SEC Basketball Tournament - Second Round-LSU-Georgia

Johnny O’Bryant III’s decision to return a step in the right direction for LSU

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Tuesday featured two college basketball players announcing their intentions to remain in school for one more season, Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson and LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant III.

O’Bryant III’s decision to return to Baton Rouge puts head coach Johnny Jones’ program (19-12, 9-9 in 2012-13) in prime position to at the very least return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, with the Second Team All-SEC selection being just one reason why.

In 29 games this season the 6-9 O’Bryant III averaged 13.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, leading the Tigers in both statistical categories. But on a team that boasted five double-digit scorers, he was the lone interior scoring option.

That will change in 2013-14.

LSU welcomes two highly-touted front court players in McDonald’s All-American Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, and wing Tim Quarterman is no slouch himself.

Add in junior college transfers John Odo (6-10, 230; practiced with the team during the spring semester) and Deng Deng (6-8, 215) and 7-foot freshman Darcy Malone and LSU will have the interior depth they lacked a season ago.

And you can’t mention LSU without considering their returnees on the perimeter as well, with guards Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer and wing Shavon Coleman being the headliners. All of these pieces factored into O’Bryant III’s decision to return to school.

“I definitely thought about the team next year. We will have a great team next year,” O’Bryant III said during his press conference Tuesday. “I think me coming back will help the guys. I think I have to be a leader to get that team rolling.”

Much of the focus in the SEC entering next season will be focused on Kentucky and Florida, and rightfully so. The Wildcats have the best incoming recruiting class in the country and the Gators return some key pieces and add freshmen Kasey Hill and Chris Walker.

But for the conference to improve its national standing after a rough 2012-13 other programs will need to step up. And in his second season in charge of his alma mater, Johnny Jones has a team that appears capable of doing so.

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?