TJ Bray

Princeton blows out Pacific, proves they will contend with Harvard in the Ivy League

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In Ivy League basketball circles, which soon expanded to national basketball circles at the conclusion of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, all of the talk during the summer months revolved around Harvard. Rightfully so, to an extent. The Crimson returned virtually their entire team, along with welcoming back Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. They were the prohibitive favorites to win the Ivy League with no other school figuring to seriously challenge them.

However, let’s pause the love-fest for what Tommy Amaker has going on in Cambridge for just a moment, and take a look at Mitch Henderson and the Princeton Tigers.

Picked to finish in the middle-of-the-pack by many of the experts after graduating last year’s Player of the Year in Ian Hummer, Princeton has looked anything but that projection. After a 70-67 loss to Butler in the second game of the season, the Tigers haven’t lost. In the process, they have knocked off two of the Patriot League’s top teams (Lafayette and Bucknell), George Mason, and consecutive BCS teams in Rutgers and Penn State. Tonight, they ran Pacific out of the gym in Las Vegas.

No one will argue that Princeton has played the toughest of schedules, but to be sitting at 9-1 at this juncture of the season sends a clear message to the rest of the Ivy League that Harvard isn’t the only legitimate team. Look no further than tonight against Pacific, who came into the game with an 8-1 record and fresh off a double-digit win at Utah State. Princeton toyed with them tonight, beating them 83-58. Up next is another tough test against Portland tomorrow night, who also hails from the West Coast Conference.

The offense that Mitch Henderson has implemented is something one would find on basketball instructional videos. 6-foot-5 point guard T.J. Bray is one of the best at his position you’ve never heard of, while forwards Denton Koon and Hans Brase play as well on the perimeter as they do inside.

Harvard is still the most talented and, for now, the top team in the Ivy League, but let’s not crown them champs just yet. It’s a long-shot that the league would receive two bids to the NCAA Tournament — years ago it would be foolish to even drum up such a notion — but tonight’s result keeps the possibility alive.

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?