Michigan State v Virginia

Big Ten, not Big 12, confirmed as the premier conference in ’14


Throughout the 2013-14 season, the Big 12 was consistently mentioned as the nation’s best conference. Starting with the newcomers at Kansas, followed by Oklahoma State’s returning core, the impact of transfers for Iowa State, and rounding out with the surprising play of Kansas State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, succeeding in the Big 12 was a difficult task.

The NCAA tournament is the greatest equalizer in the sport, and through the initial five days, the tournament proved that we should have all been espousing and praising the Big Ten, rather than the Big 12, this season. Following Sunday’s Elite 8 games, there could potentially be three Big Ten teams in the field, the first time a trio from one conference has made the Final Four since 1985. Meanwhile, the Big 12 has no representatives left in the field. Despite leading Division I in RPI, strength of schedule, non-conference RPI and strength of schedule, no Big 12 remains among the eight finalists. Adding to the statistical fire is the Big 12 led the nation in non-conference winning percentage (.797, which was .461 in the NCAAs), and Big 12 teams defeated 40 AP top 25 in 2013-14 (6-7, though, in the past five days; h/t Patrick Vint).

Despite the run of the three Big Ten teams to April’s first weekend, it seems like the Big Ten was undervalued and underappreciated during the regular season, a strange proposition considering what the conference returned and hype should have been sky high. But the midwest-based conference has the chance to do something no other league has accomplished in nearly 30 years, a remarkable feat since the trio spent conference play knocking each other about league play.

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?