Two students sit inside an empty classroom at Madrid's El Espinillo high school during a general students' strike

College hoops grades are making news

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It’s a long weekend, and college sports hounds are focused on baseball tournaments and the upcoming College World Series. Therefore, stories about college hoops are few and far between at the moment. Of the writers who have cast an eye toward college hoops, many have focused on academics, as terms end and grade point averages are calculated. So, what the heck, let’s see what’s on everyone’s mind.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats not only nailed down a national title with a raft of freshmen, but they secured a very respectable team GPA as well. A 3.12 may not sound super-impressive until you consider the context. Historically speaking, some one-and-done players have quite simply given up during the second semester, secure in the knowledge that they were planning to declare for the NBA. John Calipari told the newspaper that his freshmen were “well above 3.0”.

And how about the academic culture at the national runner-up? Gary Bedore of the Lawrence Journal-World reports that KU’s highly-anticipated 6’8″ forward Perry Ellis graduated from Wichita Heights high school with a perfect 4.0 and served as one of four valedictorians for his graduating class. Perry also served as a volunteer in support of child literacy and was a motivational speaker for young people in Wichita.

The news is not so good at San Diego State. The Aztecs are concerned about  rising APR standards, for a very good reason. Steve Fisher is recruiting Norvel Pelle, a 6’11” behemoth who was scheduled to go to St. John’s before academic issues derailed his plans. Per the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The NCAA Clearinghouse never approved him academically and Pelle ultimately de-committed, spending the year bouncing from prep academy to prep academy. At last check he was reportedly taking online classes while continuing to seek academic clearance from the NCAA.

Mid-majors often live or die on their ability to take in academic refugees and tweeners, so this could make things much tougher in Viejas Arena.

Finally, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported on Cuonzo Martin’s continuing attempts to clean up the mess left behind by Bruce Pearl. Progress has been incremental, but it’s going the right direction. According to the paper, team GPA was 2.25 in the spring of 2011, then increased to 2.37 in the fall of that year. The spring 2012 number went up to 2.55. Not quite Kentucky numbers (on the court or off), but a definite improvement.

Alright, let’s stop talking numbers. Play some catch in front of a sizzling grill on your speedboat for me, will ya?

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: