

Odds to win the title: 12:1

Read through all of our Final Four coverage here

Why they can win: The first thing the Shockers need to do is get past Louisville in the semifinals on Saturday, and that’s something that they’re set up fairly well to do. The three things you need to be able to do to beat Louisville are get to the offensive glass, cut down penetration in the half court and avoid turnovers against their press. WSU gets to the glass and they are a tough, physical defensive team. The problem? They struggle with turnovers. Not a good thing against the Cardinals.

Why they won’t win: They’re running into the wrong Louisville team at the wrong time. I’ve got a lot of respect for how good Wichita State is. They probably deserved a No. 9 seed, but I think it’s fair to say that they are a better team than a typical No. 9 seed. That said, Louisville’s playing the best basketball that anyone has played this season.

Key stat: Malcolm Armstead has a turnover rate of 21.4%. Fred Vanvleet has a turnover rate of 24.1%. As a team, Wichita State turns the ball over on 19.5% of their offensive possessions. Louisville’s guards will feast on them if they aren’t careful.

Game-changer: Cleathony Early. Armstead to the go-to guy in the clutch and Carl Hall is the workhorse, but Early is the most-talented player on the team and a guy capable of going for 25 or 30 points. WSU is going to need a big game out of him to compete with Louisville.

Prediction?: Wichita State goes out like Colorado State. They put up a good fight, but in the end, the Cardinals are just going to be too much.

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?