Tyler Haws, Robert Brown

BYU’s focus this preseason has been on defense, as it should be

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BYU will enter the 2013-2014 season with one of the best perimeter attacks on the West Coast.

Tyler Haws is a potential all-american, a 6-foot-4 off-guard that averaged 21.7 points despite coming off of a two-year mission to the Phillipines. Matt Carlino may not be the second coming of Jimmer Fredette, but the UCLA transfer has developed into an effective lead guard at this level. Throw in Kyle Collinsworth, who is back from his Mormon mission, as Dave Rose as a group that can match up with just about anyone.

The issue is going to be in the paint. Gone is Brandon Davies, the the 6-foot-10 center that averaged 17.7 points and 8.0 boards last year, which means that Rose is going to have to rely on either talented freshman Eric Mika to step up or hope that Nate Austin can make the jump from serviceable to impactful as a sophomore.

What that means is that this group will once again be getting up and down the floor.

But for the Cougars to have a real shot at unseating Gonzaga for the WCC crown, they are going to have to find a way to defend better than they did last season.

“For the most part, the concentration in the preseason, with this group, with our staff, will be on the defensive end,” Rose said at BYU’s media day. “I think we really need to get back to where we can play man-to-man defense as our core defense, and then mix in zone as a way to help us get through [critical] times in games.”

BYU was 80th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency last season, a stat that could take a hit when you factor in that their best rebounder, Davies, is gone; despite playing a lot of zone, BYU was 34th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.

BYU is going to get up and down the floor and shoot a bunch of threes and score a bunch of points. They’ll be one of the most fun teams in the country to watch.

But if they can’t get stops, they won’t be beating good teams.

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?