Wichita State v Gonzaga

Gonzaga will have a tough non-conference schedule in 2014-15

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Gonzaga has become one of the most consistent college basketball programs in the country. With 16 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a perpetual spot near the top of the West Coast Conference, the Bulldogs are a threat to crack the top 25 nearly every season despite playing in a mid-major conference.

Scheduling marquee opponents, however, is always a challenge for programs like Gonzaga. It just doesn’t look for a power conference school to lose to a WCC school, even if that program is Gonzaga.

For the 2014-15 season, though, Gonzaga will have a very difficult schedule filled with really good opponents. According to a story from Matt Johnson in the Gonzaga Bulletin, the Zags will have a number of big games next season.

Johnson interviewed Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth and Roth revealed that the Bulldogs would have away games at Arizona and UCLA, a rematch with Memphis at home and a game with Washington State at Spokane Arena.

Gonzaga is also looking to finalize a home-and-home series with SMU that would begin next season and Mark Few’s ballclub is also participating in the Preseason NIT, which will give them some more opportunities to play some big games at a neutral site.

This is great news for the Zags as they’ll get a crack at some of the best Pac-12 schools in the country while also getting some potential home games against really good AAC programs like Memphis and SMU. If the Bulldogs can capitalize on some of those non-conference wins and play well in the WCC, it could lead to a desirable seed in next season’s NCAA Tournament.

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?