No. 5 Wichita State rolls to 21st consecutive victory

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In the aftermath of their run to the 2013 Final Four, many wondered what Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State Shockers would do for an encore. While they lost guard Malcolm Armstead from last season’s group many of the other key contributors returned, and to this point in the season those returnees have strung together 21 consecutive victories with their 78-61 win at Drake being the most recent.

Cleanthony Early led the way with 19 points and seven rebounds and as a team the Shockers shot 52.7% from the field, their best offensive performance since shooting 60% in a win over Southern Illinois in their Missouri Valley opener. Why were they able to shoot so well? The Shockers attacked the paint, scoring 32 of their 78 points in the painted area while also shooting 13-for-15 from the foul line.

Wichita State won comfortably in spite of a quiet night from point guard Fred Van Vleet, who shot 2-for-6 from the field and scored nine points to go along with five assists. However given the number of options at Marshall’s disposal, not to mention a stingy defense that ranks among the nation’s best, Wichita State can endure a quiet night from one of its best players. Wichita State scored 24 points off of 13 Drake turnovers, and when they’re allowed to convert those opportunities at that rate it’s incredibly difficult to beat the Shockers.

For some the news that Wichita State keeps on winning won’t move the meter, with the “reason” being that their conference isn’t as widely acclaimed as some other leagues that receive incredible amounts of attention. But to immediately dismiss Wichita State for that reason would be a mistake, as the Shockers are undoubtedly worthy of their lofty ranking.

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?