NCAA Basketball Tournament - Ohio v North Carolina

Bullock ready to fill it up at UNC

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Sure, North Carolina lost last season’s big four of Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Ty Zeller and John Henson to the NBA. On the flipside, Roy Williams will have plenty of young, dynamic talent coming into the program as he always does. In the meantime, where’s the veteran leadership going to come in?

Much of that onus will fall upon Reggie Bullock, the junior shooting guard who didn’t find much room to, well, shoot as the fifth wheel on the Tar Heel spaceship last year. His sophomore season average of 8.8 points didn’t set the world on fire, but close observation shows the kernel possibility in Bullock that may be ready to explode. He shot 38 percent from downtown, and used his bullish 6’7″, 205-lb. body to snag an impressive 5.1 rebounds per game in his second season in Chapel Hill.

But the question remains: can he score? I mean really, really score?

That question may have been answered last week, as the star-laden N.C. Pro-Am summer league wrapped up on Thursday. The championship game featured former UNC breakout star Jerry Stackhouse, as well as current Duke players Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson. According to Andrew Carter of the Charlotte Observer, amongst all that talent, it was Bullock who stole the show.

Bullock led his Banks Law Firm team (Bullock and Stackhouse played together) to a 91-84 championship game victory against Dream Works (which had all the Duke guys). The official scorers credited Bullock with 28 points but I think they missed one of six 3-pointers. I had him finishing with 31 – 19 of which came in the first half.

And this comes after he scored 30 points during his team’s semifinal victory on Wednesday.

Yes, it’s only the summer league, where defense is at times optional and offensive is at times – most of the time, even – improvisational. But Bullock looked good, shooting with confidence and playing with more speed than he did last season with the Tar Heels.

If nothing else, UNC should prove to have a reliable and versatile backfield, which is crucial in high-level college hoops. Stillman White performed admirably in his Big Dance trial-by-fire filling in for the injured Marshall at the end of last season, Dexter Strickland should be back from injury, and Bullock will be able to use his size and shooting touch to great effect both inside and out.

Earning the Pro-Am MVP award while playing against many of the guys he’ll battle next season could be a strong sign that Bullock is ready for his close-up.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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: