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Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: Five ranked teams in action

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Georgia Tech at Georgia (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3) 

On a night that lacks national buzz, the annual rivalry game between the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs is an important one for both programs. Georgia Tech, with their returnees including guard Marcus Georges-Hunt and center Daniel Miller, has the look of a team capable of improving its standing with the ACC this season. As for Georgia, on the heels of losing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope they certainly can use a win over the state’s other major basketball program. Nemanja Djurisic led the way with 12 points in Georgia’s season-opening win over Wofford, and balance will be the key for them in 2013-14.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Utah (by UC Davis) 

Larry Krystkowiak’s Utes are 1-0 on the season, with a 128-44 victory over Evergreen State being the lone result. It’s safe to say that Evergreen State doesn’t have a player the caliber of UC Davis junior guard Corey Hawkins, who averaged 20.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in 2012-13. Utah does have some talented pieces, most notably forwards Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright, but the Aggies play an entertaining brand of basketball and return both Ryan Sypkens (14.1 ppg) and J.T. Adenrale (12.6, 5.9) along with Hawkins. One night after UC Irvine won at Washington, don’t be surprised if there’s another “Big West over Pac-12” result.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Nevada at San Francisco (10:00 p.m.) 

The Dons look to remain undefeated, but they’ll be tested by a Wolf Pack squad that features senior point guard Deonte Burton. Burton’s a high-scoring floor general who’s one of the best at the position in the country. But USF has a very good veteran point guard of its own in senior Cody Doolin. The difference-maker: that could be San Francisco senior forward Cole Dickerson, who was one of the nation’s best rebounders last season. If Nevada struggles inside as they did last year, Dickerson could be in line for a big night.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) Amongst the winners on the recruiting trail today just one is in action tonight: No. 4 Duke, which hosts a Florida Atlantic team they’ll be expected to soundly defeat (7:00 p.m.). The thing to watch: whether or not the Blue Devils come out a bit sluggish after their tough game against Kansas on Tuesday. Come out aggressive and in sync, and this game’s over before halftime.

2) Oakland will be without the services of Duke Mondy and Dante Williams when they take on California in Berkeley (11:00 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), as the two were sent home by head coach Greg Kampe. The Golden Grizzlies will still have high-scoring guard Travis Bader, but they’ll have their hands full with Justin Cobbs and company.

3) Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski enters tonight’s game against Idaho State (9:00 p.m., Pac-12 Network) five blocked shots away from passing Mario Bennett as the school’s all-time leader in blocks. Plus, it’s another chance to watch the electric Jahii Carson as well.

4) Two old rivals who are expected to contend in their respective conferences meet in Las Cruces, as UTEP visits New Mexico State (9:00 p.m., ESPN3). Redshirt freshman center Matt Willms received high praise during the preseason, and he’ll have to hold his own with NMSU’s Sim Bhullar and Tshilidzi Nephawe if the Miners are to pick up the road victory.

5) Three days removed from a solid comeback victory over West Virginia, Virginia Tech hosts Western Carolina (7:00 p.m., ESPN3) in a game that could be dangerous for the Hokies. Trey Sumler was on fire in the second half of the Catamounts’ loss to No. 18 Oregon earlier this week, and he has the potential to do the same to Virginia Tech.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Columbia at No. 2 Michigan State (9:00 p.m.; BTN)
  • Cornell at No. 3 Louisville (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3)
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff at No. 8 Oklahoma State (8:00 p.m.)
  • Holy Cross at No. 12 North Carolina (8:00 p.m.; ESPNU)

NOTABLES: 

  • Wagner at St. John’s (6:00 p.m.; Fox Sports 2)
  • Samford at Indiana (7:00 p.m.; BTN)
  • Georgia Tech at Georgia (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3)
  • Stephen F. Austin at Texas (8:00 p.m.; LHN)
  • Lipscomb at Vanderbilt (8:00 p.m.)
  • Morehead State at Xavier (8:00 p.m.; Fox Sports 2)
  • UTEP at New Mexico State (9:00 p.m.; ESPN3)
  • Oakland at California (11:00 p.m.; Pac-12 Network)

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: