NCAA Basketball Tournament - St Louis v Michigan State

Saint Louis guard Kwamain Mitchell will make his season debut tonight

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On the second day of practice Saint Louis point guard Kwamain Mitchell went down with a broken bone in his left foot, and without him the Billikens weren’t “whole” despite their 8-3 record.

That changes tonight however, as Mitchell will make his season debut at Chaifetz Arena when SLU takes on SIU-Edwardsville.

The 5-10 senior was a key cog in the Billiken attack last season, as he averaged 12.4 points and 3.7 assists per game for a team that reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000. SLU has played well to this point in the season, but with Mitchell the BIllikens undoubtedly are a team that can win the Atlantic 10.

“I’m excited to be out there. Instead of talking on the sidelines, it was better to be talking with them while actually on the court,” Mitchell said after practice according to Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I feel confident I’ll be ready to contribute somewhat to the team.”

Obviously SLU will exercise some caution when it comes to how many minutes Mitchell plays, as there is also the issue of conditioning to be wary of.

“He wasn’t out for the full practice,” interim SLU coach Jim Crews said, “but he went through it and to my eyes he looked good. I’m not the doctor, but from my eyes he looked good. What’s hard is the conditioning situation. You can condition nonbasketball in the pool, on the treadmill. There are a million ways to do it, but it’s different from basketball conditioning.”

But his return comes at the right time for Saint Louis, as they’ll host a New Mexico team that just won at No. 8 Cincinnati on New Year’s Eve. After a game against Savannah State (January 4) conference play begins, with a home game against UMass followed by a trip to Philadelphia to take on Temple.

Mitchell’s return will relieve Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett of some of the responsibilities added to their respective plates during his absence, and as a team the Billikens will have the rotation they envisioned back in October.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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: