Elfrid Payton

NCAA Tournament Primer: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns

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Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: Sun Belt Conference

Coach: Bob Marlin

Record: 23-11 (11-7 Sun Belt)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 118
– RPI: 100
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding?: As of Dave Ommen’s bracket update he had Georgia State, the regular season champion, as the automatic bid from the Sun Belt. The Panthers were projected as a 14-seed.

Names you need to know: Elfrid Payton (19.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 6.0 apg, 2.3 spg); Shawn Long (18.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.8 bpg); Bryant Mbamalu (12.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 apg)

Stats you need to know: The Ragin’ Cajuns can score, averaging 81.4 points per game — good for 13th nationally. They are top 100 in adjusted offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage while holding a top-30 offensive rebounding percentage rate according to kenpom.com.

Tendencies: Louisiana-Lafayette will run deep with nine guys averaging at least 16 minutes per game.

Big wins, bad losses: Louisiana-Lafayette lost to Baylor by nine, Arkansas by 13 and Louisville 39. In two losses to Georgia State, the defense let the Panthers shoot 16-of-31 from beyond the arc. In the Sun Belt title game, Georgia State only 5-of-19.

How’d they get here?: After beating Texas-Arlington by six in the conference quarterfinals, Louisiana-Lafayette saw its NCAA tournament hopes almost end, but T.J. Price’s couldn’t convert on the last-second shot as the Ragin’ Cajuns survived Western Kentucky, the two-seed, 73-72. Georgia State nearly went dancing as former Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow went off in overtime. However, offensive rebounding saved the Cajuns season when Mbamalu sent the game to overtime with a putback with 1.4 seconds left.

Outlook: The Ragin’ Cajuns will head into the tournament with a seeding somewhere in the teens, but look out, this team is dangerous.

How do I know you?: Elfrid Payton and Shawn Long are a great one-two punch and Payton can really play. He was a member of the the USA Basketball Under-19 team, which won the gold medal at the FIBA World Championship this summer in Prague, Czech Republic.

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?