Syracuse Tyler Ennis

Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Maui ends, NIT and Great Alaska Shootout start

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 8 Syracuse vs. No. 18 Baylor, 10:00 p.m. ET

In the finals of the Maui Invitational, Baylor will get a chance to prove that the Big 12 is more than just a two-horse race. The Bears have developed a reputation over the years of being a team that simply rolls the ball out as Scott Drew tries to rely on the talent that he has recruited to carry his program. This season, that talent is evident in their front court, as the Bears has the size, length and athleticism to matchup with anyone. In fact, with Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson, Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers manning their front line, I think that there is an argument to be made that Baylor is better up front than Syracuse.

And the Orange actually have a number of talented big guys. C.J. Fair is the guy everyone knows and Jerami Grant has been the star of the tournament to date, but one guy to keep an eye on is DaJuan Coleman, who has actually been quite effective in his minutes this season. The most interesting battle will be at the point guard spot, where JuCo transfer Kenny Chery goes toe-to-toe with freshman Tyler Ennis.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Arkansas vs. No. 11 Gonzaga, 5:30 p.m.

This will be an interesting test for the Zags, as Arkansas is the kind of team that is difficult for them to matchup with. The Razorbacks like to press and have a number of big, athletic guards that can attack the basket. Kevin Pangos, David Stockton and Gary Bell Jr. are talented in the back court, but they are not all that big. Can Mark Few’s club keep the drivers from penetrating.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Tulsa vs. Indiana State, Midnight ET

You like late-night hoops? The Great Alaska Shootout kicks off tonight, and while it’s not the same event that it used to be, it’s has as much tradition as any event. Indiana State is one of the best mid-major programs in the country, and while Tulsa isn’t quite on that level … man, it’s hoops after midnight!


1) Cal takes on Dayton in the third place game out in Maui, a game that is really important for both teams. Going 2-1 in an event like this is so much better than going 1-2. At least Dayton has already picked up a win over Gonzaga. Cal would be heading back to Berkeley with nothing but a win over Arkansas to show for their efforts.

2) No. 10 Wisconsin will be taking on West Virginia in the final of the Cancun Challenge.

3) No. 3 Kentucky will take the court against tonight against a mid-major program that could give them some trouble. Eastern Michigan is coached by Rob Murphy, a disciple of Jim Boeheim that runs a 2-3 zone.

4) The NIT semifinals take place tonight as No. 6 Duke takes on Alabama after No. 5 Arizona squares off with Drexel. With all due respect to Bruiser Flint and Anthony Grant … GO DUKE! GO WILDCATS!

5) Saint Louis lost to No. 10 Wisconsin last night and will look to bounce back against Old Dominion tonight.

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?