Chris Otule

Marquette gets 6’10” Chris Otule back from injury

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Marquette’s story in recent years has frequently been about switchables – the players who defy conventional positional labels to create matchup struggles for opponents of the Golden Eagles. That’s not to say that coach Buzz Williams has no use for those with obvious basketball bona fides such as being really, really tall.

Marquette made the Sweet 16 last season despite a December 6 injury to Chris Otule, the 6’10” natural center who figured — at bare minimum — to be a defensive eraser in the paint. His absence left 6’8″ Davante Gardner as the tallest player on the roster. Gardner and Jae Crowder did what Buzz Williams’ switchables always do, and gritted it out against larger, stronger opponents. But you can bet they’d have had an easier time with Otule in the middle.

Otule has seen some setbacks along the road to recovery, but he thrilled Marquette fans this weekend by declaring himself healthy and ready to go for the 2012-13 season.

“I’m right on track. I feel like I can do anything,” Otule said. “I practice without any limitations, all of that.”

Buzz Williams admitted he has held back Otule in some drills as a precaution, but as a whole is happy where his fifth-year senior is right now.

“He’s becoming one of my favorite human beings of all-time,” Williams said. “His story is what college athletics, it’s what life is supposed to be about. I have been over-protective of him, relative to our work. But all the things that he’s overcome, just to be part of the team picture in 15 minutes, I think that’s really, really cool.”

Otule, who turns 23 in January, played six minutes in Marquette’s first public scrimmage of the season, scoring four points and hauling down four rebounds. The Golden Eagles open their season November 9 against Ohio State in Charleston, South Carolina.

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: