Big Sky Conference

Big Sky to evaluate its conference tournament structure

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While the question of where conference tournaments are played in power leagues tends to dominate the discussion in college basketball, that’s also an especially important question for smaller conferences. And given the fact that members of one-bid leagues can see their seasons boil down to a couple of days in March, it can be argued that the question of where a conference tournament should be played is of even greater importance to those conferences.

In recent years the Big Sky has allowed its regular season champion to host the conference tournament, a decision that rewards the team that had shown itself to be the conference’s best throughout the regular season. However the Big Sky will take a look at its conference tournament structure, with this move being announced on Wednesday.

“While our current format often leads to strong attendance and does a great job of protecting our top team, we also realize it has become problematic for many reasons,” Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton said in the release. “Our school administrators and coaches have raised valid concerns, including travel costs, travel logistics, student-athlete welfare, and fan experience.

“We need to continue to have discussions regarding how many teams will qualify, and if we move to a predetermined site, where that will be and if the location will be the same for the men and the women.”

There are questions to be considered as evidenced by the commissioner’s comments, such as whether or not to play at a neutral site and the possibility of playing both men’s and women’s tournaments at the same location. The host school has won the last four Big Sky tournaments, with Montana being the last non-host to win the league’s automatic bid in 2010.

And there’s also the question of how many teams will qualify for the event, with the top eight teams being eligible for the 2015 conference tournament. That change comes as a result of the arrival of Idaho, pushing the number of members up to 12. There will be no byes in the tournament, meaning that the top seed won’t be advanced directly into the semifinals (as was the case in 2013 and 2014).

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?