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Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: Quality mid-major matchups stand out

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Pacific vs. Princeton (10:30 p.m., in Las Vegas) 

Ron Verlin’s Tigers were picked to finish in the bottom half of the WCC in their first season as a member of the conference, and through nine games Pacific has the look of a team capable of exceeding those expectations. Their lone defeat came at No. 13 Oregon, and Pacific has four players averaging between 11.7 and 12.6 points per game.

The key for Pacific tonight: discipline. Mitch Henderson’s Tigers do a very good job of running their sets and sharing the basketball, with Tyler Bray leading five players in double figures with an average of 15.0 points per game. Princeton is expected to be Harvard’s biggest threat in the Ivy League, and the more non-conference wins those two can pick up the better for the league.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: UCSB at Utah State (10:05 p.m.) 

Utah State won’t have the suspended Jarred Shaw, but that doesn’t mean winning at the Spectrum will be an easy task for the visiting Gauchos. UCSB has one of the nation’s best big men in Alan Williams, and he’s surrounded by some talented players. Bob Williams’ group isn’t a one-man outfit, meaning that Utah State will need to be at its best defensively given UCSB’s ability to knock down perimeter shots. Preston Medlin leads three Utah State players averaging double digits (removing the suspended Shaw).

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW: 

1) No. 2 Syracuse is the lone ranked team in action tonight, with the Orange hosting 3-6 High Point (7:00 p.m.; ESPN3). Scott Cherry’s team will play the remainder of the season without Allan Chaney, whose career was cut short due to a heart ailment last month.

2) A busy week continues for UNLV with a home game against Sacred Heart (10:00 p.m.). Evan Kelley and Chris Evans lead four players in double figures for the Pioneers, but their rebounding problems are a concern with UNLV boasting the nation’s best rebounder in Roscoe Smith along with fellow forward Khem Birch in the paint.

3) SMU visits Wyoming in what should be a competitive matchup in Laramie (9:00 p.m., ROOT Sports). Nic Moore and Yanick Moreira have been very good additions for the Mustangs, who have won four straight games since losing to Virginia on November 29.

4) Minnesota should be on upset alert tonight as they host an 8-3 Omaha squad that has already played tight road games at Iowa and UNLV (9:00 p.m., BTN). C.J. Carter leads the Mavericks in scoring with an average of 15.3 points per game.

5) Indiana will play two games in the next three days before beginning Big Ten play next Saturday, starting with Nicholls tonight (7:00 p.m., BTN). The Colonels have won three of their last four games entering tonight’s contest.

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: