Spartans guard Harris is guarded by Buckeyes guard Craft during the first half of their NCAA men's college basketball game at the 2013 Big 10 tournament in Chicago

Spartan miscues help Craft, Buckeyes slide into Big Ten final

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Aaron Craft can be a first-class irritant. He’ll be in the opposing player’s face from minute one of a game.

That doesn’t mean you can smack him in the neck, however.

That’s what Derrick Nix did with less than two minutes remaining in the Big Ten semifinal, earning himself a Flagrant 1 at a crucial moment. The resulting free throws added to Craft’s stellar day, pushing him over 20 points in the contest.

Nix wasn’t the only goat for the Spartans, however. Mere moments prior, Adreian Paine decided to roll the ball in-bounds to Appling. The only problem there was that it was far too early in the game to attempt such a maneuver, and even if it had been warranted, Appling was looking at his bench at the time, and had no idea the ball was coming his way. Buckeye Shannon Scott swooped in and snatched the ball off the hardwood, forcing Payne to foul him.

Upperclassman cool was the order of the day for Ohio State, which was led by Craft’s 20 points, eight assists and four steals. It was Craft’s biggest game since February 24th, when he scored 21 points against… Michigan State. DeShaun Thomas had a 16 point, seven rebound day in support of Craft.

The Buckeyes advance to face Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. The teams split during the regular season, with the Buckeyes taking a low-scoring affair in Columbus, but getting blown out 71-49 at the Kohl Center. The Badgers did a masterful job on Craft in that second regular-season meeting, holding him to just four points and, even more stunning, one assist.

The Big Ten title may well hinge on whether Bo Ryan’s troops can smother the red-hot junior point guard in Chicago tomorrow.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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: