N.C. State had a relatively uneventful day of practice Friday. Syracuse, the Wolfpack's opponent in the regular-season finale Saturday, had just the opposite.
The NCAA punished the Orange basketball program and hall-of-fame coach Jim Boeheim on Friday for self-reported violations that dated to 2001. The NCAA's 94-page report outlined academic violations, a failure to follow drug-testing policies and impermissible benefits to athletes. Syracuse will lose scholarships and vacate 108 wins from Boeheim's record for using ineligible players during five different seasons between 2004 and 2012.
The NCAA also upheld the school's previous decision to self-impose a postseason ban this year but did not add additional years. The NCAA also ruled the school will have to give back revenue from NCAA tournament appearances in 2011, ’12 and ’13. The Orange made the Final Four in 2013, Boeheim's fourth and most recent trip to the national semifinals.
Boeheim, 70 and in his 39th season at his alma mater, also will be suspended for the first nine ACC games of the 2015-16 season for what the NCAA called “a failure to monitor his program.” His career win total will be reduced from 966 to 858. Before the wins were vacated, Boeheim ranked second to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski on the NCAA Division I career wins list.
Syracuse’s penalties come at a time when the NCAA has reopened an investigation into UNC’s prolonged academic scandal that involved enrolling some athletes in fake classes to keep them eligible to play sports. The scandal spanned 18 years. Some of those classes were taken by members of UNC’s 2005 NCAA championship team, according to the Wainstein report.
While N.C. State (18-12, 9-8 ACC) continues to jockey for seeding in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, Syracuse's future is relatively unclear after Friday's news. The Orange will lose three scholarships for a four-year period, meaning it can have a maximum of 10 on the roster per year.
Syracuse (18-12, 9-8) knew Saturday's game at N.C. State would be its last game of the season.
“Even though Syracuse is not playing in the postseason, that doesn't mean they won't come out and play in this game,” N.C. State junior Trevor Lacey said. “I'm sure they don't want to lose their last game. We're going to have to match their intensity.”
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried wasn't sure how much Friday's ruling would be a distraction for Saturday's game. The Wolfpack, coming off an important 66-61 win at Clemson on Tuesday, needs to handle its own business to take care of its postseason fate.
“I don't think anything that's going on with their team has much of affect on our guys,” Gottfried said. “It's an important game for our team. I don't think anybody has any more to play for than we do.”
With four wins in the past five games, N.C. State has played its way off the NCAA tournament bubble, according to most bracket projections, but it still would prefer to avoid having to play in one of the “First Four” play-in games in Dayton, Ohio, for a second straight year.
There's also the matter of ACC tournament seeding. The Wolfpack can still be the No. 6 seed in Greensboro next week but needs help. If Virginia Tech upsets Miami on Saturday and N.C. State knocks off Syracuse, the Wolfpack will be the sixth seed and play the No. 11 seed (Wake Forest) on Wednesday (9:30 p.m.) at the ACC tournament.
If Miami wins at Virginia Tech on Saturday, the Hurricanes will be the No. 6 seed, no matter what N.C. State does. As the No. 7 seed, N.C. State would play the 10th seed, either Pittsburgh or Florida State, on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Lacey said the Wolfpack can't afford to worry about Syracuse's distractions.
“We're playing for something,” Lacey said. “We want to make the (NCAA) tournament and every game matters.”
Syracuse at N.C. State
When/where: Noon, PNC Arena, Raleigh
TV/Radio: WRAL, 101.5-WRAL
Projected starting lineups
Syracuse (18-12, 9-8 ACC)
G Michael Gbinije 12.8 ppg, 3.5 apg
G Trevor Cooney 13.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg
F Tyler Roberson 8.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg
F B.J. Johnson 4.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg
F Rakeem Christmas 17.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg
N.C. State (18-12, 9-8 ACC)
G Cat Barber 11.8 ppg, 3.7 apg
G Trevor Lacey 16.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg
G Ralston Turner 13.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg
F Lennard Freeman 3.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg
F Abdul-Malik Abu 5.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg
How motivated and/or distracted will Syracuse be after Friday’s NCAA news and with nothing to play for? N.C. State should be able to control Syracuse’s limited offense, which sorely missed point guard Tyler Ennis. Joe Giglio