Marcus Smart

Monday’s Pregame Shootaround: March Madness kicks off with the Patriot League tourney

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GAME OF THE DAY: Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 9:00 p.m.

The Wildcats pay a visit to Oklahoma State tonight. The Pokes have come back strong after losing seven straight games, with Saturday’s win over Kansas pushing them onto the right side of the bubble. A loss at home to a Kansas State team that doesn’t beat anyone on the road would be a killer, however.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: N.C. State at Pittsburgh, 9:00 p.m.

Barring a miracle down the stretch of the season, N.C. State is already on the wrong side of the bubble. They pay a visit to Pitt on Monday night, a team in desperate need of a win to avoid falling closer to the bubble’s cutline.


1) March Madness begins tonight with the first round of the Patriot League tournament.

2) The only ranked team taking the court tonight is No. 14 North Carolina, who will be hosting Notre Dame. The Tar Heels are strictly playing for seeding at this point. The Irish? They’re playing for seeding in the NIT.

3) The biggest bubble game of the night will be Xavier’s trip to New Jersey to take on Seton Hall. 

4) Keep an eye on North Carolina-Central, who is 23-5 and 13-1 in the MEAC with a win at N.C. State this season.

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?