Some greeted the news with surprise, others with cynicism. Either way, when one of college basketball’s signature programs makes the decision to hold itself out of the postseason, the development most certainly qualifies as big news.
Syracuse announced on Wednesday that it is self-imposing a ban from postseason play this year, in response to an NCAA investigation and “as a further means of past mistakes,” according to a university press release. The ban, which includes the ACC Tournaments, NCAAs, NIT and all over postseason tourneys, is essentially an admission of guilt in regards to allegations against the program dating all the way back to 2007, and suggests that the rules violations are more serious than we might have thought.
Little has been heard about the NCAA’s investigation into Syracuse of late, so this came somewhat out of thin air. Whether the move is a pre-emptive strike to reduce the chance of the NCAA’s wrath or is just an attempt to minimize the impact of sanctions on the school is the big question, and one that has no easy answer.
Contrary to what some have suggested, the Orange absolutely had a chance to make the NCAA tourney this year, and if it gets there, who knows what happens? Syracuse was right on the bubble in early February, with few great wins but also few bad losses. Despite Jim Boeheim’s team being severely handicapped for depth, it has been anything but a pushover, has one of the best players in the country in Rakeem Christmas, and with upcoming chances for some big wins, odds were roughly 50/50 that the Cuse would’ve qualified.
At the same time, it’s undeniable that this is not one of the better Syracuse teams in recent memory. On the surface, it is not a national title contender, so in that regard, it certainly is, shall we say, expedient that the school would choose to hold itself out of the postseason this year. Given how frequently self-imposed sanctions are typically designed by schools to minimize their impact on the school itself, the intent in this case is no doubt curious.
Perhaps what’s most notable about the ban, though, is that it was self-imposed at all. In the past year or two, there have been fewer schools imposing sanctions against themselves, particularly among the major football conferences looking for “autonomy” and more influence in the NCAA.
Instead, more and more schools appear to essentially dare the NCAA to punish them, and it’s a strategy that has worked out well in most cases. Often, the NCAA has come through with a slap on the wrist at most. If the sanctions carry any weight at all, the schools cry about the humanity of it all, currying public opinion in their favor and against the big, bad NCAA, and appeal the sanctions. The sanctions are then reduced, resulting in the NCAA looking toothless to enforce the very rules that the schools themselves agree to as members.
Regardless of Syracuse’s intent with the self-sanctions, the move to do so at all indicates at least some regard still of the organization’s enforcement arm, and by one the biggest of all NCAA schools. Perhaps the NCAA still has some teeth and some respect from its members when it comes to enforcement. As much as some may decry that, if college sports are going to retain any structure at all, that’s a good thing.
- Purdue already was playing at home and thus may not have needed the break, but the Boilermakers got a golden opportunity against Ohio State and took advantage, defeating the Buckeyes 60-58 after OSU’s second-leading scorer Marc Loving was suspended and has “temporarily lost the privilege to wear the scarlet and gray,” according to the school. Purdue has now won three straight against ranked teams.
- Duke and Villanova both won Wednesday, the Blue Devils having the tougher time of the two in a 72-66 win over Georgia Tech. The ACC’s worst three-point shooting team, the Yellow Jackets hit 8 of 11 from long range to stay close. The Wildcats had an easier time, dismissing Marquette 70-52 behind 18 from Ryan Arcidiacono.
- VCU passed its first test after Briante Weber’s season-ending injury diagnosis, winning at George Mason 72-60. Also in the Atlantic 10, St. Bonaventure put a crimp in Davidson’s postseason hopes, as Marcus Posley hit a jumper at the buzzer for a 62-61 Bonnies’ win.
- Providence earned a huge road win in the Big East, going to Georgetown and grabbing a 74-71 win as Ben Bentil had 16 points and eight rebounds. The Friars are on their way to a nice seed in the NCAAs.
- Wyoming completed a season sweep of Colorado State with a 59-48 win. The computers don’t seem to like the Mountain West this year and that’s too bad, so both of these teams need every win they can get. Also, San Diego State nipped Nevada 65-63 to stay in a tie for first in the MWC with the Cowboys.
- Oklahoma State added to Texas’s pain, winning at Austin 65-63 in overtime. The Longhorns have time to turn it around yet, but right now they are in big trouble.
- Xavier is another team falling into the same boat as Texas. The Musketeers lost at home to Creighton 79-72 in overtime on Wednesday. Not good at all.
- Kansas State suspended leading scorer Marcus Foster and reserve forward Malek Harris for violation of team rules. Meanwhile, Texas Tech announced on the same day that it had dismissed junior forward Justin Jamison for also violating team rules. The two teams met Wednesday night in Lubbock, and Tech came out the better with a 64-47 win that puts a big, big damper on K-State’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
- Mississippi and Oregon feel like two teams interlinked this year, right down to their contest played this season in Eugene, which was won by the Rebels on the road. Ole Miss defeated Texas A&M 69-59 to snap the Aggies’ six-game winning streak, while Oregon edged Washington 78-74. Both the Rebels and Ducks are working their way into the NCAA tourney conversation.
- Clemson also just might be clawing its way into NCAA Tournament consideration. The Tigers won at Florida State 62-56 to move to 14-8 and 6-4 in the ACC.
- Another busy night in the MAC saw a buffet of close contests, with five of the six games decided by a combined 10 points. The result is now four teams tied for the top spot in the East Division at 6-3, including Bowling Green (76-74 OT winners over Central Michigan, where Chris Fowler scored 42 points for CMU but the Chippewas shot just 6 of 30 from three-point range) and Buffalo (82-78 over Ball State). Toledo leads the West at 6-3 now after the only blowout of the night, an 84-60 romp over sliding Eastern Michigan. This is a terrific conference race and should be one of the very best conference tournaments of them all this year.
- Albany is still undefeated in the America East after a narrow 63-62 win over New Hampshire that ended the Wildcats’ five-game winning streak. The Great Danes have won 10 straight.
- Northeastern stayed hot on the heels of William & Mary in the CAA with a 69-62 win over Towson.
- The Horizon League is developing into a terrific four-team race between Valparaiso, Cleveland State, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Oakland. Those four are separated by one-half game, with Valpo (78-70 over Detroit), CSU (73-60 against Youngstown State) and Oakland (91-77 at Illinois-Chicago) all winning Wednesday. Corey Petros had a massive game for Oakland with 34 points and 13 rebounds.
Cincinnati at SMU (9 p.m. EST, ESPN) Important AAC game that is significant for both. The Bearcats need to cover up for a growing list of disappointing losses, while the Mustangs still can use some marquee wins.
Iowa at Michigan (7 p.m. EST, ESPN) It’s getting near do-or-die time for the Hawkeyes. This may be a road game, but it should be a winnable one against the undermanned-but-scrappy Wolverines.
UCLA at Stanford (9 p.m. EST, ESPN2), Washington State at Oregon State The Bruins need a road win, and this would more than suffice. The Beavers still have some slim NCAA Tournament hopes, too, but must win this against the improved Cougars.
Georgia State at Georgia Southern The Eagles, not the Panthers, lead the Sun Belt coming in.
UC Davis at UC Irvine Two of the three leaders in the Big West meet up.
Louisiana Tech at Alabama-Birmingham The Blazers have been a very big surprise in Conference USA and can possibly move into a tie for first with a win over the Bulldogs.
BYU at Pepperdine The Waves won the first matchup and with a win here can just about extinguish any at-large hopes for the Cougars.
Have an outstanding Thursday.