Arizona State caps 0-2 week with blowout loss at Utah

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Nine days ago the Arizona State Sun Devils earned a signature victory for their resume, beating then-No. 2 Arizona 69-66 in overtime. Conventional wisdom had Herb Sendek’s team well on its way to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, and with contributors such as guards Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall and center Jordan Bachynski Arizona State has the look of a team capable of winning once there.

But just as important as picking up quality wins at this point in the season is building on the momentum gained from such results. And it’s safe to say that on their trip to Colorado and Utah, Arizona State did not get the job done. After getting beat decisively on the glass in a 61-52 loss at Colorado on Wednesday night, things got even worse for the Sun Devils in Salt Lake City.

After scoring the first two points of the game Arizona State struggled mightily against a Utah team looking to rebound from a tough overtime loss to Arizona, trailing by as much as 27 in the first half. Utah would win 86-63, resulting in an 0-2 road swing for an Arizona State team that while well-positioned to reach the NCAA tournament can’t afford to get too comfortable. Neither the effort nor the execution were there for Sendek’s Sun Devils, and by the time they flipped the switch and cut the margin to 13 points in the second half the hole was too deep to climb out of.

Shaquielle McKissic (16 points, five rebounds) and Egor Koulechov (11 points, eight rebounds) showed up ready to play, but the same can’t be said for most of their teammates. Arizona State’s three most important players combined to shoot 7-for-29 from the field and as a team the Sun Devils shot just 31% from the field. By comparison Utah made 54% of its shots, with Delon Wright putting on a clinic in all-around guard play.

Wright made all seven of his shots from the field, finishing the game with 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson may be one of the frontrunners for Pac-12 Player of the Year, but from a versatility standpoint Wright isn’t far behind. With the weakness of their non-conference schedule Larry Krystkowiak’s Utes likely need the automatic bid to reach the NCAA tournament, but with players such as Wright and Jordan Loveridge this program has taken steps in the right direction. And given their youth, 2014-15 could be a really good year for Utah.

As for Arizona State, upcoming home games against Stanford and California become more important on the heels of Sunday’s poor performance. With a ticket to the NCAA tournament well within their reach, Arizona State has to play with greater urgency than they displayed this weekend.

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?