Fred Hoiberg

Iowa State’s bubble chances improve with first quality road win at Baylor

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Iowa State picked up a key win on Wednesday night, as they went into Waco and knocked off Baylor for the second time this season, 87-82.

Tyrus McGee — the nation’s most dangerous sixth-man — finished with 22 points off the bench while Melvin Ejim chipped in with 20 points and 12 boards while the Cyclones did what the Cyclones do: they spread the floor, they got up and down the court, and they used their athleticism and versatility to create matchups problems and get themselves good looks from the perimeter.

Fred Hoiberg has, once again, built himself a dangerous ballclub out in Ames. Six players average between 9.3 points and 14.8 points. With the exception of leading scorer Will Clyburn, five of those six shoot at least 35.6% from three, with McGee, at 45.0%, leading the way. They run the floor, they don’t even pretend to worry about defending and, on the nights when those three-balls are dropping, the Cyclones can put up a lot of points in a hurry.

But what made the win over Baylor so important is that it was the first time this season that the Cyclones have beaten a team not named TCU or UMKC — both of whom rank outside the top 240 in the RPI — on the road.

Last week, Iowa State lost at Texas in double-overtime, an ugly loss even when you factor in Myck Kabongo’s return. Last month, they lost at Texas Tech, who is thankful that TCU joined the conference so that they would be able to avoid being the laughing stock of the league. It’s those two results, combined with a middling non-conference schedule, that have the Cyclones sitting in a position where the NCAA tournament is anything but a lock and where they are two games behind both Kansas and Kansas State for the Big 12 lead.

The good news?

This win probably keeps them on the right side of the bubble for now. But more importantly, Iowa State has a bit of a backloaded league schedule. They still host Kansas and Oklahoma State, and they’ll get one more shot at a marquee road win when they visit Norman to take on the Sooners.

The Cyclones will have their chances to get into the dance.

And, if you’re like me and observing without a rooting interest, you want that to happen.

I promise that you’ll enjoy watching the Cyclones play.

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: