Jahii Carson

Jahii Carson slowed with injury as practice kicks off

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There may not be a more valuable player in the country than Jahii Carson, the Arizona State point guard that doubles as a Preseason All-American.

Carson is the difference-maker for the Sun Devils. As a freshman, he not only averaged 18.5 points and 5.1 assists, but he also was the the guy that Herb Sendek built a revamped system around. Arizona State played a faster brand of basketball because they may have the fastest player in the country running the show.

By now, you should know all that, but I bring it up to prove a point — if Arizona State is going to make the NCAA tournament this season, they need Carson on the floor and at 100%. But as practices kicked off this week, Carson wasn’t.

Carson has what Arizona State is terming a “stress reaction” in his right tibia, which more or less means that Carson is dealing with shin splints. He has been since late last season. As he told Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic, he takes part in ball-handling and shooting drills, but “before we start picking it up, Coach decided to give me a little rest.”

It’s more of a precautionary measure than anything.

(MORE: Video shows why Jahii Carson is the nation’s most entertaining player)

“It’s a progressive thing,” Sendek told Haller. “He has flat feet, so we’re going to fit him with some orthotics. The good news is we’re getting out ahead of it. We’re being precautionary. If we had a game tonight, he could play.

“But we’re going to play it safe. We’re going to get it calmed down and then he should be fine.”

This is the right move by Arizona State. The season is six months long, and Carson is going to be playing a lot of minutes during that time. Shin splits and stress reactions are injuries that come with being overworked. They only get better with rest.

The first game is still five weeks away. Getting Carson back to 100% is more important than getting him in the mix in the first couple of practices of the season.

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: