Morgan State v Ohio State

New season means new role for Ohio State’s Sam Thompson

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The biggest question for Ohio State entering the 2013-14 season was how they’d account for the offensive production lost when Deshaun Thomas made the decision to turn pro. In the Buckeyes’ 89-50 win over Morgan State, five players reached double figures with Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s 18 points leading the way and Shannon Scott scoring a career-high 16.

One of the other Ohio State players to reach double figures was junior wing Sam Thompson, who accounted for 14 points, three rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes off the bench. The sixth man role is a different one for Thompson, who started every game last season and posted averages of 7.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest.

And the new role is one that, according to Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch, doesn’t bother Thompson one bit.

“I said to him, ‘Sam, I think right now at this point in your career, you’re probably playing the best basketball of your life . . . but I’m going to start this lineup, and here’s why,” Matta said.

“He said, ‘Coach, I’ll do whatever I have to do. I’ll bring some energy when I come in,’ and that’s exactly what we need from that position.

“That says a lot about Sam. He wants to win. You see him on the bench and he’s going to crazy for the guys making the plays. And he knows he’s going to play his minutes.”

While Ohio State may not have the one “marquee” scoring option this season, they’ve got multiple guys who are capable of leading the team in scoring on any given night. With that being the case, the understanding and acceptance of roles will be critical if they’re to push Michigan State and Michigan for Big Ten supremacy and improve on last year’s Elite Eight run.

Smith and LaQuinton Ross combined to grab 20 rebounds, with Ross scoring 14 points to go along with his 11 boards (his first career double-double), and Aaron Craft added six boards and six assists despite shooting 1-for-5 from the field. Ohio State will face much tougher competition as the season wears on, but when it comes to what will make them successful (offensive balance, solid defense and rebounding) Saturday’s performance was a good start.

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?