No. 19 North Carolina adds another head-scratching loss to its resume

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The 2013-14 season seems to have taken on a consistent pattern for No. 19 North Carolina: get up for, and beat, some of the nation’s best teams while suffering losses that make us wonder who they are and what they’re capable of.

The latest piece of evidence to support this was their 73-67 loss at Wake Forest on Sunday night, with the Demon Deacons winning despite the fact that North Carolina rebounded 48% of its missed shots. UNC converted those extra opportunities into just 17 points, and for the game they shot 39% from the field. From an execution standpoint once again it was a matter of Marcus Paige’s struggles affecting the entire offense, with the Tar Heels being so reliant on his ability to score on the perimeter.

Wake Forest was able to take that away, keeping Paige under wraps and contesting nearly all of his looks from the field (eight points on 3-for-12 FG, six assists). When that was combined with Wake Forest outworking North Carolina on both ends for a significant portion of the second half as they built up an 11-point lead, the hole was ultimately too deep for the Heels to climb out of.

Jeff Bzdelik’s team certainly deserves credit for this, and regardless of North Carolina’s issues this is a big win for a program that has struggled mightily during the Bzdelik era. Travis McKie led four players in double figures with 16 points, and if reserves such as Arnaud Adala Moto (11 points, nine rebounds) and Coron Williams (eight points) can build on their performances that would be big for a team that has some talented players but lacks depth.

To North Carolina’s credit they were able to fight their back into the game, pulling to within a point of Wake Forest with just over one minute remaining. But the problem is that it took a double-digit deficit for Roy Williams’ team to show the effort required to win. It’s been said before and it needs to be said again: this team isn’t good enough to get away with giving the minimum amount of effort and failing to execute offensively.

With Sunday’s defeat falling in line with North Carolina’s season to date, it’s time to accept what the remainder of the season will be for the Tar Heels: a wild ride that includes both big wins and head-scratching losses. The question is whether or not North Carolina can avoid racking up too many of those defeats.

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?