Kevin Ware  Tymell Murphy

Louisville guard Kevin Ware cleared to begin basketball workouts

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Given the nature of the injury suffered by Louisville guard Kevin Ware during the Cardinals’ Elite 8 win over Duke in the NCAA tournament, few expected the junior to be ready to practice in the days leading up to the defending national champion’s season opener on November 9 against the College of Charleston.

But less than two weeks after it was believed that Ware wouldn’t be back until the spring semester, there was video of Ware dunking. And on Friday head coach Rick Pitino stated during a press conference that Ware’s been cleared to begin basketball workouts, marking the latest step taken in Ware’s comeback.

“He has a clean bill of health,” coach Rick Pitino said Friday. “He can play all-out at the end of the month.”

Pitino said Ware has been cleared to begin basketball workouts immediately, but while he may be physically ready to return to the court, Pitino cautioned he may still need to get past his injury mentally.

As Pitino noted there’s a mental barrier Ware may need to overcome, and that’s something many elite athletes who suffer serious injuries need to address in order to complete their comeback. The question now is whether or not Ware will miss any games due to the injury. Louisville has three intra-squad scrimmages and two exhibitions before their season opener, with the first scrimmage taking place on Saturday.

We may not know when Ware will be able to play in games, but the fact that he’s received the clearance needed in order to participate in workouts is something to celebrate.

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: