Billy Minardi Classic - Florida International v Louisville

Rick Pitino wants Louisville to play son Richard, Minnesota in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Louisville athletics is in conference realignment limbo, spending this season in the brand-new American Athletic Conference, waiting to join the ACC as its newest member next July.

The year-long wait to join the ACC hasn’t stopped Rick Pitino, who is being enshrined this weekend at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, from envisioning future plans for his Cardinals in their new conference.

He already has his sights set on his desired opponent in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Minnesota, coached by his son Richard.

“I’m hoping, that the Big Ten/ACC Challenge … I’m hoping that we get matched up them because it terms of a home and home, I’m not playing him,” Pitino told reporters on Saturday at the Hall of Fame’s press conference.

A father-son battle wouldn’t be anything new to the Pitino household or college basketball. This past season, Rick’s Cards blew out Richard’s Florida International Golden Panthers 79-55 on Dec. 19. Now that the younger Pitino is in a power conference, Rick mentioned that a game between the Cardinals and Golden Gophers would put the family rivalry on a more level playing field.

“I think it would be fun,” the new Hall of Fame member said. “I played him at FIU and he was totally mismatched, and at least we can play on more equal terms.

“I think it’d be great. If we win I feel bad for him. If we lose I’ll feel great for him.”

If Rick Pitino does get his way, and ends up in an early-season tilt with Minnesota — either in 2014 or down the road — it could be a very competitive game. The two-time national champion coach sees big things on the horizon for the Golden Gophers athletic program.

“I think it’s a crown jewel in the Big Ten that just needs to have their facilities upgraded to be every bit as good as any school in the Big Ten, and I think with their new AD [Norwood Teague], I think that’s going to happen. And it is happening.”

Potentially beginning in the 2014-2015 season, the Cardinals may have a new non-conference foe in their new home.

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?