Hunter Mickelson, Andrew Young

Hunter Mickelson looks to crack Kansas rotation after sitting out last season

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With Joel Embiid and Tarik Black both moving on, Kansas will have room for front court contributors to step forward in 2014-15. Of course there’s returning starter Perry Ellis and elite freshman Cliff Alexander, and redshirt junior Jamari Traylor will also compete for more minutes. But there’s also junior Hunter Mickelson, who could do nothing but practice last season after transferring in from Arkansas.

In two seasons at Arkansas the 6-foot-10 Mickelson averaged 5.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, playing 16.6 minutes per game as a Razorback. The year away from game action provided Mickelson with the opportunity to hone his craft against some talented interior players, but it also has the transfer itching to contribute to a program that has won at least a share of the last ten Big 12 regular season titles.

In a story written by Gary Bedore of the Lawrence Journal-World, Mickelson also touched on the work he’s been able to do with Kansas strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy and how that’s impacted his physique.

“I actually kind of dropped a little bit (of weight) to kind of tone up. I put on a little too much when I was at Arkansas,” said Mickelson, who left Arkansas at 240 pounds. “My goal here was to increase strength and tone up a little bit. I feel a lot stronger. Our workouts with coach Hudy (Andrea, strength coach) have been great. I’ve been doing the best I can. I can definitely tell I’m getting stronger.”

Also of note in the story are the complimentary words of both head coach Bill Self and assistant Norm Roberts, with the latter stating that Mickelson can hit shots from the 15-18 foot range in “pick and pop” situations. How much of an impact can Mickelson have for Kansas next season? That remains to be seen, and the fight for minutes will clearly be fierce based upon who’s returning and the addition of Alexander.

But at the very least Mickelson gives Kansas another body in the front court, and each of those interior players will be important as the Jayhawks look to remain atop the Big 12.

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: