Mike Krzyzewski

Duke hopes new versatility leads to a Final Four run

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Duke is hoping that it’s newfound versatility will help the Blue Devils advance to the Final Four.

Final Fours are always the expectation in Durham and although they lost three experienced seniors in Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry, they gain two of the most versatile wings in the country in Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and highly-touted incoming freshman Jabari Parker.

With the start of practice yesterday, the AP’s Joedy McCreary gained some insight on how the Blue Devils might play this season with the new-look lineup.

“It’s not like one guy is trying to beat out one guy — basically, you’re trying to blend,” Krzyzewski said in the AP story. “The two guys you initially want to blend with are Rodney and Jabari because they’re two very talented and versatile players. So that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Among the most interesting tidbits from the story is Coach K explaining how Duke is not a conventional team this season and he also sheds some light on a potential starting lineup.

Krzyzewski said his 34th Duke team is “not your conventional team of, ‘Here are your two big guys, your wing, your shooter and your point guard.’

“It’s going to be a team that has, I think, very good versatility,” he added. “Guys are going to have to be able to guard multiple positions. I hope that we’ll be able to make sure they do that.”

The coach said the only starters he’s settled on so far are Hood, Parker, high-energy forward Amile Jefferson “and probably Quinn” Cook, last year’s starting point guard.

Krzyzewski also compared this Duke team to the ultra-athletic late ’90s, early 2000s teams, which is an interesting comparison.

If this year’s Blue Devils are going to compare to those late ’90s, early 2000s teams, Hood and Parker are going to have to do the brunt of the scoring and Duke is also going to need a third scoring option to step up.

But with Hood and Parker being matchup nightmares with great size and versatility on the wing, most teams will be hard-pressed to defend both of them well every possession.

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?