Adreian Payne returns as No. 9 Michigan State rolls past Penn State

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No. 9 Michigan State has been affected by injuries as much as any team in America this season. Branden Dawson’s out with a broken hand, Adreian Payne’s missed time with a foot injury and Keith Appling has a right wrist issue, and those are just three of the injuries that Tom Izzo’s had to account for this season.

On Thursday night the Spartans were without Appling and Dawson, but Panye did return to the court for his first action since a January 7 win over Ohio State. Payne would score 12 points in the 82-67 win over Penn State, with Kenny Kaminski and Denzel Valentine among the standouts for the Spartans.

Kaminski, who’s made multiple visits to Tom Izzo’s doghouse this season, put together his best outing of the season with 19 points in 21 minutes of action. The redshirt freshman connected on seven of his nine shots from the field, shooting 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. And as a team Michigan State made 12 three-pointers, the most they’ve made in a conference game since 2008.

Valentine, known for his versatility and ability to play multiple positions on the floor, tallied 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to help Michigan State account for a 5-for-16 night from Gary Harris. With Appling out of the lineup Valentine became a more important piece for Michigan State on Thursday night, and he rose to the challenge. While some may look at the opponent (Penn State) and decide that there isn’t much to be gained from the result, there’s also the need to have players such as Kaminski and Valentine gain the confidence needed to be key figures moving forward.

Outside of Tim Frazier (9-for-14 FG, 22 points) Penn State struggled to get much going against the Michigan State defense, and the Spartans supplemented their solid defensive effort with a 46% night from the field. At some point  (hopefully) Michigan State will return to full strength, but they’ll still need contributions from all members of the rotation.

With Appling out of the lineup and Payne looking to regain his form after missing nearly a month of action, other stepped up to help the Spartans take care of Penn State.

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?