Jamee Crockett, Vander Blue

Vander Blue’s scoring will dictate Marquette’s finish

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There’s no real question that Vander Blue is the primary scorer for Marquette. His 15 points per game justify that.

Monday night at Georgetown, Blue scored seven on 3-of-9 shooting in a 63-55 loss to the Hoyas, his worst scoring output in Big East Conference play and lowest overall since a six-point in a 49-47 loss to Green Bay on Dec. 19. It was also the last time Blue finished in single-digits scoring.

That right there will tell you how valuable Blue is to this team, offensively.

Blue has done his thing in the big games this season, win or lose. Against Florida, he dropped 20 in a loss. At Pittsburgh, he scored 22 and had 19 in a loss to Cincinnati. Don’t forget 21 in a close loss to Butler. Just because, he dropped 30 in a win over South Florida.

Monday night was a prime example that Blue has to be on his game if Marquette hopes to make a run in the Big East tournament and get a decent seed in the NCAAs, Blue has to be the guy who played well, even in a loss, against the Gators (he was 8-of-14 from the field and 2-of-5 from three) and play less like he did against the Hoyas (3-of-9, 0-of-4).

Fortunately, the home stretch for Marquette favors them. Road games at Seton Hall, Villanova, Rutgers and St. John’s — all winnable — flank home games against Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame, all of which could or should be ranked when they go down. Blue will need his big-game talent for all of them.

He didn’t get off to a great start with seven at no. 15 Georgetown.

There are other scoring options. Devante Gardner’s 12 points are a nice compliment. Jamil Wilson scored 13 in the loss on Monday and averages 8.2 per for the season.

But the team runs through Blue on offense. It has to if the Golden Eagles want anything to do with the late postseason in the middle of March.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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: