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Thursday’s Pregame Shootaround: UConn visits Cincy

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 22 UConn at No. 7 Cincinnati, 7:00 p.m.

Cincinnati has played like one of the best teams in the country over the last month and change, taking firm control of the AAC race in the process. Their strength is on the defensive end of the floor and their ability to get to the offensive glass. UConn doesn’t have much size inside, but they do have Shabazz Napier and on the nights where Deandre Daniels and Ryan Boatright play well, they’re dangerous.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Oregon at No. 2 Arizona, 9:00 p.m.

Arizona’s first game without Brandon Ashley. How will the Wildcats respond without him in the lineup? How will they react to playing an Oregon team in desperate need of a win? The Ducks have the talent to pull off the upset, but they are also the most disappointing team in the Pac-12. Which Oregon shows up?

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Murray State at Belmont, 9:00 p.m.

The two powers that be in the Ohio Valley will square off tonight in what is becoming a delightful little rivalry between in-state, mid-major rivals. Isaiah Cannon and Ian Clark may be off to the professional ranks, but Belmont’s brought enough back to win at North Carolina while Murray State is relying on a trio of newcomers to try to lead them back to the NCAA tournament.


1) Adreian Payne will be making his return to the court as Penn State visits No. 9 Michigan State. While we’re here, read the profile that Jason King wrote about him.

2) Is LSU an NCAA tournament team? They looked like it in a pair of wins last week. But how will they handle the road in the SEC? They’re at Georgia tonight.

3) VCU has looked like Saint Louis’ biggest contender in the A-10 the last couple of weeks. They’ll host URI tonight.

4) SMU has looked like an NCAA tournament team in recent weeks. They get a visit from Temple tonight in a game that could do serious their bubble dreams.

5) You want a sneaky mid-major to watch come March? How about Georgia State, with R.J. Hunter and Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow. They’ll visit Arkansas-Little Rock tonight.

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?