Michigan State v Penn State

College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

Leave a comment
source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Last week, I had Michigan State sitting at fifth behind four undefeated teams: Arizona, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

This week?

I have the Spartans second, jumping them past Syracuse, Wisconsin and Ohio State despite the fact that none of those three teams lost this week.

Which probably doesn’t make a ton of sense considering the fact that in most polls, the only way a teams drops is if they lose.

But here’s where I counter: the biggest reason that Michigan State lost to North Carolina, and thus the biggest reason that they found themselves ranked as low as they were, was that the Spartans spent much of the month of December battling nagging injuries to a number of their key players. Gary Harris had an ankle injury. Adreian Payne is dealing with planter fasciitis. Matt Costello had mono. Keith Appling had a bum wrist.

That would be four of their five starters.

And now that those guys are healthier, the Spartans are starting to roll again. They whipped up on Penn State and Indiana on the road this past week, looking as dominant as ever. And when this team is healthy and playing its best basketball, they are the best team in the Big Ten and easily one of the best teams in the country.

So they get the bump even if the teams they jumped didn’t necessarily deserve to drop.


1. Arizona (15-0, LW: No. 1): After putting together one of the most dominating defensive performances of the season, giving up just 25 points to Washington State, the Wildcats struggled to finally put away Washington on Saturday.

2. Michigan State (13-1, LW: No. 5): Gary Harris had a career-high 26 points in a 17-point win at Indiana on Saturday.

3. Syracuse (14-0, LW: No. 2): The Orange struggled to put away Miami at home in their ACC opener, and it had a lot to do with the 2-for-12 performance they got from Trevor Cooney.

4. Wisconsin (15-0, LW: No. 3): Wisconsin was dominated in the first half of their win over Iowa in the Kohl Center on Sunday night. They came back in the second half in a win that was sparked by a pair of technicals that Fran McCaffery picked up.

5. Ohio State (15-0, LW: No. 4): LaQuinton Ross scored 36 points in two wins this week, but just as important was the fact that Shannon Scott hit four of the ten threes that he took against Purdue and Nebraska.

6. Florida (11-2, LW: No. 8): The Gators only played one game this week, struggling to beat Richmond in their last non-conference game. Michael Frazier had been struggling a bit but went for 18 points in the win.

7. Villanova (13-1, LW: No. 10): Villanova narrowly avoided getting picked off by Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve, following that up with a blowout win over Providence at home on Sunday night.

8. Wichita State (15-0, LW: No. 11): How many teams in the country have a better back court than the Shockers’ trio of Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton? I’m not sure there are five.

9. San Diego State (12-1, LW: No. 21): The Aztecs won a pair of road games in two of the toughest environments in the country last week, going into Moby Arena and beating Colorado State before knocking off Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

10. Colorado (13-2, LW: No. 24): The Buffaloes are now off to their best start in school history and have picked up home wins over Oregon and Kansas.

11. Oregon (13-1, LW: No. 12)
12. Kentucky (10-3, LW: No. 13)
13. Duke (11-3, LW: No. 6)
14. Louisville (13-2, LW: No. 14)
15. Kansas (9-4, LW: No. 9)
16. Baylor (12-1, LW: No. 15)
17. Oklahoma State (12-2, LW: No. 8)
18. Iowa State (13-0, LW: No. 18)
19. Iowa (12-3, LW: No. 19)
20. Illinois (13-2, LW: No. 22)
21. Missouri (12-1, LW: No. 23)
22. Creighton (12-2, LW: UR)
23. Cincinnati (13-2, LW: UR)
24. Memphis (10-3, LW: No. 17)
25. UMass (12-1, LW: No. 25)

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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?