Wichita State v Ohio State

Craft and Company ran out of miracles this time

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Ohio State junior point guard Aaron Craft has established a bit of a pattern in the NCAA tournament. As the Buckeyes faced down Iowa State in the Round of 32, it was Craft who pulled up with the game on the line and coolly buried the game-winning three point shot. Against Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen, Craft saw LaQuinton Ross open on the wing and fed the hot hand – it was another dramatic three-point splashdown to save the Buckeyes’ title hopes.

Not this time. Not against Wichita State, the No. 9 seed stocked with freshmen and transfers. The Shockers pulled out to a sizeable lead, as high as 20 points in the second half, which gave the Buckeyes a chance to rev up their eye-popping comeback mojo machine, and it looked like Craft and Company would do it again.

Craft nailed a trey with :06 left on the game clock to get the score to 70-66, and when WSU’s Tekele Cotton missed both free throws on the other end of the floor, Craft had another shot at closing the final gap. This time, however, the hole was too deep. The Buckeyes needed four points to play on, and Craft’s three – which missed – wouldn’t have changed the outcome even if another prayer had fallen in.

In the end, Craft’s past caught up with him. He hit only two shots – both of them from behind the arc – throughout the game, and had as many turnovers to his credit as assists. That was too much wrong to be put right before the clock ran out. Sometimes – most of the time, in fact – it’s better to be consistently good than consistently lucky.

Craft’s teammates were a mixed bag in this one, too. DeShaun Thomas, a CBT preseason All-America choice, went for 23 points on the interior, and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross continued a string of solid postseason performances by knocking in 19 from all areas of the floor. In the end, two solid performances simply weren’t enough to get the Buckeyes back to the Final Four.

Thad Matta may have yet another shot at the brass ring next season. Thomas, despite his accolades, is rated by DraftExpress as the 62nd-best  NBA prospect in the nation, and Craft is well behind him, ranked 88th. With Ross developing into a dangerous player, and Thomas and Craft back, Matta will have a perfect three-man core to build his next title contender around. Perhaps even one that doesn’t have to rely on the buzzer-beater to advance into late March.

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: