Getty Images

Sweet 16 Previews: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State

1 Comment
Getty Images

On Wednesday and Thursday, we will be breaking down all eight of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here is our look at No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State:

RELATED: Sweet 16 Power Rankings | Top 16 Players | Eight Critical Individual Matchups

WHEN: Thursday, 10:17 p.m.

WHERE: Honda Center, Anaheim (West Region)

MAJOR STORY LINES: There’s a lot going on here beyond the actual game itself. These are arguably the two best programs out west, although UCLA’s resurgence under Steve Alford, particularly on the recruiting trail, might make one reconsider. Both programs rely on recruiting California, especially the the southern part of the state, to bring in talent. Steve Fisher’s done an unbelievable job building SDSU into a program that is actually relevant, and as good as Sean Miller is as a coach, he won’t be considered among the elite nationally until he leads the Wildcats to at least a Final Four.

KEY STATS: Arizona leads the nation in effective field goal percentage defense and is second nationally in defending two-point field goals. San Diego State ranks in the bottom 25% nationally in effective field goal percentage and is sub-300 nationally in their ability to make two point shots. SDSU shoots 74.4% of their shots from inside the arc and Arizona forces opposing offenses to shoot 73.5% of their shots inside the arc; for comparison’s sake, the national averages is 67.1% while Creighton takes just 55.5% of their shots from two-point range.

In layman’s terms, SDSU wants to get shots in and around the paint, and Arizona is one of, if not the best in the country after defending that.

SWEET 16 PREVIEWS: Dayton-StanfordWisconsin-Baylor |Florida-UCLA

Iowa State-UConn | Michigan-Tennessee | Virginia-Michigan State | Louisville-Kentucky

KEY PLAYERS: Xavier Thames is San Diego State’s offense. He’s not just their go-to guy, he’s not just their facilitator, he’s the focal point of everything they do on the offensive end of the floor. That puts Steve Fisher in a tough spot, as the Wildcats are not only the best defensive team in the country, they might have the nation’s best backcourt defender in Nick Johnson. Slow down Thames, beat SDSU.

POINT SPREAD: Arizona (-7.5)


1. Arizona in transition: The Wildcats are not great when it comes to executing in the half court, but what they have done in the past month or so is to put more of a priority on getting easy baskets in transition. There is not a trio in the country that is more athletic than Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon, and the three of them thrive in the open court. When Arizona allowed to run the floor, they are a much more dangerous team.

2. Free throws: The Wildcats are not a good free throw shooting team, and while much of that blame falls on the shoulders of Gordon (42.9%), T.J. McConnell (60.9%) and Hollis-Jefferson (66.7%) struggle from the stripe as well. Given the physicality of both these teams, if this ends up being a close game, free throws could end up making an enormous difference.

3. Dwayne Polee: Polee didn’t even play the first time these two teams matched up back in November, but he’s become an integral part of the SDSU attack since the turn of the calendar in large part due to the fact that he can knock donw a jump shot without being a liability defensive. In the last four games, he’s averaging 15.5 points and shooting 62.5% from three.


Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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?