Cal Poly takes care of Texas Southern in First Four

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After winning three straight games to grab the Big West’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, it would have been somewhat understandable if Cal Poly decided that it’s achievement was enough. But the Mustangs are playing their best basketball of the season, and on Wednesday night they continued that run with an 81-69 win over fellow Midwest Region No. 16 seed Texas Southern.

The reward for head coach Joe Callero’s team: a shot at No. 1 seed Wichita State (34-0) Friday in St. Louis.

Cal Poly used defense and the ability to control tempo to their advantage in Anaheim last weekend. On Wednesday the Mustangs put together their best offensive performance of the season, shooting 56.9% from the field and 6-for-15 from beyond the arc. Texas Southern, despite getting 38 points from SWAC Player of the Year Aaric Murray, had no answer for Cal Poly defensively and it cost them dearly.

Chris Eversley scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Cal Poly, which also scored 23 points off of 13 Texas Southern turnovers. With Eversley and David Nwaba (17 points) leading the way and reserves such as Brian Bennett and Ridge Shipley giving them good minutes, Cal Poly’s managed to get things clicking at the right time.

However asking this group to go beat Wichita State in a couple days is an entirely different animal, considering the fact that no 16-seed has ever defeated a one-seed. The season may likely come to an end for Cal Poly on Friday, but they deserve credit for the way in which they’ve played to reach that point.

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?