SEC Basketball Tournament - Second Round-LSU-Georgia

Johnny O’Bryant III’s decision to return a step in the right direction for LSU

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Tuesday featured two college basketball players announcing their intentions to remain in school for one more season, Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson and LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant III.

O’Bryant III’s decision to return to Baton Rouge puts head coach Johnny Jones’ program (19-12, 9-9 in 2012-13) in prime position to at the very least return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, with the Second Team All-SEC selection being just one reason why.

In 29 games this season the 6-9 O’Bryant III averaged 13.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, leading the Tigers in both statistical categories. But on a team that boasted five double-digit scorers, he was the lone interior scoring option.

That will change in 2013-14.

LSU welcomes two highly-touted front court players in McDonald’s All-American Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, and wing Tim Quarterman is no slouch himself.

Add in junior college transfers John Odo (6-10, 230; practiced with the team during the spring semester) and Deng Deng (6-8, 215) and 7-foot freshman Darcy Malone and LSU will have the interior depth they lacked a season ago.

And you can’t mention LSU without considering their returnees on the perimeter as well, with guards Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer and wing Shavon Coleman being the headliners. All of these pieces factored into O’Bryant III’s decision to return to school.

“I definitely thought about the team next year. We will have a great team next year,” O’Bryant III said during his press conference Tuesday. “I think me coming back will help the guys. I think I have to be a leader to get that team rolling.”

Much of the focus in the SEC entering next season will be focused on Kentucky and Florida, and rightfully so. The Wildcats have the best incoming recruiting class in the country and the Gators return some key pieces and add freshmen Kasey Hill and Chris Walker.

But for the conference to improve its national standing after a rough 2012-13 other programs will need to step up. And in his second season in charge of his alma mater, Johnny Jones has a team that appears capable of doing so.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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: