Melvin Ejim

No. 8 Iowa State’s loss to No. 15 Kansas not promising, but far from a disaster

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This just wasn’t No. 8 Iowa State’s night.

Listen to some of these numbers: the Cyclones shot 31.4% from the floor and 4-for-25 from three. Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue were a combined 12-for-45 from the floor and 2-for-15 from three. Niang alone was 4-for-20 from the floor and 0-for-9 from three. Those three guys, their ability to create mismatches with opposing big men, are at the crux of what the Cyclones do offensively. They can’t win on a night when they post numbers like this.

Deandre Kane returned to the court after injuring his ankle on Saturday, and while he finished with 21 points, the 8-for-16 he shot from the line is going to loom large when he looks at the box score.

You really want to get a feel for just how badly Iowa State shot on Monday night? They won the turnover battle by 17, forcing No. 15 Kansas into 24 miscues while committing just seven of their own, and the Cyclones still lost to the Jayhawks at home, 77-70.

If I’m an Iowa State, the bright side is pretty obvious here. The Cyclones could not have had a worse shooting night even if everyone on the team had to shoot every shot left-handed. Their all-american point guard was, at the very least, hampered by his ankle. Naadir Tharpe had the best game of his collegiate career and Joel Embiid played as well as he has all season in the second half.

And the Cyclones only lost by seven points.

I don’t think painting moral victories is a good thing for a conference title contender to do, but it could have been much, much worse.

Is Iowa State still a contender though?

I believe so. It’s going to be tough — they’re already two games behind the 4-0 Jayhawks in league play and they already got Baylor and Kansas at home — but everyone is going to get knocked around in the Big 12. There are just too many good teams in the league for Kansas to make it through unscathed. If I had to make a prediction, I’d say that going 14-4 may win you the league outright.

That said, Kansas has the talent to take complete control of the conference race, but until their most important players display more consistency on a nightly basis, this is still a league that the Cyclones can win.

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: