Mick Cronin, Mike Aresco

San Diego State, VCU among teams on Cincinnati’s non-conference slate

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While the 2013-14 season ended in disappointing fashion for the Cincinnati Bearcats, as they were ousted from the NCAA tournament by Harvard in the Round of 64, there’s no denying the fact that it was a good year for Mick Cronin’s program. Led by seniors Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles the Bearcats finished 27-7, winning 15 conference games and a share of the American Athletic Conference regular season title.

The question of “what’s next” for Cincinnati will depend largely upon how they account for the loss of those three pivotal seniors, with returnees such as guards Troy Caupain and Shaquille Thomas and forward Jermaine Sanders among those needed to step forward. The Bearcats will also add seven newcomers, led by forward Gary Clark Jr., and their trip to the Bahamas next month will help on-court chemistry.

Wednesday the school released its non-conference schedule, which includes games against six NCAA tournament teams (the number increases to seven if they meet Creighton in an early-season tournament). Among the teams Cronin’s Bearcats are certain to face are Nebraska (December 13 in Lincoln), San Diego State (December 17 in Cincinnati), VCU (December 20 in Cincinnati) and NC State (December 30 in Raleigh).

Cincinnati will also have its annual contest with city rival Xavier, with that game being played on February 18 on the Cincinnati campus. The games mentioned above will not only help the Bearcats prepare for conference play but also help their strength of schedule numbers with the American’s loss of Louisville to the ACC.

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: