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Missouri clips Arkansas in key matchup of SEC bubble teams

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It’s a question that has been asked many times over the last month, and it’s a question that will continue to be asked until Selection Sunday: who from the SEC, besides Florida and Kentucky, deserve a bid to the NCAA tournament? On Thursday night two teams in need of wins, Arkansas and Missouri, met in Columbia with the winner picking up a result that it sorely needed.

Jabari Brown would be the difference-maker as his driving basket with 10.2 seconds remaining gave the Tigers the 86-85 win, moving their record to 5-6 in SEC play. Brown didn’t have a particularly good night from the field, making just five of his 15 shot attempts, but he took full advantage of the foul line and the same can be said for his teammates.

Brown shot 14-for-15 from the charity stripe and as a team Missouri made 34 of its 38 attempts, outscoring Arkansas by five points in that area. Jordan Clarkson scored a game-high 27 points and Earnest Ross added 15 to go along with 11 rebounds, and Missouri’s three best players once again led the way.

The combination of points from the foul line and a 15-8 edge in fast break points proved to be pivotal for Missouri, which shot 4-for-17 from beyond the arc. Arkansas wasn’t much better from deep, making four of its 16 attempts, and they nearly left Columbia with a valuable road victory.

Ultimately the Razorbacks would once again fall short, leaving Mike Anderson’s team with just one conference road victory (Vanderbilt) to its credit. If they’re to have any chance of making the NCAA tournament Arkansas has to string together some wins. The problem for them, and for Missouri as well even with the Tigers being better-positioned for a tournament bid, is the lack of available quality wins in the SEC.

Of the remaining seven games on their schedule Arkansas has just one game against a team that will make the NCAA tournament, and that’s their game at Kentucky on February 27. As for Missouri, the Tigers won’t play either Florida or Kentucky again (unless they meet in the SEC tournament). Frank Haith’s team gets two shots at Tennessee, but the best that both the Tigers and Razorbacks can do schedule-wise is win their match-ups with other bubble teams.

And with this being the case, games like the one played in Columbia on Thursday night become even more important for the SEC teams looking to fight their way into the Field of 68. Thanks to Jabari Brown, Missouri was able to pick up a win that they needed to get.

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: