Ryan Kelly

Mason Plumlee talks Ryan Kelly return; and Josh Hairston out Thursday?

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The most discussed foot in the country belongs to Ryan Kelly.

The Blue Devil’s senior forward emerged as arguably their most valuable player throughout the first two months of the season, providing offensive balance that helped space the floor for Mason Plumlee while developing into arguably Duke’s best defender. Crazy, right?

But nearly a month ago, Kelly reinjured the foot that he had surgery on over the summer and that kept him out of last season’s NCAA tournament. He hasn’t played since, and Duke has been quite vague about his status.

No one really seems to have an answer, but for Duke fans looking to read between the lines, Plumlee may have helped to ease some concern on Tuesday.

“When we get him back, we’ll be a better team because of it,” Plumlee told Jeff Goodmon on his Sirius XM. The key word there? When. Not if, when.

“We’ve seen him without his air-sock cast on and doing a little more rehab,” Plumlee said. “But we don’t know when we’re going to have him back. I would hope we’d have him back by the end of the ACC season, but with these kind of injuries, you never really know.”

Getting Kelly back — and getting him to 100% — would be a major boost for the Blue Devils. Not only were they the best team in the country when they had their full roster, Duke has spent the last month giving Amile Jefferson a taste of what life is like at this level. The same goes for Alex Murphy. Neither of them are as valuable as Kelly (yet), but with some experience under their belt, the Blue Devils would finally have some depth in their front court.

While I’m on the topic of Duke, their front court may take another blow in Thursday’s matchup with NC State:

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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: