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NCAA imposes sanctions on WSU basketball

NCAA imposes sanctions on WSU basketball

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The NSIC plans to nullify the Winona State University men’s basketball team’s first 13 conference games of the season after discovering that Grant Johnson was ineligible to play.

The ruling means WSU's hopes to host the regional playoff tournament are now in serious doubt, though the Warriors, currently ranked third in the country for Division II, will still likely make it to the postseason. 

In a statement released Tuesday the NSIC said Johnson, the team's second-leading scorer, will be ineligible for the remaining of the 2011-12 season.

Johnson's eligibility was in limbo as the NCAA reviewed his transfer paperwork from UW-Parkside, where Johnson spent two seasons before sitting out a year, then transferring to Winona State. 

The Warriors will be eligible to participate in postseason play if, at the completion of the season, their conference win/loss percentage qualifies them for the NSIC Tournament.  

The team's NSIC win/loss percentage will now be determined using nullification, a process used by the NCAA Division II Championships Committee in their selection criteria when a team plays an ineligible player in a team sport.  

Nullification is a calculation with a value consistent to all team sports used to reduce the teams percentage of its win/loss record and the strength of schedule index. The calculation subtracts .299 from WSu's win/loss percentage to determine its current and final ranking in the NSIC standings. 

The team will play its final home games of the regular season against MSU Moorhead on Feb. 17, and Minnesota, Crookston on Feb. 18. The Warriors travel to Minnesota Duluth and Bemidji State Feb. 24-25. The NSIC Postseason Tournament will begin on Feb. 29.

WSU athletic department officials were contacted  Jan. 23 by another university questioning Johnson’s eligibility, according to a Tuesday statement, at which point men's basketball Coach Mike Leaf immediately withheld Johnson from competing.

Winona State immediately informed the NCAA of a potential rules violation and has worked closely with both the NSIC and NCAA in an attempt to resolve the situation.

Winona State athletic department officials failed to clarify some of the responses on the transfer release form. The Winona State coaching staff was unaware of any questions regarding the student-athlete’s eligibility. Johnson joined the team for the 2011-12 season and played in the Warriors’ first 19 games. Johnson was the team's second-leading scorer (15 points per game), as well as a strong defensive player.

Check back at www.winonadailynews.com and read Wednesday's paper for updates and more details.

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