Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan watches his team play the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles during the first half in their South Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Arlington

Florida is drastically worse defensively says Billy Donovan

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Florida graduated its three top scorers from last season, and McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker did not enroll in classes this fall.

But one of the major issues a week into practice is the amount of injuries, which has hurt the team’s defense.

“We don’t have all of our pieces there, but we are drastically worse defensively than we were a year ago,” Donovan told reporters via Kevin Brockway of Gainesville Sun. “I thought defensively last year, it was one the better defensive teams I’ve been around since being here at Florida. Just us keeping defensive field goal percentage and some of those kind of things, where our numbers are at, in relationship to where they were last year is way, way off right now.”

Florida was ranked first in the SEC, and third nationally, in scoring defense a season ago. Several rule changes promise to allow more movement for offensive players, which in return will increase scoring next season. The rule changes are one thing, but Florida is also dealing with a depth issue a week into practice.

Transfer Eli Carter is still out with a broken leg and his timetable is unknown, though Donovan says he is participating in non-contact drills. Damontre Harris missed practice earlier this week with a hamstring and Michael Frazier was also out. The lack of bodies is forcing the rest of the team to log heavy minutes, including walk-ons such as Donovan’s son, who is playing with an injured shoulder.

But the key defense piece that is still missing is Will Yeguete, who is recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee. Yeguete averaged 5.8 rebounds per game last season in 20 minutes of action and according to Ken Pomeroy, Yeguete led the Gators in defensive rebounding percentage at 21.9 percent and steal percentage at 3.5 percentage last season. Donovan told reporters that he hopes to get back his 6-foot-8 forward in a few weeks, just in time for the team’s Nov. 1 exhibition game, where he can play Yeguete in limited minutes.

It’ll be tough to see the same defensive results as last season, especially with the rule changes. But if the Gators can a healthy Yeguete in a few weeks, as well as getting Scottie Wilbekin — who is currently partially reinstated and was an All-SEC Defensive team pick last year — back on the floor at some point this season, Donovan will likely feel better about his “drastically worse” defense that figures to keep the Gators near the top of the SEC standings and in contention with Kentucky.

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?